How To Survive Feeling Overwhelmed

It’s only the third week of the New Year, but maybe you’re like me and feeling a little overwhelmed with all you let go during the holidays. Some of you may still have your Christmas decorations up–we have our outside lights up still because I love them so much, and we’re still eating off of our snowman Christmas dishes. Those things don’t bother me, but a looming book deadline and preparing for speaking at a retreat in Nebraska at the end of this month, along with family and ministry obligations, now that can give me a few over-the-edge moments. So I was delighted when Dianne Barker offered to give us all a few tips on surviving what she calls, “Overwhelm City.”

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Dianne and I would both like to hear how you survive Overwhelm City.

Survival Kit for Overwhelm City

By Dianne Barker

 mother with everyone pulling at her

Yikes! Where am I? Did I misread the map? Overlook the road sign? Experience total GPS failure?

Oh, now I recognize the neighborhood. I’ve spent time here before—Overwhelm City—the home of over-commitment and complicated circumstances.

The only fix for over-commitment is saying “no.” A hard choice—but a choice.

There’s no easy fix for beyond-our-control, complicated circumstances: crumbling marriages, prodigal children, career adjustments, financial difficulties, relationship issues, care-giving responsibilities, health concerns, assorted calamities, grief, terrorism, and fear. . . just to name a few.

I’ve begun to feel at home in Overwhelm City among the desperate who are crying,

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck…the flood sweeps over me” (Psalm 69:1-2 ESV).

Although my husband and I have been caring for people we love during our forty-nine year marriage—several relatives and even a few friends who were close as family—I wasn’t prepared for an extended stay in Overwhelm City.

After leaving a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued writing. My 1986 book Twice Pardoned was a number-one national Christian best-seller. The ink had barely dried when God led me from my public life as an author and speaker to a secluded life—caring for our parents as their health declined. I spent the next fifteen years in Overwhelm City, struggling to keep my head above water.

Doing the “gottas”

Routine housework wasn’t at the bottom of the list…it didn’t make the list. I did the gottas: wash dishes, make beds, clean bathrooms. My priorities were driving our parents to medical appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, and doing laundry for our three families. One week I made three trips to the coin laundry, due to plumbing problems at home, and washed a total thirty-two loads. Attending school functions involving our children and attending church completed my schedule.

Unexpected Ministry

Gradually, God eliminated every non-essential activity, shrinking my life to basics. My “shrunken life,” though limited in scope, was still significant. That season provided an opportunity to return to our parents some of the loving devotion they had showered on us. It was a fruitful time of growing closer to the Lord, immersing in His Word, and learning to depend on Him for every step and breath.

During this time, He gave me an unexpected ministry—mentoring young women He sent to my door seeking marriage and parenting advice. I shared principles the Lord was teaching me and promises I’d memorized from Scripture. As the women continued coming, I created a makeshift memorization booklet, which I later published: Walking in Victory—a Two-Year Scripture Memorization Plan. Fruit in the desert!

An Amazing Gift

During that complicated period, the Lord also gave me an amazing gift:

  • Peace that I was where He wanted me.
  • Purpose, doing what He designed.
  • Promise that someday He would expand my life again.


God always keeps His promises, and He never wastes an experience. He’s begun expanding my life. Besides providing opportunities to speak and publish, He surprised me with a weekly program on the Christian radio station WHCB, Bristol, Tennessee.

A life submersed in Christ is a better term for my “shrunken life.” When my journey detours to Overwhelm City, I can be sure He has a purpose.

Survival Kit for Overwhelm City

If this fresh New Year finds you at the outskirts of Overwhelm City, a few tools from my Survival Kit will help you make the most of the experience and sweeten the stay.

  • Simplify life. Eliminate non-essentials. “He has told you. O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
  • Draw near to Jesus. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
  • Accept that you are here by God’s design. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
  • Believe God has a purpose. We don’t have to see it to believe it. If nothing else, He’s developing endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
  • Keep a teachable heart. Ask: Lord, what do you want me to learn? “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
  • Encourage yourself with truth. “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
  • Rejoice. If I rejoice today, I rejoice in these circumstances. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Overwhelm City is a sweet community of broken people. Didn’t I just see you moving in next door? Come on over. I can’t wait to hear your story!

DianneBarker 2012


Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author. This post is adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, which won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls 2014 third-place award for non-fiction book of the year (available at LifeWay Christian Stores,,,,



  1. At 78+ years of age, I have learned and used your survival kit many times. They are spot on for easing the burdens God gives us to bear in the different seasons of life. Through caring for aging, ill parents in another city, Cystic Fibrosis and a liver transplant for a grandson, marital problems for our younger son, and two cancer surgeries for myself taught me to rely solely on God and realize Jesus will never leave me and will provide whatever we need when needed. My parents are no longer living, our grandson is 21 and still has CF but doing great in college, our younger son’s marriage is now stronger than ever, and I have been in remission from cancer for nearly 20 years. He fulfilled my dreams five years ago this month with the release of my first full length novel. Number 13 released last fall. Without those lessons and His great promises, my husband’s journey with cancer now would be overwhelming. As it is, we live one day at a time knowing our future is in God’s hands, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

    • Martha, I was so blessed by your story! I thought I’d seen you in Overwhelm City! Although difficult circumstances take us there, it’s the sweetest place because God draws us near himself, teaching us and lavishing us with his love. You are so right! In his hands is the best place.

    • Janet Thompson says:

      Thank you for sharing you story Martha. I know that God never planned for His followers to feel overwhelemed in a “poor me” way but instead to shine the light on Him and how we make it through life’s struggles looking for His purpose and plan for our lives. You have confirmed everything Dianne Barker shared. Prayers for your husband. I’m a 3 time breast cancer survivor and God has allowed me to use that for His glory in writing Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer and also in my testimony. Life can be hard but God is good!

      • Janet, thanks for joining the conversation. You certainly can speak from experience about the overwhelming life and God’s overwhelming grace! I’ve learned in hard places He’s always doing something bigger than we can see. We may not know where the next step leads, but we can walk in confidence because He makes the ground firm beneath our feet. You said it so well. “Life can be hard but God is good!”

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