When I was pregnant with my third child, my doctor put me on bed rest for eleven weeks because I went into preterm labor. I was overwhelmed—to say the least. I was allowed once daily trips down and up the stairs, and a shower every other day.
Everything I did happened in bed—except sleep! Because who can sleep after lying around all day? Oh, and the medicine they give you to prevent labor is actually a stimulant, which doesn’t help. (C’mon people, this is modern America, can’t we do better?)
Overwhelmed became my middle name
That time was scary and frustrating, and I needed LOTS of help taking care of my then four and two-year-old babies, and my poor overwhelmed hubby, who could barely keep his head above water, despite the help we received.
What I learned during those weeks, and subsequently, as I endured four back surgeries in six years, is that when a person is facing overwhelm like never before, there is one thing they crave: normalcy.
During the last few weeks before my due date, my doctor released me to go on one outing a day. So one Wednesday, I chose to go to swimming lessons with my kids.
Previous to my forced bed rest, I dreaded those hectic afternoons—hurried, sweating bullets in the tropical temps of the indoor pool, trying to get unruly toddlers to comply. Sadly when I was fully healthy and able, I often wished those afternoons away.
But when I couldn’t do my regular chaotic life, oh, how I wished for normal.
My mother-in-law (a godsend) stepped in for swim lesson day. She wrangled my littles into car seats, wrestled them into swimsuits, drenched herself during the post-swimming shower routine, and somehow managed to get their sticky, wet limbs stuck back into dry clothes.
For any woman who does this on a regular basis, you know this is a heroic feat!
And all this was done for one purpose: so that I could have a dose of normalcy in the midst of my overwhelmed life. So I could watch my tiny people do their big kid kicks, get splashed, and sit in a wobbly, uncomfortable, plastic chair at the side of the pool.
But really, so I could have small dash of normal in the midst of my overwhelmed life.
A few hours of normalcy is one of the biggest blessings I received in those bed rest and back surgery days. If you want to be a friend who loves well in times of hardship, consider giving the gift of normal.
How to help a friend who’s overwhelmed
Here’s a few ways to help create normalcy:
• Take them to Target or the mall (even if they need the wheelchair)
• Go to the movies (recliner seat theaters are perfect for infirm friends)
• Go out to coffee
• Offer to accompany them to their kids’ events (you do all the “heavy lifting” if needed)
• Help with their household tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning so they can focus their energy on time with family.
One Small Win: Call a friend who’s experiencing a hard time (illness, stress, loss of a loved one, cancer, infertility, divorce, etc.) and offer to do one of these “normal” things with her!
For more practical ways to support those you care about in the rough patches of life, you can pick up a copy of Sarah Beckman’s, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which releases February 14, 2017.
Sarah Beckman is an author and speaker, living in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband, Craig, of 24 years. They have three delightful children ages 15, 17, and 20. Her experience on both sides of the “bed”—both being helped and helping others—provide her authentic viewpoint for her book, Alongside. When she’s not writing or speaking, you might find her in the kitchen creating something to share with a “neighbor” in need.
Her passion for loving her neighbor has fueled her life and ministry for over 10 years, giving her the opportunity to address audiences across the country. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also works as a communications coach and corporate trainer.