What do you do when life feels out of control?
No, really, I’m curious. What do you do?
I started three different blog posts this week, and none of them felt quite right. There was something else lingering in the periphery of my mind, just out of reach, blocking me from carrying any thoughts to completion.
I spoke with a friend who mentioned feeling emotionally out of control lately. It was not the first conversation like that I’ve had in recent weeks; the people around me just don’t feel like themselves.
Are you feeling it, too?
Our church’s Student Camp was first delayed, then relocated back to our church campus, and eventually shifted to a virtual event at the last minute. Family vacations have been cancelled or altered. School start dates are being pushed back, sporting events are being cancelled, and college kids across the country are wondering if it’s even worth it to pack.
Life feels uncertain, and there’s nothing we can do to change that.
It got me thinking… how do you respond when life feels out of your control? What do you do when the ordinary living of life gets overwhelming?
Maybe you get emotionally crazy, overreacting and lashing out at the people around you or withdrawing into your shell. Maybe you binge on Netflix shows or stuff your face with chocolate chip cookies (anyone else gained the Covid-19??). Maybe you go on a cleaning frenzy (if so, come on over!) or find other things to hyper-control, like exercise programs or home improvement projects.
Or maybe, like me, you just shut down.
I would never describe myself as lazy. With four kids, I am always busy, and even before kids, I have always been a do-er. I like to be productive, to have something to show for my time. I am fantastic in a crisis; I actually thrive in high-pressure situations! And even on vacation, I choose new adventures over relaxation.
So I’m definitely not lazy.
But I’ve noticed a weird thing about myself. When I find myself in situations I can’t control- a global pandemic, for instance, or a poorly organized project I’m involved in but not in charge of- I tend to shut down. I do what I can for awhile, but at some point, I get overwhelmed and totally check out.
I do it when my house gets messy (think Hoarders).
I do it when our schedule gets extra busy.
And apparently, I do it when the world shuts down.
Friends, this is where I have found myself these past several weeks. As we move towards a new, yet not so different season, my curriculum list is long and my to-do list is even longer.
And I find myself longing to grab a good book and hide in my closet!
So, what do you do when life feels out of control?
And how do you get yourself back on track again?
I tend to think of life as though I am standing in the middle of a see-saw, trying to keep either side from slamming into the ground. In order to keep it balanced, I am constantly making little adjustments. I lean this way and then that way, but not too much- just enough to keep everything in the air. When something happens that pushes one side down, I respond by shifting my weight a little, so that one thing doesn’t overwhelm the rest of my life.
But sometimes, someone (or something- like COVID) plops in one of the seats, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t regain my balance. For awhile, I jump up and down on the other side, trying to make something happen, but to no avail. Eventually, I give up and sit down… or lose my balance and fall off altogether. Then what?
That’s where I am now.
So I have allowed myself a few weeks of resting. I have taken time to catch my breath, to read a few books, to just be lazy.
But now it’s time to regain my balance!
How do I do that in a world that’s still out of control?
To be honest, I don’t really know. I just know I have to try.
So here’s my plan. I realize it may not work. I may fall off a few more times. I may need to stop again and catch my breath. And I may not actually regain balance until this crazy virus climbs out of the seat and stops making headlines!
But I have to do something… I have to try.
PRIORITIES: START WITH WHAT’S IMPORTANT
First, I am starting with what’s important. I like to do things that feel purposeful, and unfortunately, urgent things often feel more purposeful than important things. Jumping off the see-saw has given me a chance to evaluate what (and who) is really important in my life. I want to make sure I am investing my time and resources there first.
For me, that means God first (not necessarily the Church, not serving, not ministry, but my relationship with Jesus and time in His Word). After that comes my marriage and my children, then my health and my writing, and finally, everything else.
I’ll be honest- all these things are continually fighting for my attention, and thus must be constantly reordered. I am not very good at keeping the main thing the main thing, so this is where I am starting. And to do that, I need structure.
STRUCTURE: BRING ORDER TO CHAOS
When I’m not completely shut down, I tend to be very organized. I love spreadsheets and label-makers, and I crave routine. So when things feel out of control, the best thing for me to do is streamline and simplify.
Right now, I find myself drowning in excess. My kitchen counter is hidden beneath clutter. There are piles of various items scattered around our house, mostly because I’m not quite sure where to put them or how to organize them. My pantry is full of food (and I am grateful!), yet I can’t figure out what to make for dinner. I have so many ideas for blog posts, but nothing that’s ready to post.
It is time to bring some order to my chaos!
How do I do this? Well, my instinct is to make a 14 page to-do list and then feel like a failure when it’s not all accomplished by Monday. But I’m not going for finished, I’m going for BALANCED.
So I will schedule my time better this week.
- I will try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up on time.
- Without all the running around, my God time has been pretty consistent, and I want to keep it that way.
- I want to block off some time each week to work on my writing, so I can invest most of my time in Jeff and the kids, rather than being distracted and not doing either well.
- I will plan out meals so I’m not stuck at the last minute trying to figure out what’s for dinner.
- And I will make an effort to restore order to my home by attacking one pile or space each day.
In order to stay balanced, I am trying to keep this simple. I want to fix everything all at once, but I realize that’s not going to happen, so I am taking “small bites.” Whether I organize a whole room or just a pile, it is progress, and it helps me regain my equilibrium. For me, everything is connected, so bringing order to one area of my life inevitably impacts the others. We can’t discount the minor adjustments; sometimes they make the biggest difference!
You will probably hear more about this in the coming weeks. I need the accountability so I don’t end up back in the closet with a book, surrounded by piles and drowning in laziness!
But I’d also love to hear how you react when life feels out of control, and what you’re doing to find your balance again. Maybe we can help each other.
Somehow it seems easier to catch your breath when you know you’re not alone.
Hi! This is my first time visiting your site.
Stepping back from my feelings in order to respond righteously when I perceive life as being “out-of-control” has been a process for me over several years and will surely continue for the rest of my earthly life.
I have by no means come to a place of consistent victory. My flesh engages too quickly when circumstances tempt me to walk apart from truth-informed spiritual and emotional equilibrium. Also, I don’t always catch on to the reality that I am being tempted and snared to respond carnally to circumstances and people.
All this to say, there are a few things that I’ve seen help me. These are not in a particular order:
2. Agreeing with my Father that I am indeed perceiving circumstances and relationships outside the bounds of the truth of His Word and that I am being tempted to walk not by the Spirit but by my flesh. Also that my heart is deceptive, as are my feelings which are a gateway to deception if they are not in alignment with the truth of the word.
3. Retreating to a place (I am blessed to have a personal study) to be alone with Him in order to pray about what is going on and to seek direction in His Word.
4. Repentance if I’ve moved from temptation to walk (think, speak, behave) unrighteously to actually sinning by walking unrighteously.
5. Scripture meditation. Asking for Holy Spirit-led guidance to a verse or passage of Scripture that contradicts the lies of my flesh (thoughts and feelings) with the Truth of the Word.
6. Writing in my faith journal about my experience of encouragement from the Lord about being restored to viewing circumstance/relationship(s) biblically and not carnally.
7. Listening to instrumental worship (I personally get distracted by many lyrics).
8. Prayer and thanksgiving. Prayer for help from my Father and thanksgiving for the temptation, for His being my strength when I am weak, for discernment given to me by my Father about the situation, for His “making a way out of the temptation” (1 Corinthians 10:13) to sin with a carnal response, for forgiveness if I have sinned and repented and His cleansing me of all unrighteousness related to the sin I’ve repented of, for joy that comes when I am restored to intimacy with Him.
9. Reminding myself that victory is one step at a time and not always in the same direction (unfortunately) but that it is my Father who is taking me through the journey of sanctification and not my personal strength (which I don’t have though I may think I do).
10. Finding a promise from my Father in His Word about His keeping me, guiding me, protecting me, etc.
11. Learning to continue on with the Lord after a trial of temptation when things seem out-of-control. I am learning to keep in step with Him more and more.
Also, I am on a journey just like you so this is not a hard and fast response to my responding to what I perceive as out-of-control, etc.
Thank you for this post. The Spirit used it to encourage me and to reflect on some important things.
Praying for you as you trust in the Lord with all of your heart. He is faithful!