What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?

It snuck up on me when I least expected it.  As I sat in this conference room, the tears started to form.  And then they flowed.  And before I knew it, I felt lost and overwhelmed.  


I had been meeting with my coach.  For the past several months, I've been working with a coach who is graciously donating his time as part of my commitment to the International Coaching Federation Board.  We've been focusing on my business and with one simple question I felt so overwhelmed that the only option was to cry. Right there in front of this new acquaintance in my life. 

Now, I don't know about you, but back in the day, I was given one piece of advice when it came to crying at work (or other related places).  Don't do it in front of the menfolk.  They don't know what to do with it.  Keep it together and cry in the bathroom. 


So, while the tears started to flow, all I could think of is to tell myself to not cry.  Which as you may have already figured out, was not exactly the pep talk I needed to give myself.  

In the end, I was feeling overwhelmed.  By my business not meeting my expectations.  By the thought of financial provision and trusting God for new clients and ideas. By the thought that maybe I wasn't cut out for owning a business after all.  And then, by thought of being vulnerable (and dare I say, a little crabby) in front of a new colleague and peer. 

And I wonder if you too, friend, haven't been facing a little overwhelm in your life? The technical definition of overwhelm is to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything. Actually, there were 5 options in dictionary.com but I think that one covers it. 

Are you feeling overloaded and heaped upon?  Do you have some things on your to-do list that feel like its in excess?  Maybe your to-do list is longer than the hours in your day.  Maybe your the one everyone is depending on at work. Maybe you need to drive 4 kids to separate soccer practice across town all within 15 minutes. Maybe your bills are overwhelming or your health needs are piling up or even your loneliness.  Here's what I want to say...

You are not alone...

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I know it feels like you're going crazy. I know it feels like you're the only one. I know it feels like everyone else has it together.  They don't and it's okay if you don't. Everyone gets overwhelmed and everyone gets out of feeling overwhelmed step by step. 

So what's a girl to do? It's a good question because no two journeys are alike.  We all feel overwhelmed for different reasons and we all crawl our way out in different ways.  So, while this is not a list of more to-do's in your already crammed day, it is a bit of lessons learned as I seek to make changes when it comes to what is causing my overwhelm. I hope it helps. 

Lay aside your expectations

Here's the thing. When I started working with this coach, I had one goal.  Let's get organized about this business thing.  What I do. Who I work with. How I attract more clients. And so, like any task oriented person, I got down to business. Let's get focused. Let's make progress. 

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What triggered me on that day was much of what has triggered me on my owning a business journey. My real life was not meeting my expectations. I did a lot of should-ing on myself. I should be farther along. I should have more clarity. I should have a bigger business. I should. I should. I should. 

Free advice if you want it.  Never should on yourself. 

Letting go of how things should be and embracing what is can go a long way in helping us fighting that overwhelming feeling. There's no race. No one's timing you or assessing where you should be.  So let go of what you thought it would be and be okay with where you are. 

Embrace your path today

About a week or so after this, I met a friend for coffee.  I'd like to say she had a bee in her bonnet.  But really, she just had a word from the Lord for me and all my overwhelmed sisters. Find contentment where you are.  Let go of your expectations of how it's supposed to be and embrace your life as it is - right now - today. 

I know what you're thinking.  It's hard when you have a dream. When you want to be somewhere today.  I also know that arriving at your dreams is a journey. It's not about a quick trip.  Sometimes the road to arriving at your dreams is slow and winding.  Do the next thing that God puts in front of you and be present in your moments.  

Take care of yourself

In the midst of all this crying, the nice coach asked me a simple question. 

“What brings you joy? ”

Enter in that deer in headlights look.  I had no idea what I found fun or joyful anymore.  I was so busy accomplishing things.  Making sure I kept all the balls in the air. Coaching. Websites. Church stuff. Life. 

And in that moment, when I so desperately wanted clarity, God whispered to me. You are not your to-do list.  You are not your accomplishments or your successes.  

And because God whispered it to me, I whisper it to you. You are more important that your to-do list. You are more important than all the things that need to get done, or keeping it all together. Sometimes, we get so caught up in making sure that others aren't unhappy that we lose sight of ourselves. 

The wise coach saw this and pressed pause on all things business and marketing. Instead, he looked at me and said maybe what's next for you is to focus on self-care.

Rest. Joy. Health. Life-giving. 

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My homework? Make a list. What does self-care look like to me? The answer. It looks like all the things I'm not doing. Taking weekend off even when there's a website to design. Eating right and getting outside for walks with the pooch. Setting limits on social media (where I connect with you and also compare myself to other coaches which is just a downward spiral). Initiate time with friends who fill my cup. Reading. Sitting on my deck with nothing to do. 

This one is hard for me but I'm trying to practice this more and more.  Be willing to disappoint people with a no when you need to.  I firmly believe every yes is a no to something else.  And sometimes, you and I, need to say no to take care of our overwhelm and restore sanity. 

As I said from the start, this isn't a prescription.  I don't have 3 easy steps to fighting overwhelm for you or for myself. Your lessons may be different. But slowing down long enough to hear God's voice, to feel that you have even a little space to breathe and know yourself and know what brings you joy.  That makes all the difference. 

Hey friends!  I'd love to hear from you.  I'm on a journey to put better boundaries in place, living from a place of contentment and taking care of me while I live out my calling.  What are your regular practices for self-care and experiencing joy?  I'd love to hear from you!