We are in the month of September already, where summer fades and fall begins. It always causes a dichotomous feeling in me…a bit of sadness, even depression, that my favorite season of summer is ending…and an equally strong sense of excitement to reach new dreams and goals (which also brings anxiety.) I think these feelings heighten around this time because I become more overwhelmed than usual with all of the things I’ve put off while enjoying summer, especially this past year, in which I’ve done more vacationing and travelling than ever before.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of the trips I’ve taken nor any of the work I’m doing to help other writers…and write my next novel! But…here we are…piled up with editing work, an upcoming Master Class I’m teaching, book signing and conference events, and a new book jamming up in my head waiting to burst out of me. So, here are a few tips I’ve learned (through many years attending church, 12-step recovery programs, congregating with Christian friends, reading the Bible and attending counseling from time to time. Hope these tips help you too!
Prayer is our caffeine.
Wow, I bet this makes you curious like it did me! I read this just the other day in my “Living Faith” booklet I subscribe to (my dad used to subscribe and give me an extra copy before he passed away early this year and I then subscribed, coming to rely on it as a morning reading that gets me going.) It was an article on August 31 titled “Staying Awake” which was based on Matthew 24:42 where Jesus warned his disciples (and us) to be on watch for the coming of evil and the end of the world, and for His second coming. It talks about how easy it is “for our busy lives to crowd out Jesus…We can become passive to his presence. There’s a temptation to cruise through life on autopilot and only fit Jesus in when it’s convenient…But when Jesus tells us to stay awake he’s asking us to be vigilant, always open to him…this doesn’t mean we become antsy (or anxious). It means prayer is our caffeine that helps us remain in the truth that Jesus love us…wants us to pursue him…and to be awake and ready…” I often say “the pursuit of anything worthwhile in life is scary and exciting. It’s okay to feel all your feelings!
Easy does it.
If you’re in recovery this may sound familiar to you. Yes, stay awake and be excited, but also learn to rest occasionally. Jesus often got away from the needy crowds to pray, meditate, rest and even play some. We all know missing sleep is not conducive to feeling LESS overwhelm. I try to take more moments, especially in a busy, overwhelming day, to do a few yoga stretches, take an outdoor walk, spend time in nature, listen to music, read for pleasure, or even take a short nap (rare but very effective!) and take deep breaths…to stay in my lane and focus on my purpose, but to fill my well as needed so I can give others “water.”
One day at a time.
Another slogan used often in 12 Step recovery meetings and referred to in the Bible when Jesus told us not to worry, to stay in the day, look at the birds and flowers God takes care of: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-34).
Forgive easily…and don’t wallow in guilt.
How many times do we need to forgive? Jesus, being big on forgiveness, says “seventy times seven.” (at least!) On a spiritual retreat the priest leader told us that thirty seconds of guilt are enough. Any more is a waste of time and energy. Worry, guilt, doubt are all forms of fear and I believe they all come from Satan to undermine our efforts. Yes, we should learn from our mistakes and make amends right away when they’re called for, but anything more is self-destructive, non-productive, and actually block the sunlight of the spirit in our lives.
Talk it out
I often find my overwhelm lessen after I vent my troubles with someone I trust, respect, and who knows me through and through and can give sage advice or just listen. I usually seek the comfort of a sponsor, spiritual counselor, my spouse or another family member or friend, and by sharing in a spiritual gathering like a 12-Step meeting, Christian conference, Church or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It never fails that I hear the solution to my problem once I share it out loud.
Pray and meditate before your day begins.
Whenever I call on God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help me feel less overwhelm or stress…and then be still and listen, I always feel a sense of peace. I always find that when I start my day with reflection on a spiritual reading and maybe even some journaling, the day turns out to be much better than when I don’t! If you’re running out the door to work though and you missed your morning time…well, no worry, regrets or guilt…find the time later in the day, or start over tomorrow!
Lord, I know I am called to serve you and others, which can get awful busy sometimes. But you remind me your yolk is easy and your burden light. Please remind me each day that you will not give me more than I can handle, that you will equip me, and if I just stay focused on You, everything will be A-OK!