We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.
- C.S. Lewis
My eldest is a senior in college this year, living at the intersection of too much work and not enough time. Some of the stress is of her own making, some of it’s not. And she’s flying out to California tomorrow for a job interview on Friday, a week before end-of-term projects are due.
Fortunately (or maybe not!), having too many things to do is a situation I know all too well. I sent her my five-part prescription for getting through:
1. Pray. Lord, I've dug myself a hole that I don't know how to get out of. I know it's not your job to get me out, but I need help. Show me what I need to do, and what I need to ignore, and what you want me to focus on. No matter what happens with this, I want to be your servant. I want to praise you, and glorify you, and do your will. I am sorry I haven't used your time entirely wisely or well. Please help me use this time wisely, well, and to your glory.
2. Focus on one thing at a time. Decide on a time at least three hours away when you’ll allow yourself to worry. For now, dedicate 100% of your energy to the task at hand. Do nothing except what you are doing. If you are completely focused on what you need to do right now, when the allocated time for worrying comes around you will probably find that you are far less worried because you’ve made so much progress.
3. Rest. Figure out what actually refreshes you, instead of “relaxing” with things that numb your brain but provide no rejuvenation. When you're too tired to be productive, go to sleep. Even God rested. You should, too.
4. Pray for others. Being mindful of other peoples’ problems and needs is a gift when you’re stressed. It pulls you out of the pit of your own problems and gives you some semblance of perspective. Plus, if you don’t pray for them, you can’t be certain someone else will.
5. Say thank you. When you’ve made progress, remember item #1 on this list–that you asked for God’s help–and give thanks. You didn’t do it alone. Which is why, after all, you were able to do it at all.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.