Friday, February 26, 2010

Coping Skills for the Overwhelmed Christian

Everyone gets overwhelmed sometimes. Our to-do lists explode, things get tense, and we wonder how we're going to make it through. Considering that I'm dealing with a huge pile of work and a moderate amount of stress myself right now, I thought it would be a good idea to post a refresher on some helpful coping strategies that I've discovered.
  • Take time to pray. Sometimes when I get busy, it can feel like I don't have time to deal with God. I've learned, however, that taking time for God becomes more important than ever when I'm stressed out. I may feel too tired to pray when I collapse into bed at the end of the day, but that small ritual helps calm my mind and allows me to turn over the day's activity to God so that I can rest peacefully. At crazy moments during my day, I like to stop and think about God. Reminding myself that God is with me and feeling the warmth of His presence in my heart calms my racing mind and helps me feel more confident about the work I have to do. It might be too much for me to handle alone, but with God's help I can make it through.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes it feels like the American way to just suffer in silence and to push ourselves to (and past) our limits to get everything done ourselves. Nevertheless, God intends for us to live in a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ. That means it's perfectly acceptable to ask our fellow Christians and loved ones for help when we're being pushed beyond healthy limits. Christians should be willing to pitch in however they can, and I know that there are people who love me and are willing to help when things are tough. I need to be willing to let them help, and I shouldn't feel ashamed to ask for assistance.
  • Deal with one thing at a time. I can multi-task pretty well, but I certainly can't tackle my entire to-do list all at once. I try not to spend too much time contemplating the sum of everything I have to do because that just overwhelms my brain and causes me to freeze up. When I focus on only one task, I'm able to concentrate on it and get it done efficiently. Then I move on to the next thing, and I feel a surge of positive energy every time I cross an item off my list or move a step closer to my goal. Dividing up my tasks also gives me a chance to pause in between them and check in with God. This keeps me focused and fresh for the remaining tasks ahead.
  • Don't despair. With God all things are possible, and He does not assign us burdens that we are incapable of bearing with His help (and the help of our loving neighbors). Sure, I get frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes, and occasionally I collapse into tears or fits of anger. It's important for me to let those negative emotions pass instead of wallowing in them so that I can pick myself up and move on. Setbacks happen, but a positive attitude will help me get past them. The fact that things are difficult doesn't mean that God isn't with me. Together we'll get through it.
  • Be patient. My problems probably aren't going to get solved overnight. God's plan may be more long-term than I had hoped, and my friends might not be able to come immediately to my aid. Sometimes I have to wait, and sometimes I have to slog through for a while before I get anywhere. The payoff will be worth it when I finally make it to the end.
I've realized that it really does help to take a deep breath now and then and remind myself that whatever I'm struggling with probably isn't the end of the world. God's in control, and I have strategies to help me cope. Even if I have to give myself this pep talk ten times a day, I can make it through. 

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