On Burnout, the Sabbath & A Little Soul Spring Cleaning
‘Our generation were the generation that burnt our bras. But we were never in danger of burning out.’
Burnout seems to be such a key issue for our generation. Many in this day and age seem to be experiencing burnout, and varying degrees of this. We frequently hear of the term ‘burnout’ thrown around, but what does this actually mean? Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic stress (e.g., work overload) and has usually been related to occupational stress. But it’s not just people with high stress jobs that burn out. Anyone can burnout. There is growing evidence that personality traits such as perfectionism play an important role. The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression. In fact, the view that burnout is a form of depression has been supported in several recent studies.
Burnout robs someone of energy and opportunities. There are many reasons for burnout, but the good news is that there are many ways of preventing it. Sometimes it stems from disillusionment and the reality vacuum that exists between our expectations and the reality we find ourselves in. Sometimes we may not even be aware that we are experiencing burnout. Sometimes the motive of burnout can be pride. We may be reluctant to delegate to others, feeling that we ought to carry everything ourselves. We can keep going and going, and we don’t see that there is anyway out. People will always let us keep going. We have to learn how to say No and how to exercise boundaries in a healthy way. Just because someone is capable and willing, doesn’t mean that they can be overloaded. There needs to be a fine balance.
Do you feel like the grace has been lifted? Burnout can be a gift, as it can be an opportunity to re-evaluate our lifestyle. How do we know if we are experiencing burnout? Highly sensitive people are very susceptible to burnout. (Take this test here: http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/). Often there are symptoms such as fatigue, flu like symptoms or general malaise. You don’t have to be in ministry to be in burnout. Many household managers and mothers experience burn out too. Single mothers are especially prone. Maybe you feel that you have pressures on you that are day in and day out. Entrepreneurs and business people can experience burnout too because they carry so much pressure for such a long time. Burnout isn’t always caused by a negative stress, it can be caused by following your passions too. I almost burned out from blogging and writing last year, because I tried to write one rather lengthy blog post a week. With all my family commitments, this blogging commitment was unsustainable, and so I cut my blogging commitment right back, and I cut out several other commitments too. I am learning to feel when things get too much and can pull back. I have control over my own schedule, but some people don’t if they work for someone else.
What are some solutions to prevent and heal from burnout?
We need refreshment today more than we have ever needed it. Before electricity was invented, people got up at sunrise and went to bed when the sun went down. But now we can spend all hours watching television or surfing on the internet. Very few people are comfortable enough with themselves to just be. If we aren’t careful, the pressures of the world can affect us. Our own bodies will set our limits. Jesus took time out and rested. And we can abide in eternal rest as we abide in Christ. Sunday can be reserved as a special Sabbath day of rest. Growing up in the 1980’s, I can’t remember how old I was when shops opened on Sundays. I think it was in the early 1990’s. Before shops opened seven days a week, Sundays were a day of family time. Has burnout increased since families work different hours, and we no longer observe a Sabbath? In the Old Testament, people had a Sabbath once a week, but they also had Sabbath years where the soil was put to rest.
I don’t want to become legalistic about the concept of a Sabbath, but have we lost the wisdom to teach people how to rest? We are doers. Jesus however was just with the father. He knew that there is a time to labour and a time to rest. Today however, people seem to devalue the concept of rest. They often work all day, travelling in heavy traffic, come home to families and all the demands that go along with that, and then commit to volunteer in their church. Although volunteerism is very healthy, there still have to be boundaries. But even good things can wear us out as well. Churches have things going on all the time. It can be demanding. We need to be able to say that even if we want to participate and serve in all the events that are going on, we cannot do all these things. We are all wired differently too. What is it that brings rest to me? What brings joy and peace? What brings pleasure?
In the Bible September is Rosh Hashana – the biblical new year. Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” It is a time to begin again, letting go of past mistakes and grabbing hold of God’s grace. It’s so easy to be drained of energy throughout our daily life. Deadlines, bills that nee to be paid, family, friends, housework, health; we all have lots of plates to spin. While nervous energy can help us accomplish things, it can also wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. It’s critical for our bodies and minds to rest. Eight hours of sleep per night can lengthen your life expectancy and support your immune system. And try meditating on the Word of God. If we aren’t in the Word, we won’t be well nourished. Give yourself the right to say No. Spend time with God today so that you can run strong in rest and refreshment. We don’t need to allot every single minute of every day to an activity. Sometimes wasting time can be healthy for us! Prioritize resting your body and mind and you will wake up with a spring in your step! Enjoy the soul change this spring! There is hope for those in burnout, and those carrying burdens that are not theirs to carry. They will run free.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
#Spring Clean by changing one thought, attitude or habit.
Two books that address issues related to burnout are: ‘Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One Has Time’ and ‘Good News For Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps and Bad Advice.’