4 Ways to Survive Overwhelm While Pursuing Your Dream

When your mind and soul are weary from slow progress in your god-sized dream, you don’t just want to survive overwhelm. You want a breakthrough.

That feeling of overwhelm reminds me of the time I almost drowned. I was 12.

One hot summer day my dad took my sisters and me to a swimming hole in a nearby river on Vancouver Island, British Columbia where I grew up.

The safe cove for swimming was within a few yards of the rocky shore, away from the strong current of the main part of the river. My sisters had life jackets on and paddled off to the little waterfall ledge, glistening in the sun.

I wasn’t a strong swimmer, mostly because the world was a blurry mass without my glasses on, so I never cared for it. For some reason that day, I ventured out with my dad into the deeper water.

The current tugged me away from shore, but because I couldn’t see much, I didn’t notice. All I knew was that I was getting tired of treading water.

But I was okay; I was with my dad.

Then my dad started shouting for help.

There’s nothing that quite jolts a girl than when her dad starts screaming for help.

I didn’t realize the jeopardy my dad was in. He had realized we were drifting towards the main current and both of us were losing strength. In order for him to change his hold on me to swim us back to shore, he would have to let go for a second.

He knew if he did that, he’d lose me. So he hollered hard.

All I knew was that my dad needed help. So I screamed for help, too. For my dad.

I was so tired.
Gasping for air as my head sank underwater more often.

After an eternity–or maybe a few minutes–a boy my age heard the calls and pulled me to shore so my dad could get back on his own. (Yep, I crushed on him for a couple of years, though I had no idea what he looked like without my glasses on.)

Gasping for survival

That memory came to mind as I was thinking about what’s it’s like feeling overwhelmed, whether in a chaotic season of life or your Dare Journey.

When it’s time to survive overwhelm, things are a little harried. Long to-do list jumble in our head like a bingo ball wheel.

#allthefeels escalate. We’re gasping for survival.
Looking for shore.
Praying for rescue.
Everything looks blurry and melded together.

If you’ve found yourself entrenched in a new situation, balancing your already full life with your new pursuing a passion or dream, such as (writing a book, adding school to your full life, starting a business, making a big transition) . . . chances are you know what it feels like to be overwhelmed.

So how do you find your way back to shore, to catch your breath, recover and get perspective again?

I know the correct spiritual answer would be to pray. That happens for sure. And the positive thinker might say to think good thoughts and prioritize. But sometimes that feels like the shoreline is beyond your reach, and somehow you still have to scramble into survival before you tune into what God is saying or plan a better strategy.

Here are 4 Things I Do to Survive Overwhelm to Make Progress

1 // WRITE – Get what’s in my brain onto paper.

By the time overwhelm has spiraled full scale, everything I’m stressed about is one spaghetti blob in my brain. It feels counterproductive to sit down. If you’ve ever said, “There’s no time to make a list!” you know what I mean. But seeing in writing does bring relief.

Mindmap it, brain-dump a list, spill your guts in a journal. Once it’s written, it’s easier to prioritize, delegate, surrender and tackle.

2 // CHOOSE your best next step.

The more appropriate word would be prioritize, but in an ocean of overwhelm, it can be paralyzing to prioritize when it seems like everything needs to get done at once.

Recognizing my choices pulls me out from the weariness of helplessness. For example, I can clean the living room or not, defer a task to someone else or not, sit and enjoy a cup of tea and a book for 15 minutes.

3 // TALK with a Friend

As an introvert, it still amazes me how much of a difference it makes to pause and have a fun and meaningful chat. Whether the friend is a kindred spirit on their own journey, a good listener, or the random neighbour who was out shoveling snow, connection makes a difference. [See Chapter 23 in Dare to Decide for a full list of the kinds of Dare Friends to keep in your life.]

Talking with the right person helps me feel heard, understood and nudges out of my own perspective — which makes me feel lighter and inspired.


Starting a new phase of a God-dream usually involves learning curves, fitting new tasks in my day, and bumping into limiting beliefs along the way. While I enjoy learning new skills, I’ve learned how valuable it is to reduce decision fatigue by investing in support.

Sometimes I need a coach who holds space for me to focus on one thing. Other times it’s a program that offers a step-by-step framework. Other times it’s a peer group that provides perspective and accountability.

YOU get to choose what you need most in this season. Don’t just survive overwhelm but be confident in where you commit your precious time, attention and energy. Ask God to show you the open doors and take the wise step of faith.


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