I rarely experience times when I am so completely overwhelmed that even self-care takes too much effort. I had one of those times this past week when I ended up having a silent temper tantrum with myself because “I just couldn’t anymore!” This Lent, I have been working on my stress, giving up worrying and trusting God, practicing a more peaceful and prayerful existence. And then I hit a wall and it all fell apart. I have a lot on my mind and a lot going in the lives of my family, my friends, and my neighbors. I am usually the strong one that people can rely on and I am gladly there for people. But there are those times when my responsibilities overwhelm me and I end up wondering how I am going to get through not just this day, but the next few weeks!
Hitting a wall reminded me that there are times in our lives when our usual ways of coping—giving our problems to God, praying, walking, even talking about what is going on—can require too much internal energy and strength that we can no longer find. We can no longer cope on our own. I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to get myself out of this state. One thing that helped me was to allow myself to feel overwhelmed and anxious and not stuff those feelings inside. After a while, I felt a bit better. Feeling those difficult feelings sometimes gives them less power over us and diffuses some of our emotional and physical tension.
I also realized that I may not be able to do this on my own and that I may need to reach out for help. I remember an especially dark time in my life when I was dealing with a medical condition that made me question everything in life, even God’s goodness and love. It was at that time that I was able to receive spiritual direction from my pastor. Her caring presence and help allowed me to overcome my spiritual crisis and tackle my physical crisis in the end.
One of the most important ways that we can still do self-care when we are not able to cope is to be honest with ourselves and those around us about needing help and asking for it!
This time around, I got the care I needed through the wonderful group of Stephen ministers I am a part of. Stephen ministers are trained lay caregiver listeners who walk along those who are experiencing a life crisis. What better group of people to be cared for by? They listened to my frustration and exhaustion with a non-judgmental, accepting, and supportive presence.
Talking about how I felt and what I was struggling with sure helped! I went to sleep feeling much better and woke up feeling better the next day, too! If you find yourself in the same place I was in this week, please reach out for help! We are not meant to walk through the dark times alone. God reminds us that He is with us. I especially like these verses from Isaiah 43:1-3:
1Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
God cares for us through His people—our family, friends, pastors, fellow Christians, Stephen ministers. Who are those people in your life that you can reach out to when you are in need? If you don’t have a safe person to talk to, I urge you to reach out to a local church community or mental health or counseling center for help. We sure cannot do it all on our own, and that’s okay! We have each other. And we have our God who can give us to the healing and love that we need through the people He sends to care for us.
For additional thoughts on burn-out and how to deal with it, check out our blog:
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