When you’re in over your head
Q: How can I deal with feeling overwhelmed?
A: That suffocating, scared, helpless feeling is one we’d all rather avoid. But I had an experience several years ago that taught me a helpful lesson about how to deal with it when we’re feeling overwhelmed. I learned that even when you feel in over your head, you actually have resources right at hand to draw on. Here’s how that realization moved me from a place of stress to success.
I’d gone for a bike ride at high altitudes in Colorado. The path to my destination was mostly downhill, and it was great to feel the breeze as I glided along. But a few hours later, as I began the return trip, I realized it was steep and practically all uphill. I was afraid, breathing hard, and really mad at myself for being in this predicament.
Thoughts crowded in that said I was unprepared—that this was just too hard, that I couldn’t do it.
I got myself to a spot where I could sit on a rock and see the rushing river as it carried the snowmelt from above. I could feel its surging power from where I sat, and my thoughts went naturally to the qualities I could see represented: power, energy, flow, and harmony. From my practice of Christian Science, I could identify these qualities as spiritual—derived from God, who I’ve learned is the infinite, divine source of everything good. These qualities weren’t in the river itself, but the river reminded me of their presence. And I realized that if they were present, then God must be right there—supporting, loving, and caring for me—which inspired me to get back on my bike and keep going.
It wasn’t long, though, before I felt exhausted and kind of teary. Thoughts crowded in that said I was unprepared, out of shape—that this was just too hard, that I couldn’t do it. Then I heard that river again. And the mountains that surrounded me seemed so much more than their jagged rocks and peaks; they represented strength, foundation, steadfastness, and permanence.
Were these qualities unique to my environment? No. There’s a great statement in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, that explains, “Principle and its idea is one, and this one is God, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Being, and His reflection is man and the universe” (pp. 465–466 ). I realized in that moment that I, too, was the expression of all those qualities that I was seeing so clearly around me. I began to claim those qualities as included in my identity: I am the expression of bravery, calm, competence, and energy. I am steadfast and full of potential, because that is what my true source, my “sustaining infinite,” is and what I reflect. Another passage from Science and Health came to mind and flooded my thoughts with possibility: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii ).
Yes, I was biking up a hill that seemed out of my current practice experience, but because of my true nature as God’s complete, spiritual expression, every quality I needed to succeed was mine to draw on right then. I felt mentally and physically buoyed up, and though I was not going at great speeds, I was going … up!
We do have something supporting us in any “too big” situation we find ourselves in. And that is our infinite source, God.
The doubt, fear, and no-way-can-I-do-this-ness vanished, and before I knew it, I was back at our campsite. I was so thankful to have triumphed when I’d feared I might fail. But bigger than that was the lesson that I could count on “omnipresent Being” to lead me and move me no matter where I was. I saw that I could rely on God doing the expressing of every good and useful quality in me; my job was to witness that at every turn.
We all have those moments when we feel in over our heads—a demanding practice on a new sports team, an essay we have no idea how to write, even the effort to find ways to deal with global problems that seem so much bigger than we are—that might threaten to swamp us altogether. But we do have something supporting us in any “too big,” “too demanding,” “too whatever” situation we find ourselves in. And that is our infinite source, God, forever supplying us with whatever we need in practical ways that touch us right where we are.
We can practice tapping into this true nature, this spiritual identity, in the less-challenging moments so we’re prepared when we feel overwhelmed. God is constantly bringing out His nature in us—reminding us of it, making it evident to us. I am learning that God is the only “doer,” the only mover, the only real Being, which we reflect. It’s not about us striving to express God but about knowing how natural it is to be witnessing God’s power, wisdom, and grace—wherever our path takes us.