We have all experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed.
For you, perhaps the feeling is caused by being buried under too many things on your to-do list each day, or maybe from being so far under a mountain of school debt that, if there is light at the end of the tunnel, you may not live to see it!
Feeling overwhelmed is something that all people experience – in all levels of society and in all cultures. Of course, the things that overwhelm you or me might be considered a blessing by someone else. As university students face finals and term end papers they may feel overwhelmed, while most people around the world would feel blessed to have such things in their lives. The underwater feeling, though, is a personal one – one that should not be compared to another person’s existence. What we are experiencing is real for us and that is what matters to us at that moment.
Cross-cultural mission workers do not get a pass when it comes to feeling overwhelmed. If anything, living cross-culturally adds to the possibility. Can you imagine dealing with what you have to deal with on a daily basis, and then adding the cross-cultural element? That can mean operating in a different language, not understanding the verbal and non-verbal clues around you because they are based in a different cultural history, and possibly looking different than everyone else around you so that you feel like you truly live in a fish bowl. Living cross-culturally can be life stress on steroids.
Since we all deal with it, what do we do about it?
Here are some ideas to consider.
- Remember that you are not alone. We all deal with the stress of being overwhelmed by one thing or another. Share your feelings with someone who loves you. A strand of three cords is not easily broken. (Ecc 4:12)
- Rest in and meditate on God, knowing that he knows you fully and cares for you. My soul finds rest in God alone. My hope comes from him. (Ps 62:1-5)
- Ask for help. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we will not allow ourselves to ask for others to bear the weight with us. Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the middle of them. (Mt 18:20)
- De-clutter. Begin by listing everything you have on your plate. How much of that list actually NEEDS to be there? Sometimes you have to let go of good things because you have taken on too many of them. Too many good things can be a bad thing! What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
- Seek professional help. If after sharing with a friend things still seem out of control, ask for help from a professional. Financial planners, counselors and organizational specialists, among others, may be able to help you get back into balance. Wisdom is found in many counselors. (Prov 15:22)
Whether you are in your home culture or in a different culture, remember that Jesus told us this world would include difficulty,
but then he said,