Help! I’m drowning!

Dear Gigi,
I’ve calculated that between home responsibilities (30 hours/week), working from home (30 hours/week) and monitoring my children’s schoolwork (30 hours/week), I have been putting in 90 hour work weeks. I feel like I’m on the verge of a breakdown. I am always doing something (and I mean always) – whether it’s washing out the kids’ pool, scrubbing the furniture after a pet mess, sneaking in editing for work, laundry, shopping – whatever it is, it’s always something, and I can’t make myself stop. I hoped that after school was out things would slow down a little but they haven’t. My husband has a stressful job (he travels 2-4 days a week) and I don’t want to ask him for help. What can I do?

Dear friend, my heart is heavy for you and I am so sad that your many responsibilities are sucking the life out of you and making it impossible to enjoy life.  I would guess that you are not alone, especially during these days of Covid, which has complicated everyone’s lives.  Sometimes we work ourselves into a frenzy and then don’t know how to stop. And if you are truly on the verge of a breakdown, serious action is required. Let’s talk about this.

First of all (and this will seem extreme, but bear with me), I feel that you need an immediate break, coming to a full and complete stop for 48 hours.  Whether in a hotel or at a family member’s home who promises to leave you completely alone, you need to take a step back right now.  Does this seem extravagant? Expensive? Over the top?  Impossible? No – necessary.  Because if you keep going the way you are headed, the consequences will be much worse.  Stop.  Now.  This is a time to rest and reflect.  You can’t keep going on the current path. You need an intervention and your husband needs to be on board.  If you can’t talk to him about this, find someone who can, or print a copy of this post and give it to him.  I’m not kidding.  This first step is important and I can’t overstate it. 

While you are away and alone, take the first 24 hours to sleep as much as possible.  In between naps, journal about how you got to this place (what is it inside that drives you so?) and pray, asking God to reveal to you what He wants your life to look like.  On the second day, brainstorm about how to get there.  What do you need in order to have a more balanced life? Make a list of things you can do smarter or eliminate or rethink that will make your life more workable. I did this myself, when our children were young and we were in the middle of a ministry crisis. Getting away made it possible for me to successfully survive a season of life that seemed impossible.

The first thing you can do right now is impose an afternoon quiet time for everyone.  This includes you. Whether you have nappers or not, everybody stops what they are doing and has 2 hours of down time – by themselves – reading, resting, being quiet.  Don’t miss this part: this includes you. When is the last time you read a book? Curl up in your bed or on the couch and enjoy this time.  This time is not a luxury, it is not a waste, it is vital.  Everyone needs time and space to stop the crazy and just breathe.  Use part of this time to pray – focusing on abiding in Christ, who promises that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

Second, do something creative.  What are you interested in? My daughter and her family (1 husband, 4 sons) live in a 900 square foot house and trying to homeschool them all during quarantining was driving her crazy.  She did exactly what I am recommending to you – she took a time out away from home, followed by time alone every day, and then the pursuit of a new interest. She has taken an interest in plants and she jumped right in, learning as she went along, and is now heading a plant swap group in her city.  She feels more balanced and stronger and more able to handle her extremely challenging life, which includes children with special needs, mental illness, and the normal madness of adolescence. What could you invest in each week that would bring life and beauty to your creative soul?

Finally, don’t try to do this alone. Make sure your husband knows the fragility of your current situation.  I appreciate that you don’t want to add to his plate, but you need his help. My son-in-law’s participation in the day-to-day has helped my daughter immensely. Communicate your needs clearly to your husband and offer him specific ways he can help you. Most men are clueless in how to respond to a call for help without determined parameters. I’m praying he will step up and support you as you navigate what needs to change in your life.

Ponder the verse below. Are you loving yourself? I’m praying for you.


Jesus said…‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 
— Matthew 22:39 (The Message)

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