Eliminating Overwhelmed

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.     2 Timothy 1:7

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m one of those mean moms who makes her kids do math and Spanish worksheets almost every day of the summer. I truly believe my kids need the practice. I can see the positive impact on their school work September to June because of it. Of course my kids don’t see it that way. To them, I’m just a terrible mother who is raining on their parade.

Math is Zack’s strong suit. He breezes through his worksheet, while Mason sits at the counter struggling. Although Mason’s actually great at math, he convinces himself he’s not.

For a while,  “the first battlefield is in your mind” lecture was working. But it’s effects eventually wore off. I’ve spent the past few weeks working my way through new and different tricks and strategies to help him, all with no success. Last Wednesday, frustration had both Mason and me ready to jump off a bridge.

I love making lists. I make them for places we’ve been, what to pack, new experiences my kids have had, what needs to get done, meal rotation, and hopes and dreams. I use lists to not only chronicle our lives, but to order them as well. Without my “to do” list, I would either forget what needs to be done, or shut down from the weight of it all.

My “to do” list has become my coping mechanism to fight against feeling overwhelmed. Once I’ve written everything out, all I have to do is the next thing on the list. If that feels too big, I actually create a sub-list, breaking that item down into even smaller steps, ones that seem more doable.

But seeing lists and papers everywhere overwhelms me all over again. So I stack all those lists, one on top of the other, along with any other pertinent paperwork, and keep them clamped together with a big binder clip. Not only does that eliminate the risk of losing anything important, it also hides all the chaos, with only the master list visible on top. It’s very “old school” but boy oh boy does it work for me.

We all get overwhelmed. In a world that moves so fast, and the successful seem to radiate and conquer, we feel we’re supposed to have it all together, all the time, and do it all right the first time. We also think we’re supposed to know our purpose in life right out of the gate. When we don’t, we feel utterly inept, and we end up suffering from “paralysis by analysis.”

That’s when we need faith, Scripture and people like Love Does author Bob Goff. He says, “I don’t know every step I’m supposed to take. I think Jesus just wants me to take the next step.” Just sending an email or making a phone call can be that one small step that moves us forward. Doing so with prayer and a heart of self control, rather than fear, will illuminate our next step, and then the one after that, and so on. Before we know it, progress has been made, and we’re that much closer to who and where we are supposed to be.

The math situation with Mason made me realize kids are no different. They get overwhelmed too. That paper with twenty math problems on it was paralyzing him.

So I took a blank piece of paper and cut a small rectangle out of it. I placed the paper over the math sheet so everything was hidden except for one problem in the cut out space. Then, I asked Mason to solve just that one problem. Not distracted and overwhelmed by all those numbers on the page, it took him less than a minute. Next, I moved the opening to another problem and he repeated the process. Lo and behold, Mason finished the whole page in less than ten minutes.

As the old adage goes, “Even an elephant eats his meal one bite at a time.” We, and our kids, all need to approach life like Bob Goff, taking just the next step, and then the next one after that. When we do, we’ll start blazing trails through life like he does.

Questions For Reflection:

      * What situation currently overwhelms me?

       * What next step am I feeling God prompting me to take?

       * What situation seems to be overwhelming my kids?

       * How can I help them take just the next step, and then the step after that?

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4 thoughts on “Eliminating Overwhelmed

  1. It’s so amazing how such a little thing like a piece of paper can make such a huge difference. Whether you use it to write a list of to-dos or to cover up a list of to-dos, like Mason’s math problems. Even more amazing is how in-tune you are with your kids to figure out a solution for Mason’s struggles. How much more confident he will be in school doing math with that trick up his sleeve! You’re an amazing mom, Claire!


    • Thanks for your kind words Pam. However, I feel that any little trick I do stumble upon that works with my kids is more grace than ability on my part. I just keep on praying, and God keeps on delivering. 🙂


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