Many times when we’re stressed, we can begin to feel so overwhelmed by our circumstances, that we start to shut down. What does “shut down” mean? It means we begin to fail to function. Our minds won’t work. The energy level that we usually have shrinks. Procrastination sets in and perhaps, depression. Fear rules. Our urgent need in moments like this is to remember or discover how to avoid shutting down when overwhelmed.

But the good news is, this tendency can be overturned.

By learning how to avoid shutting down when great stress comes, you can bypass these negative effects. And, you can even learn how to thrive, not just survive, when you are greatly pressured. That’s something that would really help all of us in this challenging 2020 year.

If Stressed, How Can We Rise Up?

For people of faith, it may seem especially embarrassing and even, shameful to say, “I’m struggling. I feel so weighted down by so many things, it’s hard for me to get much accomplished each day.”

Don’t waste time on guilt. It only adds to the pressure.

Recently, a pastor in our church had the courage to admit, “Sorrow came in and settled down at my house in March 2020. I have been ‘entertaining him’ for a couple of months now.” He meant that with the pandemic and the shutdown of churches, he had really lost heart and felt temporarily defeated. Who can blame him? Many churches and businesses have closed or fear “going under” right now.

But, then this pastor really leaned into God to help him get back up emotionally and he began to focus on the truth of scriptures like Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him…he has no worry in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

This pastor is on fire again now, preaching with a passion and clarity that is amazing. He said his last two weeks have been the best in the eight years that he has led this church. Filled with an upbeat enthusiasm, he just had to remember that God is good, that God never leaves or forsakes us.

Not only that, but he had to remember that trouble is a part of this life. With gratitude, he had to recall the truth that God is with him now and will be forever, despite the trouble.

Trusting God Stops the Shutting Down

In fact, God’s mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness,” the Bible says in Lamentations 3:23. God loves us in troubles and in good times. He never forsakes or deserts us. His love will see us through. This is our starting place, to remember God’s heart and character, and all the ways He has stayed right beside us up until this very day.

On the Bible Reasons website, there are several quotes about stress in an article on stress and worry. I love these three:

“Stress makes you believe that everything has to happen right now. Faith assures you that everything will happen in God’s timing.”

“When I’m worried, it’s usually because I’m trying to do everything myself. When I am at peace, it’s usually because I remember that God is in control.” Dave Willis

“It’s not stress that kills us. It is our reaction to it.”

In Dr. George Utuk’s book, “Overcoming Life’s Challenges,” (link below) he quotes a friend as texting him once, “The key to getting victory over [your difficulties] is the way you entertain them.” But, note that he used the word “victory.” With God on our side, we can not only survive troubled times, but thrive, and have victory over our challenging circumstances.

shutting down when overwhelmed

Good Self-Care Lessens Effects of Stress

It almost goes without saying that taking care of our minds and bodies is so critical when feeling stressed. This helps you to keep from shutting down when overwhelmed. Eating a good, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, sleeping as best as you can, and getting out to exercise or even exercising at your desk (if this is your work situation) are all so helpful. Remember to breathe deeply. Laugh often.

My husband and I have been shutting off the news after we hear a few essential stories. Too much of it can be really demoralizing right now. Rather, we have been watching light-hearted and uplifting movies. In addition, we have been taking time to stay really connected with family. Though family can be the source of pressure for some people, and may need to be avoided, you can, instead, stay closely connected with friends that feel like family.

For us, being together with extended family has been so healing. If that needs to be done through Skype, Zoom, or Face Time, etc., right now, then do it that way. But get uplifted by those who are your community. Make yourself stay connected.

Nurture a Good Heart Attitude to Fight Stress

As I write this, I am aware of many prayer requests. A woman in a northern state is already facing freezing rain and possible snow. There is a tree with branches above her home and power lines. She is on oxygen. She fears the power being cut off.

There is a family whose home and town are so near the California fires. Will they need to evacuate? Their son is fighting the deadly fires. (*Update: In the days since this was posted, the numbers continue to skyrocket on those being affected by these western fires – through death, injury, loss of home, etc. Our hearts go out to them and we pray for those suffering and for the wonderful firefighters and other rescue personnel.)

What we face can seem immense, a looming giant. But the size of the struggle does not alter our need to face it with trust in God and a relentless belief that He can carry us through to safety. We must continue to put our trust in Him and declare to our hearts, “He is making a way.”

The wonderful worship song of recent times, “Surrounded,” says, “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.” (written by Elyssa Smith)

shutting down when overwhelmed

Feeling Overwhelmed Bible Verses

David fought his battle with the giant Goliath by taking one smooth stone and launching it with faith straight at the giant’s head who fell dead with a great earth trembling thud. We can pick up our “stone” too, and sling it straight at our giant’s head. Our hanging on to Bible verses that declare courage, hope, and belief that we will overcome are “our weapon.” Here are some with a prayer built on each one:

Psalm 9:9

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” 

Prayer: O God, I thank you that you are a stronghold, my fort, when things come against me so strongly. Inside your “walls,” I am safe.

Psalm 94:19

“When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me.” 

Prayer: Lord, I thank you that you take my inner thoughts, my worries, my anxieties, and you calm them like a comforting parent does with a child. You are driving away everything that disturbs me by Your Spirit.

John 1:5

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

Prayer: Precious Lord, no matter how bad things may get, they cannot overcome You. You are my light and my salvation. I will not be afraid.

May you feel the peace of this scene in your spirit, no matter what storms are swirling:

shutting down when overwhelmed


Related articles on this website:

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times

How To Recover Your Hope in Hard Times

Further Reading:

A book by Dr. N. George Utuk, Ph.D. Excellent resource!

Overcoming Life’s Challenges: Fourteen Keys to Thriving During Difficult times

A book by Pastor Surprise Sithole. A description of his life from the Amazon website for his book: “Born into a long line of witch doctors, Surprise Sithole (“Sit-holy”) was destined for a life of fear, oppression and poverty in the African jungles. But God had other plans. What began that night in a thatch and mud hut more than 25 years ago was an adventure of faith and miracles.”

Pastor Surprise, who has faced so much in Mozambique is described as one of the happiest people alive. He works with Heidi Baker and Iris Ministries. His book:

A Voice in the Night


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