- Disclaimer I: I am a classic textbook definition Type A person.
- Disclaimer II: If you are also type A, this blog will be like one alcoholic talking to another about getting sobered up, while sitting in a local bar.
- Disclaimer III: I am still learning and living this stuff.
With that out-of-the-way, grab a cup of coffee and lets chat for a little bit. I’ve been tossing this topic of burnout around in my head for about three months. I haven’t posted because to be honest, I don’t have it down perfectly. In fact, when I began thinking about burnout, it was during a season in my life where I was actually looking directly in the center of a burnout bullet heading for my life.
We’ve all been given a unique set of gifts, talents and abilities by our Creator. I don’t believe passion is a bad thing. I think having a “Type A” personality is actually a blessing! Without passionate people, our country would look much differently than it does now. Passionate people are world changers. They are the “get’r done, take no prisoners” people; they push hard, and they are dedicated to the cause.
Quite frankly, we need more passionate, “change the world” people. I think we have thousands of potential life changers who are living in direct rebellion to the cause they were created for, sitting on the couch with the remote in their hand, watching life pass them by.
(You know who you are! Yes you…. I’m talking to you!)
That is for another day. Today I want to talk to the Type A, passionate patriots who are dangerously teetering on the line of burnout.
In the fast paced world we live in, it is easy to quickly fall into burnout mode. We’ve been “nose deep” into the issues we are trying to protect. Focused on the issues…forgetting ourselves. We seem to have the mentality that we are superhuman multi-taskers on the cutting edge, and we forget about our self-care and wellness. If we remembered this, and learned how to do it correctly, we could avoid the big CRASH and BURN.
Note: These are GOOD things in our lives. It could be our ministry, the cause, our husbands… even our children. They are not bad things in and of themselves. It’s when we let it consume us, that it becomes bad. It’s when we forget about wellness and self-care, that we begin to have the good things turn into little monsters.
What does God say about Self Care?
The Creator of the Universe has MUCH to say on how to avoid burnout. In fact from the very beginning, when he was speaking the world into existence, he addressed it head on. In Genesis 2:2 it says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. He gave us an example of rest. He didn’t just tell us to rest, he did it himself. He created the Sabbath. It would behoove us to forget this picture God gave as he was building this big world!
We seem to have this notion, that we were created to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Friends, we were not. Jesus knew our tendencies to overdo and overwork when he said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Self care is addressed all throughout scripture from our minds, to our spirits… even our physical bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. That is a pretty strong commandment to take care of ourselves. Here are just a few more you can dig into on your own time.
- Romans 12:1-2
- 1 Peter 5:7-9
- 1 Timothy 4:14-16
- Psalm 139:14-16
It’s clear. God wants us to protect our bodies from burnout.
How to detect you are headed for a CRASH.
So where is that line? How do you know if you are headed towards burnout? God gave our bodies signs. We can choose to ignore them, or we can listen. If you’re stubborn like me, and choose the “ignore option,” you’ll have MANY hard lessons to learn along the way. For those who want to avoid burnout lane, here are some danger signs.
Physically you might experience the following:
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Unable to sleep.
- High blood pressure.
- Frequent sickness.
Emotionally you might:
- Detached from the issues.
- No motivation to make a difference.
- Negative and cynical outlook in life.
- Feeling of despair, no hope, and empty.
- Trapped and unable to escape.
These emotions and physical reactions, spin us into an empty spiral. It’s cycle that will completely knock you out of the game if you let it. If let go…unchecked…and unaddressed, you could withdraw from your responsibilities, isolating yourself from your friends and family. You may take a “hands off” approach to all of the issues, and even find yourself possibly lashing out at others, or using controlled substances to ease and numb the stress.
If burnout is unchecked and left to its own devices, you will lose your joy. You will lose your song.
What keeps us from listening to our bodies?
The list above is ugly! Why would we put our bodies through this? Why would we choose to escape and numb vs. tackle the problem? Type A people are fixers, are they not? Unfortunately, I have lived the above, and without Godly leaders in my life calling them out, I would have spiraled. What keeps us from listening?
- Pride: I can tackle the world. I have superpowers! I’m a mom, a business man! I can do it all!
- Selfishness: I can fix this better than you can! It’s my problem to fix! I have the answers.
- Fear of failure: If I don’t fix this, I am not worth as much as my neighbor, “the Jones.”
- Fear of not climbing the ladder: If I don’t work hard and push hard, I may not climb the ladder of success. I may be left behind.
How to avoid Burnout
There are several steps to avoiding burnout. I would encourage you to take your temperature. Are you headed for a burnout? Are there warning signs in your life that need checked? If there are, I challenge you to do what I did, and go through this checklist. Start with one When you grow more courage you can tackle the next one.
- Acknowledge you are heading down a destructive path. Why does a flight attendant tell you if the oxygen masks drop, to put them on yourself before helping your neighbor? Because you are no good to ANYONE or ANY CAUSE if you are a wounded casualty. If you are headed down the burnout path, take care of yourself first. Then and only then are you any good to the cause. The first step is admitting you have a problem.
- Realize you are not the end all, be all to saving the world. I understand sometimes it feels like no one cares about what is happening in the world around them. I understand what its like to feel pressure to carry the whole load. Resist the temptation to do your neighbor’s job. God did not design our bodies to carry the whole load. He designed us to carry OUR part. The Bible says there are many parts to the body. We are just one part. The nose was not created to see. The ears were not created to smell. You have been given a gift. Do your part.
- Learn to delegate: This is a tough one for Type A personalities. We somehow carry the assumption that we are the only ones who can accomplish the tasks of the day… the right way. It could come honestly! At some point we have probably been burned or let down in some area. When we have been burned, we tend to clench our fists around future tasks because if it is to fail, we want it to fail on our watch. We want to control it.
- Learn to follow. The greatest leaders in the world, are those who follow first. Learn to tell yourself, it is ok to let someone lead for a while. Learn to become a follower. It is freeing. I remember the first time I did this. I was so exhausted from leading, I asked God to let me follow for a while. I joined a group of women in a Bible study, and the skills I learned from following, not only gave me rest for a while, but gave me more wisdom in leading the right way.
- Pick your battles. You were not created to fight all the battles. You were created for your specific job. Learn to say no. Lest I accidentally give the couch sitters a pass, not this is not for you. You are called to fight. You are called to do SOMETHING. God did not create passes. I am specifically talking to those who think they must fight 29 battles at once in order to make a difference. If we all fought our battles and held each other up, we would be accomplishing everything that God called us to do.
- Don’t be tempted to build someone elses portion of the wall. Remember the story of Nehemiah? They were each instructed to build a portion of the wall to the city. Each family was to build their portion. This was a beautiful plan God put together to be able to accomplish the monstrous task of protecting their city. I am sure they had squabbles, and lazy families. I am sure there were families who thought they could build the entire wall single-handedly themselves! This is a good challenge for type A folks. How many of you (come on… admit it) find yourself looking at your neighbor who is building their portion of the wall and want to take their hammer and chisel to build it your way?
- Mental health is a must. We cannot ignore the importance of a healthy mind. If you battle depression, it’s difficult to think clearly and rationally. It’s easy to fall into a depression and even sink into despair if we continue to focus on the negative in the world. Yes, we have to work in the mud, but don’t let your mind stay there! Don’t fall into a pit of depression. Surround yourself with friends and be able to put the issues in a box for a while. They will still be there when you go back to them.
- Don’t forget your body. Don’t be so consumed with your passion that you forget to take care of yourself. With our lives so full, sometimes the first thing to go, are simple things like choosing the right foods, or exercising. These are important things that cannot be neglected. When we feel good about our bodies, it creates a “can do” attitude, and we are able to sort through the stress and focus on the issue, instead of how badly we feel about ourselves, sinking us further into a depression. Don’t forget your body.
- Don’t forget your spirit. If your spirit is sick, your body is sick. Body soul and spirit are so intricately entwined that when one is sick, the other is sick. They feed each others diseases. Your relationship with Christ HAS to be first and foremost in your life. Without this, everything else falls. Feed your spirit. Take time throughout the day to worship. Take time to talk to God. If that communication is broken the rest will spiral out of control.
- Set boundaries and learn to say NO. You cannot fix the world. But you can fix what God has called you to fix. I get at least 2 calls a day from someone with an “issue” they want help fighting. When I first became an activist, I would take on ALL the issues. What I found was, those same folks who called, didn’t want to get in the mud and get their hands dirty…they wanted ME to fight their battles. I finally learned the art of saying NO. Does that mean I wont’ help them? Absolutely not, but I am very careful at “how” I help them. If it’s an issue I am working on, I welcome the call and gladly teach them how to lobby for their case. If it’s not an issue I’m currently working on, I give them the tools, answer their questions, and wish them well in their fight!
So you’ve experience burnout. How do you recover from it? How do I prevent it from happening again?
Stop… drop… and roll. Remember that simple idea we learned as kids on how to put out a fire? I think the same concept applies here. It’s simple. When you realize you’ve hit the burnout stage (notice I said when, not if) there are three things you can do right away.
Stop: What has you burned out? Acknowledge it and STOP. Surround yourself with people who will be honest and help you acknowledge that it is time to slow down. Listen to them. God has gifted me with people and leaders who will call me out and say, “Monica, I think it’s time for a sabbatical.” Listen to them. They are no good to you, unless you discern and listen. (note the word discern)
Drop: What can you drop from your life? Are there areas of excess baggage? You don’t have to give up your passion, but are there things that are creating busyness in your life that is not producing fruit? I like to call it “white noise.” Laser focus on the issue. One thing at a time. Don’t let all of the “white noise” drown out the important issues. What tops the priority list at the moment? Focus on that.
Roll: Acknowledge it, breath, re-adjust, then ROLL. In the list above, did you see things that need to be adjusted? Did you forget your body, mind and spirit component? If so… fix it and then Roll!
Above all, take care of yourself. Have wellness checks periodically. You are no good to the cause if you are burned out.
Question: What areas have you experienced “Burnout” and how have you learned to avoid it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.