8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You're Stretched Too Thin

8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You're Stretched Too Thin

Living life in this world can be brutal. There are days when every time I turn around, there is a new crisis—in my life, in my community, or in my world (and sometimes all three simultaneously). But the truth is, even on a day where there is no major catastrophe or unwanted surprise, life has the potential to be overwhelming. Work, chores, kids, spouse, friends, and volunteer work all clamor for my attention, shouting “Me first! Me first!” I bet you can relate, too. So how do we keep all this work, all this noise, and all these needs from pushing us over the edge? Here are my strategies:

  • 1) Don’t pick up the phone in every spare moment.

    1) Don’t pick up the phone in every spare moment.

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    The pause before I pick it up could be exactly when God wants to whisper something to me. It might be the moment I could offer up a prayer of thanksgiving or intercession. It may be the moment I have that day to be mindful, to breathe deep, to confess my sin or anxiety. It’s easy to miss these profound moments when God could enter in, to bring peace and love and direction.

    But instead of choosing God, I choose Words with Friends. Or Facebook. Or Instagram.

    I’m still going to play my Words with Friends game. And I’m sure I’ll still check in with social media channels and with my email. But I want to increase the number of times that before I mindlessly pick up the phone and open an app, I ask God if there’s something better for me, something that will keep me centered, focused, and grounded (and not contribute to overwhelm because, hello, Facebook can be overwhelming, yes?).

    Practical practice: Look in your phone’s settings to see what apps are using the most battery power. That gives you a good indication of where you’re spending your time while you're on the phone. Any ones that are particularly distracting and/or that contribute to your overwhelm? Delete them.

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  • 2) When you feel the need to speed up, intentionally slow down.

    2) When you feel the need to speed up, intentionally slow down.

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    My mentor sent me this TEDx Talk and it impacted how I operate daily. I’m prone to rush, giving in to the frantic push to do more and control more. But as this video states and as I’ve found, anxiety and frantic activity don’t lead to quality work or peace. In fact, trying to squeeze time dry leaves me wrung out. The constant rush of activities keeps me in a suspended state of hyperdrive, unable to revel in what I have accomplished or to find beauty in living.

    Practical practice: Every time you feel the frantic push or the feeling of anxiety/overwhelm, physically slow down your motions. Take a deep breath and ask God to show you the one thing you can do in that moment.

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  • 3) Know your priorities and make decisions accordingly.

    3) Know your priorities and make decisions accordingly.

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    I would love to save the world, but it turns out, the world already has a Savior. Instead, I focus on the areas where I know God has called me to use my gifts. This gives me a way to categorize my time and energy, to make sure I’m staying in His will for me.

    Practical practice: Develop the habit of saying, “Let me get back to you after I pray about this” before taking on new responsibilities.

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  • 4) Involve your tribe.

    4) Involve your tribe.

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    Yes, Galatians 6:5 says we should all carry our own load, but Galatians 6:2 tells us to share each other’s burdens. The Greek for “load” is essentially the weight of a backpack, but the word for “burden” is like an enormous boulder. There are overwhelming situations that I simply cannot carry on my own and I need spiritual, emotional, or physical support. Sometimes, I need all three. It’s okay to have needs. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to receive help.

    Practical practice: Think about the people in your tribe who you could rely on to help you in a time of need and that you would be able to help, as well. Ask them about joining a texting group where you can share prayer requests or ask for help when you need it.

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  • 5) Find something funny.

    5) Find something funny.

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    Laughter is good medicine. It releases feel-good hormones, reminds you life isn’t always serious, and there are things out there that are totally enjoyable.

    Practical practice: Make a coffee date with a funny friend. Belly laugh with kids. Find a funny YouTube video and watch it. Here’s one to get you started.

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  • 6) Plan for moments each day that are your own.

    6) Plan for moments each day that are your own.

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    I must take care of myself. Only I have this job and yet, I am guilty of neglecting this responsibility. It’s time to get introspective: What keeps you from exercising or spending time with Jesus or engaging in a hobby? This I know: God created us to enjoy life. Yes, there are struggles and hard work He asks us to do, but He did not create us to be robots. This whole earth is ours to explore and as people who are made in the image of the Creator, we are made to create, commune, and be our best selves. Having areas of healthy release is simply imitating Jesus—He was a woodworker who hung out with His friends and who regularly connected with His Father.

    Practical practice: Make a list of the emotions you feel when you think about scheduling things that are just for you. Do you feel guilty? Are you afraid of disappointing others? Do you jump ahead to thinking about what life will look like if you take a timeout? Ask God to reveal the truth about who He is to counteract the negative emotions surrounding your self-care.

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  • 7) Take thoughts captive AND submit them to Christ.

    7) Take thoughts captive AND submit them to Christ.

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    It’s not enough for me to notice an anxiety-inducing thought and put it in a box labeled “Thoughts I Shouldn’t Think” because for some reason, the top keeps coming off and the thought appears again. Instead, I must grab the thought, take it to Jesus, and surrender it to Him. I need to exchange that thought for His truth so that I have a weapon with which to fight the thought the next time it tries to attack me.

    Practical practice: What are the most reoccurring thoughts with which you battle? Write them out. For each one, find a Scripture that tells you the truth of who God is or who you are in Christ.

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  • 8) Let others own their own responsibilities.

    8) Let others own their own responsibilities.

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    This is probably the one with which I struggle the most, but which also most often contributes most greatly to the sense of overwhelm. It’s so easy for me to take on the responsibilities of others, but this only serves to over-burden me and stymie the growth of those who God wants to empower and raise up.

    Practical Practice: Take a hard look at who you may be enabling and ask God for help in letting go of what it no longer yours to carry.


    These 8 helpful ways to keep overwhelm under control are available as a postcard-sized graphic you can download, print out, and hang up as a reminder of what to do the next time you’re feeling overtaken by the demands of life. This download is free to subscribers of The Knot Project newsletter. Click here to get your free download and bonus content.


    Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. She’s also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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