by Emily Conrad
I thought I was handling it all well. Life’s been full of sad, hard things, but I was processing and moving forward in a healthy manner.
Or so I thought until I was in tears, overwhelmed. Life is a lot right now.
None of us can afford to close the door on that and ignore what’s happening, but if we’re going to fulfill our responsibilities, coming through for loved ones and acting justly for all, we also need safe havens for our minds.
As a Christian, I believe God’s presence is the ultimate safe haven. The one I never have to leave, even when I’m not resting. When I am weak, He is strong, and He will sustain me when I’m overwhelmed. He meets me, healing, restoring, correcting, and guiding onward.
When you turn to Him, He’ll do the same for you.
The name of the Lord is like a strong tower; the righteous person runs to it and is set safely on high. Proverbs 18:10, NET
But, aside from prayer and Bible study, there are other activities that He’s used to help me rest, process, grieve, and regroup. So, here’s a roundup of ideas that might also help you, if it’s all a little much right now:
Revisit a familiar story. There’s something to be said for a book (or TV series or movie) you know you’ll enjoy. If it’s your second (or third) time through, you won’t feel the pressure to speed through and find out how it ends. You also won’t be taken off guard by an unexpectedly bittersweet or–gasp!–sad ending.
Pick up a hobby. Recently, my mom asked me to complete some paintings for a condo she’s furnishing to rent out. I’m really glad she did, because that prompted me to get out my paints and try some for myself, too. The process has been relaxing because I’m an amateur. I know less of the rules than I do about something I practice formally (like writing), and so there’s less pressure. If I like what I create, wonderful! I have a piece of art to enjoy. If I don’t, it goes in the closet to be painted over later, or I can just toss it. There’s nice freedom all around. So, look for a hobby that allows you the space to play and enjoy yourself.
Complete that one chore. You know the one. It’s the thing you frown at at least once a day but feel daunted by or just really hate to do, so you move on with your life only to find yourself back there, frowning again, a couple of hours later. Imagine the satisfaction you’ll feel when you cross it off your list!
For me, that one chore was taking care of my vegetable garden. I’ve done well with my flowers this year, but more weeds grew in the tilled plot for vegetables than edible vegetation. It was a huge task, though, so I split it into strips. The idea was to do one strip per day. By the time this post goes live, the garden should’ve been done at that rate. And, it was! Here’s my photographic proof:
Admittedly, there’s still crab grass in there, but I weeded (and enlisted my husband’s help to till up the ground in the larger spaces) and covered the open areas with cardboard, fresh soil, and grass clippings to prevent the weeds from taking back over. Trust me, this is MUCH better than it was. Now, instead of feeling embarrassed and overwhelmed when I walk in the yard, I feel competent and hopeful.
Take one step to become a more loving human. The problems of the world–and our nation–are overwhelming. When I think of all I wish I could change, I freeze up, utterly daunted. But if I stop to consider one next loving step I can take, then I find I can move forward with my one doable action.
Personally, I’m overwhelmed by all I don’t know about racism, so my next step is to learn. I’ve decided to do that by reading a book I’ve heard recommended. This obviously isn’t a cure-all, but it is a way to move forward and put myself in a better position to determine the next right step from there.
“I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35, NET
Use a Bible study or book to draw closer to God. As I wrote above, God is the ultimate safe haven for believers, but in difficult times, I struggle to lead my own quiet times. I find I focus better and learn more during times like those when I use a resource to guide my thoughts and give me a place to start.
Go for a walk. I think it’s the combination of nature and movement, but whatever it is, when my thoughts start to stagnate in murky swamps, taking a walk around my neighborhood tends to pull my mind back out of the weeds. Afterward, I can sit back down to work with a whole lot more peace than before.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. 2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. Psalm 19:1-2, NET
Connect with others. I know, the pandemic makes this more difficult, but we’ve been at this for months already, so we know the tricks, don’t we? Put on a mask, schedule a Zoom, meet up in a park. Whatever it takes. Because we were created for community. We need to hear each other’s perspectives, unpack our thoughts, and help lift each other’s burdens.
I’m sure there are lots of other ways to regroup and cope during difficult times! What strategies, verses, and activities have helped you?
PS – I should’ve included “Look at cute pictures of sleepy animals” on this list! They sure brought a smile to my face as I stumbled across one when I searched for pictures of rest on Unsplash.com. Here are the credits:
How have you been coping? What activities, verses, or attitudes have helped you? @emilyrconrad shares a roundup of ideas for days when it’s all a little much. #selfcare #onestepatatime
Life’s been full of sad, hard things. Here are some ideas on how to process, combat overwhelm, and move forward in a healthy manner. #selfcare via @emilyrconrad
As a Christian, I believe God’s presence is the ultimate safe haven. But as I rely on Him, He’s used some activities to help me rest, process, grieve, and regroup. Perhaps these ideas will help you too – via @emilyrconrad #selfcare
**Update: As of Saturday morning, 6/20/20, a friend let me know this post had disappeared!! I rewrote it, but if you visited earlier and now see a difference, that’s why! Sorry for any inconvenience!**
Emily, thank you for "When it's all too much". It was just what I needed, for my life is all too much right now. If it weren't for knowing God is with me it would overtake me.
I'm so grateful to hear the list is helpful! And, yes, ultimately, it's faith and Jesus who carries us through. One day, even death will be swallowed up in victory. Pausing to pray you'll find extra refreshment today!