There have been times when I thought I was on the brink of a burnout in which case I just wanted to go outside and scream or crawl into bed and hide myself under the covers for the day. Many frustrations that come from unmet expectations can sometimes feel like you are going crazy if you are in the line of any form of leadership. That is just one instance for people like me in my time of season. Burnout is common for people in any role when the demands surpass their capacity for an extended period of time.
What about the young mother of small children who take care of their babies all day long, plus clean, cook, wash and perform other duties outside the home? In her season of life, things can get very over demanding and exhausting.
What about the collage age student who overworks themselves with job, study and social life with the pressures of performing?
Burnout comes when we are physical, emotional and mental exhausted with chronic fatigue and lethargy. Our culture continues to push the limits and has become increasingly obsessed with the pursuit of excellence. Burnout has reached epidemic proportions even within the church. God never guides us into an intolerable overwork, Jesus never did live that way. Pushing hard with many hours and demands can become counterproductive and we must learn to protect ourselves from burnout.
Depending on the circumstances, someone experiencing burnout with feel cynical toward life, have a strong desire to escape (which results in addictions or set backs), a sense of failure, will display emotional distancing, numbing or apathy, become negative toward others and show inappropriate anger or sadness along with depression. Those in the helping professions such as clergy, doctors, teachers, officers, social workers and others who work with people often experience burnout. People demand attention, which takes our energy, time and resources.
What is the first thing we should do if we are feeling overwhelmed with the demand of responsibilities of overload? Get short-term relief from family or friends to relieve the stress you may be feeling. It is equally important to get adequate sleep, relaxation and exercise when the feeling of burnout is upon you.
Don’t relinquish control of your schedule to the whims or demands of everyone else. ( I used to have problems in this area…ummm could possibly still do). Put a plan in place to relieve yourself of some of your responsibilities and set your priorities straight to what matters most. Find balance between what is essential and what is extra. Make good decisions on the demands of life and pray about new activities for right timing. Realize that there will be other phases in your life when the time will be better. Learn to say no. Allow yourself a free day to rest or do something you enjoy. Consciously slow the pace of life. Replenish your own resources by learning to sit and read a book or attend a class for yourself.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah reminded God’s people of the value of waiting upon the Lord. The waiting doesn’t mean inactivity, rather it is patient service that is not over committed and overextended. Many people desire to fly like an eagle and run harder to do it. However the harder people run the more likely they will fall. Waiting is the answer for spiritual burnout. Jesus is in touch with the burdens of life that we carry and how much they hurt or exhaust us. When we give our troubled hearts to Him, He gives us rest for our soul. That kind of rest will cure our burnout and renew our enthusiasm for Him and the work He has given to us. He is aware of our limitations. One of the things Jesus did when he felt the demands of the crowd after He gave to them, he also broke away from the crowd to rest and refresh Himself. A hectic schedule takes a physical, emotional, and spiritual toll on us. God knows that we need to come aside and rest a while so that we don’t burn out. He will refresh us so that we can continue to serve Him. Rest and refreshment is not wasted time.
Where God had begun the work of grace, He will perfect it. He will help those who in humble dependence on Him, and help themselves and His strength will come. Through this strength it will be enough to overcome the burnout of life. Let us remember to be aware of our own unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and fall. Nevertheless if we have our heart and hope in Him, we shall be carried above all difficulties in life including burnout.