How to Feel Less Overwhelmed in 20 Minutes

Sustainable ministry requires mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Stress is an enemy of all three. But you can overcome it.

Pastoring is challenging work, with a need to be an expert in multiple areas all at once.

Darrell Stetler knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. He’s not just a pastor, but a father to seven kids. And he creates great discipleship resources at NewStart Discipleship. These five tips are a great way to pause, recalibrate, recruit help, and get ready for what’s next.

Karl Vaters

The week before vacation is incredibly busy.

I’ve got seven kids, and I’ve sometimes wondered if we could buy some velcro suits and hang them on the wall for a few hours while Liz and I get ready to travel.

The packing, the dog-feeding schedule, the mail plan, the tire repair, the last-minute details… it can all add up to a huge stress load. But honestly, it’s that way in normal weeks, too!

What if you could take 20 minutes and lower your stress level — feel less overwhelmed, more in control, and ready to get something done?

Would that be attractive?

I’m not talking about a massage, a medication, or the proverbial stiff drink. Those are attempts to escape stress. I’m talking about looking that giant hairy stress monster in the face and cutting it down to size.

Is that really possible? Don’t doubt me until you’ve tried these five simple steps:

Grab a pen, paper, and timer, and see how you feel in 20 minutes.

De-sizing the Church - Available Now!

1. Sit down and pray (2 minutes)

If you think you don’t have time, I’ve got good news. God hears short prayers!

“I’m overwhelmed. I need courage and clear thinking, and a firm place to stand. I need your help to put together details, and bring along people and resources to help. And I need courage to say no to some things I’m pressured to do. Help me to be wise, right now, and less overwhelmed 20 minutes from now. Amen.”

He will hear.

Now, keep going.

2. Make a list (5 minutes)

I could bore you with studies about how lists make you more effective and less overwhelmed. I could talk about how your brain is like your laptop RAM — it can only handle so much without slowing down. I could talk about how writing is a neuromuscular activity that helps your brain process information. I could explain that writing a list is like saving data and closing programs — it allows your brain to stop work on that project, so you feel less overwhelmed.

Hey! You don’t have time to argue with me! Just write the list already!

(If you already have a list written out, go to steps 3-4, and spend twice as much time on them.)

PRO TIP: This list needs to be ACTIONS, not PROJECTS. The difference? Projects contain many actions. “Fix Car,” is a project. “Call Bob about the mechanic he recommended,” is an action. Write this list based on actions, and you’ll feel more in control.

3. Reduce the list (2 minutes)

Now that you’ve made the list, identify three items on it that don’t really need to be done.

Trust me, some of your overwhelmed feelings are from people-pleasing. (Especially if you’re a pastor.) It’s time to say “no” ocassionally.

Identify tasks that are on your list because you said “yes” to too many things, trying to make people happy. Then, eliminate some of those things.

Force yourself to say “no” to something, to someone. If you’re a people pleaser, the temptation here will be to say “no” to yourself, to cut something you wanted to do. Do not do this in this case! Say no to someone else.

There’s a reason Peter Drucker once said, “The first thing that should be required to enter the ministry is a six-week intensive course in saying No.”

4. Prioritize what’s left (2 minutes)

Write the number 1 beside the most important thing, a 2 beside the second most important. You get the point.

The top three things should be things only you can do. That’s why they are important for your list. No one else knows how to do them, or they are part of your core responsibility and core skills — preaching, disciple making, leadership, that sort of thing.

5. Call in help from 2 people (9 minutes)

Here’s how to know who to call:

  1. Has anyone told you “call me if I can help you?” Believe them.
  2. Is anyone solidly on your side? Recruit them.
  3. Is anyone a busy, competent person? Trust them.
  4. Who loves you? Let them love you.
  5. Who owes you a favor? Call it in.

Are you afraid to ask for help because you want to look invincible? Humble yourself!

Now that you’ve thought of someone, call the person, then do this:

  • Humbly tell them you’re overwhelmed and ask if they could help.
  • When they say “yes” (and they most likely will!), give them something from your list, further down than the top three.
  • Spend a few moments explaining the task, clarifying the “win” (what success looks like)
  • Tell them when you need it done (deadline)
  • Ask if they have questions. Tell them to call if they need further direction.
  • Thank them profusely, and tell them when you’ll check in to follow up.

Now, don’t you feel better? If you’re tuned in to your feelings, and you followed those five steps, you’re now experiencing fewer overwhelmed feelings, and more relaxed control.

Now, it’s all about action, of course.

Go get ‘er done.

(Photo by Simon James | Flickr)


Want to reprint this article? Click here for permission. (This protects me from copyright theft.)

Share or Print this!