by Glynnis Whitwer
A few years ago, I sat on my living room couch, feeling like I was having a panic attack. My chest seemed heavy, my breathing shallow, and anxiety simmered, but there was no apparent threat. However, there were looming deadlines, a demanding home business, mounting emails and five kids wondering when dinner would be ready and were there clean socks?
My life felt like it was out of control. I was exhausted from over-committing myself, constantly being behind and disappointing someone. But the worst part of it all was I constantly compared myself to the "old" Glynnis who could manage life with ease. What happened to her? To me?
Something had to change. It wasn't in my nature to accept defeat. Instead, after recovering from that shaky moment, I became a detective. Was I really losing it? Or did I need to learn some new ways to manage my responsibilities, schedule and home? Thankfully, understanding the "whys" of my frustrations helped me figure out the "hows" of managing it. Turns out, I wasn't completely falling apart. To start with, I was on information overload.
My mind was constantly running, trying to manage all the information, needs and concerns that faced me daily. The problem is our brains aren't designed to capture and organize unprocessed information. I constantly felt like there was something I should be doing or remembering. The underlying anxiety stole my peace and ability to prioritize.
One day, I started a list of everything I needed to do: that day, the next week and beyond. The list got longer and longer. It took days to completely capture it all. After the shock wore off, I actually felt better. Finally, everything was in one safe place. Putting my tasks in categories helped me create a project list—kind of a broad overview of all my responsibilities. Using this as a foundation, I create a short and manageable to-do list once a week. What a difference it made getting it all out of my head.
But that wasn't the only reason life was swallowing me up. I was allowing other people to set my priorities based on their expectations of me. This became evident when a friend texted me a few years ago and asked if I wanted coffee. Since texting was new to me, it took awhile to type a response. Before I could finish, she texted me again. It took a few tries to return to the previous screen, and again, before I could hit send, she texted me a third time.
Finally I just gave up and called her, laughing: "Kortney, if you would stop texting me I could respond!"
That day I realized there's a sense of urgency and expectation in our culture that's hard to shake. Whether it's a voice message, text, email, instant message, or Facebook comment, there's an understanding… no, expectation … that I must respond, and promptly. Was that ever true for me. I was always responding and reacting, rather than purposefully setting priorities.
It took a lot of prayer and asking God to reveal His will, but finally my priorities were clear. Once they were settled, it became easy to say no to new opportunities and responsibilities. And delay responding to emails if I have something else to do.
Regaining a sense of control and order didn't happen overnight. It was a process of identifying the problems (and there were others) and creating solutions. It's also something that takes ongoing work as my life changes.
The good news is I'm not a victim anymore. With God's help and some practical approaches, I've been able to bring peace back into my home, and control over the manageable parts of my life. I'll be honest; having five children, ages 14 and up, means there is always something a little crazy and unmanageable happening in my world. So I manage what I can, and try to smile at the rest.
Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Senior Editor of the P31 Woman magazine and director of the Writing Team. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 500,000 daily readers. Her newest book, I Used to be So Organized, was released last summer. Glynnis, her husband Tod, and their five children live in Glendale, Arizona.