Day 033: How to Handle Overwhelm When You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Yesterday, I explained how as a single mom of five boys, I was often over scheduled and did not know how to handle overwhelm. I was used to running round and wrote about that here. I didn’t use the phrase, “like a chicken with my head cut off,” but it might have been appropriate on too many of our days! Over the years I have gotten better about scheduling quiet time and fun or relaxing activities, but over scheduling is still something I struggle with. This week was a prime example of having way too much on my plate. Some of that was self-inflicted. Some was placed on me at the last minute. I have to take responsibility for all of it and should know by now to leave some space for the unexpected to crop up.

Since I could not get out of all I needed to do, I decided to be intentional about what I would do and how I would handle all that was on my plate. I thought a lot about how I handled overwhelm in the past compared to how I handle it now. I am still far from perfect and can get stressed with too much to do, but I also appreciate what maturity and faith, my decision to Live, Not Ordinary, and in my effort to become a Saint and a great one has given me in moments like these. This is what I’ve learned about how to handle overwhelm.

First, it’s important to acknowledge what you’ve done. Understand the period ahead while you address this over scheduling will be a difficult one. You will have to make sacrifices and may be exhausted and overwhelmed. That is okay. Accept it rather than complain about it or fight against it. Eliminate any such time sucks so you can focus on what needs to be done. Time sucks include negativity and judgment in yourself and from others as well as distractions such as technology, food, and so on.

Look at what you’ve committed to do. If you’ve scheduled ten hours of activity in a three hour time slot, admit it. Be truthful with yourself and anyone who might be affected. Hopefully those affected will be understanding. It would be great if they offered to help or defer some of their expectations.

If they are less than charitable, that is okay too. It does not do them or the situation any good, but it is still their right to express anger, disappointment, or whatever else they may feel. Be humble and honest with them rather than defensive. Take responsibility and work toward solutions. Give them time to absorb their disappointment. For those who refuse to work with you, shake the dust from your sandals and walk away happy to have learned a lesson. Understand they may also regret their actions later the same way you regret overbooking yourself. Only God should shut doors permanently.

Second, write down all you have to do. Seeing it in print makes it more manageable. It is also easier to prioritize what is most important. When prioritizing divide your To Do List into four categories: Important & Urgent, Important & Not Urgent, Urgent & Not Important, and Not Urgent & Not Important.

Now that you’ve got your list prioritized and easy to read, delegate what can be delegated. When I was running my kids all over town, I was afraid of asking people to pick them up too often because I could not reciprocate. Looking back, I can see I was being prideful rather than humbly asking for help. What may be worse is that I was not giving people the benefit of the doubt. Most people knew we were in crisis mode during those times. Many wanted to help but didn’t know how. Because I didn’t know how to ask for help, I cut off potential friendships and robbed people of the opportunity to feel like they were contributing. The need to contribute in a meaningful way is vital to our existence. By being, perhaps understandably, self-centered, I denied good these people could have felt. Instead of seeing that they would be understanding and happy to help even without “payback,” I thought they would be judgmental and gossipy.

When you are left with what only you can do, dig in and get the job done. Pick off tasks one at a time beginning with the Important & Urgent and work your way through the list as much as possible with the time you are given. Know you may have to complete tasks to the rate of “passable” rather than “perfect” and schedule time later to go back and change what needs to be changed. If you suffer from perfectionism you can use this time to embrace humility, your fallen nature, and the incredible goodness of God’s Mercy.

Which brings me to my final point. Sometimes you do the very best you can and things still don’t work out right. You bite off more than you can chew and drop balls you never should have put in the air in the first place. There is a tendency to beat ourselves (or others) up in moments like this. To Live, Not Ordinary you should treat yourself with Grace instead. Seek humility to admit you thought you could do more than you can do. Be grateful that God is all powerful and that you don’t have to be. Forgive those who are angry or disappointed in your. Make amends when possible. Forgive yourself. Learn from this experience.

Most of all, give it your 100%. Leave nothing on the table. Do all you can to be your personal best. Through it all, turn it your efforts and your humility over to the Lord. Submit the results to Him and accept any subsequent results. Trust Him to use this for good that you may not see in the short term. Have faith that He is both busier and more peaceful than you while doing far more than you. Trust He is working behind the scenes and will make good you may never know about come from the fruits you lay at His feet.

God Bless…

Gratitude Journal – May 13, 2023

Thank You Lord for…

  1. Experiences that gave me grace, understanding, vulnerability, and humility to be there for others.
  2. Putting me in the right place at the right time.
  3. Finding My Mary’s hand – I knocked over her golden statue snapping off her hand. I looked and looked and could not find it. Later, I found it sitting on a kitchen chair across the room. I don’t see how that could have happened by itself – thank you My Mary!
  4. Funny text messages from S.
  5. S coming home early!
  6. S mowing the lawn.
  7. Z picking up stuff from the store and always calling to see if I need anything.
  8. R buying cookies.
  9. Burgers with my boys on the back deck.
  10. Figuring out Rumble for my videos.
  11. S helping and supporting my desire to launch the Live, Not Ordinary Challenge!
  12. Thinking of how Blessed I am tonight.


The Live Not Ordinary Challenge:

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Are you an American Christian who loves faith, family, and country but is concerned about how our world is going? If so, join the Live Not Ordinary Challenge and learn to love the past, have faith in the present, and find hope for the future through eight weeks of exercising your mind, soul, heart, and strength!

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