Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Raise your hand if you are experiencing one of these situations:
- Child returning to college after a lengthy Christmas break
- Recently diagnosed with a disease or illness
- Caring for an aging parent or child with disabilities
- Transitioning from one job to another—within the same company or to a different one altogether
- Moving to a new home
- Retiring from a job
- Saying goodbye to a friend
- Starting a business
- Having another child
- Facing high pressure deadlines at work
- Appliances or vehicles breaking down or needing replaced
- Getting a promotion
- Volunteering for a leadership position at church
Now, not all of those are necessarily negative situations, are they? Some can be quite good! But a change is a change, and stress is stress, and each one impacts our daily lives—our thoughts, emotions, energy level, and so on.
I’m guessing that most of you can identify with at least one of those situations, if not two or three or even four. What are we supposed to do when facing so many things? How can we deal with these things in a healthy, God-honoring way?
Recently, I shared two strategies with those on my email list and asked them what they did in these types of situations. And today, I’ve compiled them into six strategies for dealing with overwhelm, stress, and change. Plus, within each of those six strategies, I’m going to offer you some very practical ideas.
Which ones do you think will work well for you? What have you tried before? What is something new you’d like to try?
Let’s get started.
Strategy #1: Simplify What You Can
When you are facing a lot of stress or change or overwhelm, one of the best things you can do, in my opinion, is to simplify what you can.
This means identifying what is most important to you right now and letting go of the rest. Either you delegate it to someone else, you let someone else fill in for you, or you just stop doing it altogether.
For example, with our homeschooling right now, we have cut back to some core areas that we focus on every day. We’re not trying to do quote-unquote “all the things,” but diving into just three things a day. And that helps us not just with our focus and attention, but also in alleviating the pressure to make it all work somehow.
The truth is, this is a busy season for us, one that involves a busy time for me, a busy time for my husband, and a pretty big change for our family. Homeschooling is really important to me. It’s something I feel God has called me to do. But that doesn’t mean we have to spend hours each day checking off boxes. It means I want to focus on the relationship with my kids and enjoy our time learning together.
For you, it might mean stepping down from a volunteer role for a little while, or taking a break from a caregiving responsibility if you’re able to. It might mean going to the gym three days a week instead of five. Maybe you hire someone to come clean your house for a couple of weeks or make simple meals instead of elaborate ones. Maybe your kids help more with the chores so you have some extra time to relax or focus on what you need to.
Part of this might mean setting boundaries with others, at least for this season. Will you have times when you are off limits, unable to be reached? Will you block certain parts of the day off for certain activities? Like, I try to block off the morning hours as much as I can for homeschool, so I try really hard not to make doctor’s appointments or other commitments until the afternoon or evening. Will you have only one or two nights a week that you go out and the rest you spend at home?
Think about what is important to you in this season and how you can prioritize that.
Is your health important? How can you make it a priority?
Do you need to care for a family member? What do you need to let go of in order to do that well?
Do you need to work through a specific issue? What does that look like? Where do you need to cut back so you have the time and space to do that?
Strategy #2: Make Time to Engage in a Relaxing, Enjoyable Activity
So strategy #1 is to simplify where you can. Strategy #2 is to make time to engage in a relaxing, enjoyable activity.
This can be really hard to do when you are already feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but I’ve got to tell you, this is the main strategy that came back when I asked those on my email list.
They knew they had to find time for them, and specifically, for them to do something they enjoyed doing.
For me, that currently means taking 30 minutes or so to read a light-hearted book each night before bed. Others mentioned artistic endeavors like working with clay, painting, or using pastels. This might also mean knitting or sewing, coloring, or cooking. Maybe you like to play board games or do puzzles.
Maybe when it’s nicer outside, you like to work in the garden or do landscaping. Or perhaps you like to sit and watch the birds outside of your windows. Do you like to write stories or play songs on the piano?
What helps you relax? What activities do you find enjoyable? And how can you work that into your weekly schedule—if not your daily one—so you can have a bit of down time to rest and relax?
Strategy #3: Spend Time with the Lord
So simplify where you can and find an enjoyable activity that you can do at least on a weekly basis.
Strategy #3 is to spend time with the Lord.
Now, I’m not going to tell you to do an incredibly deep Bible study where you focus on word studies and biblical culture and heavier things like that. All of those are so very good and helpful to us in our walk with God.
But when we are in seasons of stress, overwhelm, or change, I’ve found that we often need to hold onto simpler spiritual practices where we can focus simply on being with God.
Let me name a few for you:
- Reading one psalm or short passage or even just one verse in the Bible
- Breath prayers
- Simply sitting in His presence, maybe imagining yourself having a cup of coffee with Jesus
- Listening to worship music or hymns
- Scripture writing
- Listening to an audio Bible read the Bible to you, especially those that are more dramatic readings, with people doing different characters
There are a number of spiritual practices that can help us recognize God’s presence with us, which is probably one of the biggest things we need to remind ourselves of during these more difficult seasons. God is with us.
Is there one verse you can cling to in this season? Write it down. Read it every day. And just meditate on that until you’re ready to dive back into Bible reading.
Can’t focus enough to remember what you’re reading in the Bible? Maybe try a breath prayer. It often slows down your breathing and helps you become more aware of how you’re feeling, and you can say a verse or short prayer as you breathe in and out.
Are you in a season where you can’t even find the words to express what is going on in your heart? Just fix a cup of coffee and sit on the porch or your favorite comfy chair and imagine Jesus sitting there with you in companionable silence, knowing you don’t have to find the words. He already knows and understands and is present with you.
Strategy #4: Seek Support
So you can simplify your life where you can, you can find an enjoyable activity that helps you relax, and you can explore simple but powerful ways to engage with God that don’t take a lot of energy or work.
Strategy #4 is to seek the support you need to get through this season.
Some of us might need a large team of people surrounding us and caring for us, while others might just want a close friend or two. The question is, what kind of support do you need right now and where can you find it?
If you’ve not listened to episode 49 yet, about finding your stretcher bearers, I would really encourage you to check that one out. But some people who can support you in difficult seasons might be a counselor or therapist, a coach, a doctor, your pastor or small group leader, a close friend or family member, or even hired help like someone to clean your house or prepare meals for you or watch your kids.
I worked with a homeschool coach when we started homeschooling this past year, and she helped me figure out what type of educational philosophy I most aligned with and what kind of resources we could use. And she helped me make sure I was following all the legal requirements for my state. But more than that, she reminded me of the importance of the decision we were making and encouraged me throughout that transition. And I just cannot thank her enough for speaking that truth and life into my heart. They are words I go back to when school gets hard.
Who do you need to support you? What type of encouragement or training do you need? Do you need physical help in any area of your life?
Strategy #5: Get Your Body Moving
Okay, we’ve covered four strategies so far: simplifying, finding an enjoyable activity, spending time with the Lord, and seeking support.
Strategy #5 is to get your body moving.
Our bodies hold so much of our stress, overwhelm, and anxiety. And so when we are feeling these things or when we are working through them, we need a way to release them from our bodies.
Simple things like taking a walk or doing a silly little dance around the house can work wonders. So can yoga or going to the gym. Maybe for you, it’s really doing a deep clean or reorganization or decluttering of a space in your home. I’m going a little reorganizing here in my office and moving some things around really got my heart pumping, you know?
Find some way to move your body. You don’t have to do aerobics or anything like that if you don’t want to, but don’t just sit if you can help it. Lift up your hands. When you’re sitting down, you can lift up your legs. There are videos that can provide a low-stress, gentle way to move if that is hard for you. But please consider doing something, even if it’s as simple as tensing the muscles in your hands or legs and then relaxing them.
Strategy #6: Specific Tips for “In the Moment” Feelings of Overwhelm and Anxiety
And that takes us to strategy #6, which is actually a list of various things you can do when you’re in a moment of deep overwhelm, anxiety, or stress. These are things you can do to help calm yourself down. I am not an expert in these things, necessarily, but if you want to learn more about any of them, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can point you toward a couple of people who can teach you more.
- Do some deep breathing exercises
- Cover up with a weighted blanket
- Put an ice pack over your chest for a couple of minutes
- Cross your arms over your chest and give yourself a gentle hug
- Journal about what you are thinking and feeling
- Look around and name out loud the things you see around you
- Change your body position, for example, going from sitting to standing or standing to sitting
- Go to a different room
- Complete a simple task, like taking your dishes to the kitchen or putting a book away
And if you feel yourself getting way out of control, it’s really important to tell someone: your spouse or your counselor or someone who can help you through that moment until you are calmed down.
I don’t know what you’re facing today, what situation brings you overwhelm or anxiety or stress or even just a change in life, but these six strategies will help you cope with those things in a way that is both helpful and honoring to God.
Simplify what you can, engage in an enjoyable activity, spend time with the Lord, seek support, get your body moving, and find ways that help you calm down when in a moment of deep stress or anxiety.
What you will try today? Which one feels the most helpful for your situation and personality? Go ahead and identify it, write it down if you need to, and find a way to put it into action.
If you’re in a season of change, I do have some journal prompts available to you to download for free. Just go to lovedoesthat.org/seasonsofchange and you can access them there.
Okay, that is all for today. Thank you so much for being here with me. Until next time, let’s encourage one another.
- Free Resource: Journal Prompts for Seasons of Change
- Content Magazine: A digital magazine to encourage caregivers (I have a 3-month Bible reading plan in Quarter 1 of 2023!)
- Episode 49: Finding Your Stretcher Bearers: The People Who Can Help Carry You Through a Difficult Season
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.