Friday, May 6, 2011

For the Overworked and Overwhelmed Woman, part 2

Part one is here.

Knowing the warning signs of being too busy is a good start, but that won't necessarily help eliminate the stress and the related symptoms of juggling too many balls. It's what we do with that knowledge that will make or break us.

Too often, I will recognize the fact that my life is beginning to spiral out of control, and then continue along the same path thinking, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it. I just have to get through it somehow." So I move from being a busy, stressed out woman to a woman who knows she's busy and stressed out. (I think there's some truth to the old adage ignorance is bliss.)

It's a hard place to be - feeling overwhelmed and over-committed - because we feel trapped by our obligations, responsibilities, and our promises. I mean, we can't let anyone down! They're all counting on us! Right?

Here are five steps to getting un-overworked and un-overwhelmed. (Yes, I made those words up. Thankyouverymuch.)

1. Recognize the lies.

We have an enemy whose goal is to destroy us. And if he can't full-out destroy us, he'll do everything he can to destroy our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. The oldest trick in his book is to make us believe that we're more important than we are. Trick #2 is to convince us that we're incompetent. Any of these sound familiar?

If I don't do it, nobody will.

I am the only one who can do it right.

If I don't do it, I will let everyone down.

I can't believe I agreed to do this! I am going to fail and everyone will see what a loser I am.

All the other women (or moms, or wives) can do this; why can't I?

Lies, all of them!

2. Offload responsibilities NOW.

We tend to think that if we can just cross this one thing off our lists, we will be able to manage the rest just fine. So instead of acting on the knowledge that we're about to crash, we push ourselves. This is the surest way to crash h-a-r-d. The moment we recognize that we're in over our heads, we must take action.

Delegate responsibilities to others. Get your family to pitch in with the housework, ask someone else on the committee to handle making the phone calls, cancel that meeting. Do what you need to do, and do it right away. I assure you, everyone will not be mad at you and think of you as a failure! (Yes, someone might. But most people will understand, because they've likely been there too. Just don't make a habit of over-committing and then offloading. Learn from your mistakes and say "no" next time.)

3. Say an emphatic "No!" to all things new.

No new responsibilities, no new committees, no extra volunteer dates, no new playdates or activities for the kids. It's hard, and there will be guilty feelings, but remember that guilt is just another lie. Your children will not be deprived if they don't get to go to so-and-so's birthday party. Your workplace will not fall apart if you don't work on the weekend.

4. Sometimes you need to stop everything.

This one even sends a little shiver down my spine! The very thought of flat-out cancelling everything our family is involved in has me wracked with guilt. But let me tell you this - the idea of letting my family down by being a chronically over-committed, overworked, and overwhelmed wife and mother is even more bone-chilling.

Sometimes, the only way to break ourselves of a bad habit is to go cold-turkey. Make a clean break from all commitments and simply say, "I'm taking this season to be fully present where I am with no outside commitments." It's okay. Pastors, professors, and all sorts of professionals take Sabbaticals - you can too!

5. Re-establish right priorities.

I don't remember his name, but I once heard of a pastor who prayed for three hours at the start of every day. When asked how he could possibly have time for that, his reply was, "How can I not have time to prepare my heart to lead my flock every day? Without those hours of prayer, I would get nothing done!"

All the good things we do in the name of God and for our families and ministries will amount to nothing if we are not with God. And if we take on things without His direction and approval, those things will be meaningless.

You know what else...sometimes God has someone else in mind for a particular job. As do-ers, we tend to see a need and fill it. But that may mean we are, in essence, stealing someone else's blessing by robbing them of the joy of serving the Lord.

Friends, I am preaching to myself here! My prideful tendency is to take it all on by myself and then ruminate on how all these people are counting on me. I let my calendar get more and more full, until there seems to be no time for the basics. I wake up stressed and anxious, and plunge into my many duties with nary a thought about skipping my quiet time with the Lord.

Let us stop this vicious cycle of busy-ness together. Let us keep our priorities in order and our focus solely on God's voice. Let us be free from the Superwoman curse. And let us leave room for God to use others to accomplish His purposes.


  1. More words I need to hear. I see a book coming out of this.
    Thank you!

  2. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!
    I have already committed to not doing this for at least a year, and give my family waht they need!


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