What to do when you’re overwhelmed by the circumstances around you?

As I’m sitting down to write this to you, our little town is overwhelmed with smoke. Our first day of school was on Tuesday, but we were met with a wind storm on Monday evening, which resulted in a power outage…. And news of a brush fire in our area. 

We prayed, we prepared the best we could (packing up items in the event of an evacuation order), and waited. We played monopoly by candlelight (battery operated), put on a puppet show for the kids, and read books before tucking the kids in for the night. 

They’ve evacuated a warehouse and those in the immediate vicinity. My husband stayed awake most of the night to keep a close eye on the news. 

We woke up on Tuesday morning to the news that school has been canceled due to power outages, damages from the wind storm, and to the news that the hill which separates my town of Sumner from Bonney Lake is on fire. 

It’s always strange when something like this actually happens in front of you. From where we live, we can see the fire and thick smoke. 

Reading stories by candlelight
Reading stories by candlelight.

I’m writing this on a Thursday, and of course, there’s no school. 

No sense of normal. 

And I’m just exhausted. 

It’s the mental exhaustion. 

Can y’all relate?

2020 has been a year, that’s for sure. 

I think when these things happen. “These things” as in life. When life happens, and everything just feels out of control, we grasp for anything that feels familiar and try to control the things that are controllable… which quite honestly, hasn’t felt like much. 

So, how do you step out of this place of feeling defeated?

I don’t really think it’s that. I don’t think we have to “turn our frown upside down.” Instead, I think it’s absolutely okay to not be okay.

This week’s lesson will focus on identifying feelings of burn out. 

Accepting how we feel is part of the healing process. 

Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation in the face of what’s happening. It simply means a clear acknowledgment that what is happening is happening. Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do, that has to come out of your understanding of the moment. -John Kabat-Zinn

I’m naturally an action-taker. I want to help where I can, so immediately after the wild happened, I’m searching Facebook groups and finding needs that need to be met, driving to stores, dropping off items to be donated, etc.

But sometimes, when we immediately jump into action (because that’s what mothers do instinctively, we want to help, serve, give, nurture, provide), we don’t stop to really sit down and check-in with ourselves.

How are you feeling, really?

We become so dependent on keeping ourselves busy that we forget that our emotional and mental health matters, too.

I feel tired and overwhelmed. 

The uncertainty of not knowing when school will start or when my little town will return to normal is keeping me awake at night. 

I feel on edge because I need to be ready at a moment’s notice. 

I want things to feel somewhat normal.

 I want to not have to live out of our luggage. 

Everything just sucks. And stinks, no, it’s not just because of the fire.

Things shouldn’t be this way. 

Isn’t that how much of 2020 has felt like?

Like, life should not be this way. 

Write down how you truly feel or say it out in prayer. 

What matters is that it’s not sugar-coated, and you’re not writing out things to impress anyone. I had a mentor once tell me that God’s a big boy and can handle it. 

So, tell Him how you really feel. Does it feel hard, unbearable? Do you feel like you can’t get through a particular situation, and feel hopeless? 

Just writing out how I truly feel– how you truly feel– acknowledging that these emotions are real, will help you identify why you feel out of sorts, anxious, and stressed out. 

After writing out how you’re feeling, place your hand over your heart, chest raised, head held high and inhale deeply, and exhale slowly.

Body Language

In her book, Presence Amy Cuddy shares how your body language may shape who you are. Adopting a pose of confidence, one that communicates to your body that you are strong (even when you don’t feel like), courageous (when you’d rather run for the hills), and triumphant (even when you feel defeated) signals to your brain that you ARE confident. 

If you’re feeling defeated, consider taking a superhero pose. Amy describes it as setting your feet a few feet apart, hands-on-hips, chest slightly forward, chin slightly up– helps increase confidence and reduce fear or anxiety. 

If your heart is hurting like mine, place your hands over your heart, chest raise, head held high, and if you can manage it, add a small smile and whisper:

I am safe.

I am safe.

I am safe.

I am safe.

I am safe.

Why do you start with “I am safe” statements? 

Because I need to send a signal to my body and mind that I am safe. 

And I finish with a prayer of thanksgiving. 

I am thankful for our volunteers who helped feed our first responders and families who have had to evacuate their homes.

I am thankful for our firefighters who have been quick to respond to reports of smaller fires that have popped up in the area while working to contain the larger fire, battling the wind and exhaustion.

I am thankful for a community that rises up to serve, provide shelter, and meals for those who need it.

And with my hands still over my heart, I whisper:

I am centered.

I am grounded.

I am safe.

I am protected. 

God is in control of the things that are beyond my control.

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