Hayley DiMarco helps women trade in stress and worry for grace and love

Part 1 of an interview with Hayley DiMarco,
Author of A Woman Overwhelmed

Women are often overwhelmed by the demands and circumstances of life, resulting in stress, fear, worry, impatience, fatigue, frustration and even depression. The emotional tolls are great but result in physical symptoms, such as weight gain, insomnia, headaches, and anxiety. In A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life (Abingdon Press), best-selling author Hayley DiMarco shows readers what would happen if they could see the insanity in their pace and turn to embrace an overwhelming God.

DiMarco shares biblical insights and personal stories to show we were created to be overwhelmed, not by life, but by God. She offers a glimpse at the comedy of an overwhelmed life while encouraging readers to discover the depths and heights of God’s love and power.

Q: What are the things that overwhelm women most? 

Women have a list of things to be overwhelmed with, but most women become overwhelmed with their schedules, which include working, nurturing, loving, exercising, cleaning, cooking and more. However, that’s not all a woman can become overwhelmed with. We also use comparison as a way of determining our value and our success and as the grounds for too much to do and no way to do it all. With all that has to be done, it would be much easier if everyone would do what we want them to do, but alas, our lack of being able to control others ends up overwhelming us as well.

Q: Are you saying only women are overwhelmed? Aren’t men just as overwhelmed by life?

I think men find themselves overwhelmed by life as much as women, but they are overwhelmed by different things and tend manage it differently. Men struggle more with provision and protection and at the end of the day tend to react in one of two ways: by becoming workaholics or becoming paralyzed into complete inaction. They tend to struggle with anger and addiction as they attempt to deal with their stress while women often react differently to the stressors in their lives. God made men and women different, but He made us both to be overwhelmed.

Q: What are some of the resulting emotions and reactions to the sense of being overwhelmed? 

There are so many emotions and reactions when it comes to living life overwhelmed; some include stress, worry, self-doubt, impatience, inaction, frustration, anger, regret, desire for control, lack of self-control, depression, fighting, bossiness, condemnation, busyness and more. The list could go on and on because each of us deals with the stresses of life differently, but when we have any of the opposites of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, it is a good indication we are living life overwhelmed by the wrong thing. The fruit of the Spirit is abundant in a life overwhelmed by God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If you find yourself with any of the opposites, such as selfishness, unthankfulness, impatience, harshness, immorality, unfaithfulness or a lack of self-control, then you have allowed yourself to become overwhelmed by the flesh rather than by the Spirit. The good news is the Spirit is willing and able to give you His fruit as you turn your eyes away from the cares of this world and onto the Father.

Q: Christian women feel a pressure and responsibility to live up to the description of the Proverbs 31 woman. How do women often misunderstand that passage of scripture?

First of all, we misunderstand Proverbs 31 when we think we should do as much as she is seen doing. This passage is most likely exemplifying six different women, not one super woman. For women who try to compare themselves to the perfect woman to see if they are doing everything right, looking at Proverbs 31 as representation of how to plan your day and to-do list is a disaster. When we do this, we can quickly forget it isn’t by works we are saved, but by His grace.

In fact, when Jesus came, He introduced to us His to-do-through-you list, and it is significantly shorter than Proverbs 31; it is simply to love, to love God and to love your neighbor. That is the summary of all God wants us to do. This means if your to-do list can’t be done in love, then your to-do list needs some changing because God’s command to love should color every aspect of our lives, like an Instagram filter covers your favorite photo.

Q: Tell us about a time where you became so stressed you simply shut down. What lessons have you learned about moderation? 

I naturally shy away from moderation. I find it lukewarm. I prefer to give everything 110%, which means I give more than I have, the very definition of overwhelmedness. Moderation seems to me like I’m not doing my best, so I’ve had to practice telling myself that moderation, while it doesn’t promise to do it all, will allow me to do more in the end than I could if I was going to extremes.

The most obvious place where I stress myself into inaction is in housekeeping. I have what professional organizers call “nowhere to put anything.” I move my stuff from surface to surface in an attempt to rearrange my mess, but it all just gets me down until I say, “I just don’t know what to do.” I’m paralyzed by the fact there is just too much stuff and nowhere to put it.

Q: What are some of the physical symptoms of stress women may shrug off, but should pay attention to?

Everyone experiences differing symptoms, but most of the time any of these things might signal you have become overwhelmed by life:
  • Emotional eating
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Ulcers
  • Anxiety
  • Tension headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability 
Q: Can you tell us more about the companion Bible study? What tools do you provide for readers?

The companion Bible study takes a look at the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and shows readers how overwhelmed with God she remained in the midst of incredible trials. This six-week study has a DVD that helps participants get the most out of their time together, as well as a workbook that walks them through the overwhelming things in their own lives, in light of the Word of God.

Learn more about A Woman Overwhelmed and Hayley DiMarco at www.HayleyDiMarco.com. Readers can also follow her Facebook (hayley.dimarco) and Twitter (@hayleydimarco).