One of the signs of burnout is when you stop caring about the things you really should care about. You know you should take better care of your body, but you eat another bowl of ice cream instead. You know you shouldn’t watch so much TV, but you veg-out on mind numbing idiocy for hours anyhow (there’s a reason some call it the idiot box). You know you should spend more quality time with your family, but you choose to hibernate in the garage alone. You know you should drag your butt out of bed and go to church, but you roll over and think, “I’ll go next week” (and you’re the pastor!).
Burnout isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it’s never anyone’s plan. You didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hmmm, wonder what I can do this week to end up in a pile of drool and in a fetal position, numb to everything?”
Typically, the path to becoming emotional toast happens slowly and unintentionally. You said, “Yes!” when you should have said “No!” to another commitment outside of your gift mix. You said, “Just this one time…” when you should have said, “Thank you, I’ll pass.” You did something out of obligation or to keep somebody happy because you still wrestle with being a people-pleaser. Or maybe you suffer from a “Messiah” complex and actually believe that the world might stop spinning if you stop spinning all the plates you’ve got up in the air.
Whatever the reason, the honest truth is, we are responsible for our choices, and all too often we choose poorly.
Okay, so that’s the problem. What’s the solution?
1. Own it and confess it. Living in denial about burnout is foolish. The path to health starts with acknowledging you need to change, and you want help.
2. Develop a trusting relationship with someone who will encourage and support you. This guy or gal shouldn’t be the “margin police” in your life, but they should be able to ask you the hard questions in love.
3. Intentionally carve out time in your calendar for rest and recuperation. I make appointments in my day-timer for me to be with me. If someone asks, “Are you available tomorrow at 8am for coffee?” and I’ve made an appointment to be with a cup of coffee and a good book, I say, “Sorry, no, I already have an appointment at that time.” And for heaven’s sake (and yours), don’t feel guilty about it!
4. Learn to practice the power of no! Where did we get the crazy idea “no” is a bad word? If you are going to survive for the long haul, you better figure out that always saying “yes” will kill ya!
5. Make a firm commitment to run, walk, bike, or Zumba at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes. How many times do we have to be told about the benefit of physical exercise? Seriously, this is a no brainer. By the way, go back and read #3 and then schedule several weekly appointments with the treadmill.
6. Rather than zone out, zoom out. Practice the lost art of reflection. Stop at least once a week, if not once a day, and zoom out to see the big picture. One of the easiest ways to suffer burnout is to lose sight of what truly does and doesn’t matter. I hate procrastination. I generally operate with the idea of not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today. But I’m learning to ask this simple and powerful question, “If I don’t do this, will it really matter in a week, a month, or a year from now?” Guess what? I’m not as critical to the world’s survival as I thought I was.
Burnout is a serious issue. You can’t be the man or woman of God you are destined to become if you lack the passion and energy needed to accomplish what He has called you to do. We need to have the long view and learn to live wisely.