Not everyone who reads this material is in the midst of burnout; some are concerned counselors and friends, others can just tell this is a life struggle they need to be on guard against. This final section is meant to provide preventative tips and early warning signs for burnout. Some of these pieces are reminders summarizing what you’ve learned in this material, others are new implications.

  • Start the day in relaxed dependence. This is merely a new description for “quiet time” or “personal devotions.” This description focuses on the state of being (relaxed dependence) rather than the activity (reading, praying, or journaling). Both the state of being and activity are essential. For those struggling with burnout the temptation can be to make your time with God one more thing you’re trying do to get better, rather than a place of refuge and time of rest.
  • Steward your finite body – eat healthy, exercise, and sleep. We have a responsibility before God to care for our body in a way that places us in the best position to face life’s struggles. We do not want to put ourselves in an avoidable situation where our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak (text).
  • Live within your 168 hour week. This concept helps us remember that when we say “yes” to a new thing, we must say “no” to something we are currently doing.
  • Practice Stillness. Have some time each day when you are still; not doing a task, watching a television, listening to music, or  responding to conversation. Use this as a tangible reminder that you can stop and the world won’t fall off its axis.
  • Spiritual Discipline of Awkwardness. Enjoy engaging in tasks or conversations which you have not mastered. Let these times be an affirmation from God that He loves you as you are and that your performance does not increase or decrease God’s love for you.
  • Learn how to manage stress and conflict. Two of the leading predictors of burnout are stress and conflict. If these are areas that you feel particularly uncomfortable with or ill-prepared to face, then study in these areas during your personal reading time.[1]
  • Receive adequate training for major life responsibilities. Another major predictor of burnout is inadequate training for major  responsibilities. If you do not feel adequately equipped for a significant responsibility then receiving training in this area would be a wise investment from your time budget.
  • Have nonfunctional friendships. It is important to have friends who don’t relate to you on the basis of a title or position. When all your friendships know you because you are their teacher, parent, boss, colleague, supplier, etc…, then you are setting yourself up for burnout.
  • Pay attention to when pleasures lose their pleasure. When things that you once enjoyed begin to lose their appeal, this should be considered a red flag. When you do not have the emotional reserve to savor your preferred pleasures, then you are likely on the brink of burnout.
  • Listen to your body. Burnout is not just an emotional experience. As embodied-souls, if something depletes you emotionally it will show up physically. Pay attention if you begin to feeling tired often, get sick frequently (sign of lowered immunity), have more frequent      headaches or muscle pain, notice changes in your appetite or sleep habits, clinched jaw when trying to relax, or digestive problems.
  • Listen to your emotions. Emotional changes accompany burnout. If you begin to experience (as atypical for you) a loss of motivation, an increase in procrastination, callousness towards problems, or cynicism about life, then treat these as probable signs of burnout.
  • Listen to your family. Your family will probably notice the early warning signs of burnout first. If they are saying you don’t seem like yourself or are asking for more time with you, don’t respond to these as criticisms calling for you to “do more” but as concerns about      unhealthy changes in your life.
  • Don’t use food or substance to escape. Using food or alcohol to escape stress is like drinking saltwater to quench thirst. There is short term relief but the problem is actually made much worse.
  • Connect your work to serving your loving Heavenly Father. When work loses purpose the potential for burnout increases. When work is done as a slave instead of a son the potential for burnout also increases. Connecting your work with God’s service and viewing God as a caring Father is an important balance in burnout prevention.
  • Multiply yourself in your most demanding responsibilities. If you have areas of your life where there is high demand and few qualified people to which to delegate, then a wise line item in your time budget should be towards equipping others to come along side you.
  • Listen to how you read your Bible and pray. An exhausted or driven life leads to either a neglected to dead Bible study and prayer.  If you find yourself bracing against hearing from God because you can’t add “one more thing” to your life, then you are probably on the brink of burnout and your wrong view of God is building your momentum towards collapse.

If you are in the helping role with someone who you fear is on the brink of burnout, then here are several questions you can ask to discern if your concern is valid.

  • Are you “all there” when you are with your family?
  • Do you use your schedule as an excuse for bad eating habits?
  • Does your devotional time feel rushed, like a check-list item, or get neglected?
  • What are your most restorative activities and when do you engage in them?
  • When I ask “how” you’re doing why do you tell me “what” you’re doing?
  • What is your prevailing mood, feeling, or disposition?

You can order my booklet on burnout here.

 

 


[1] On anxiety you might read Overcoming Fear Worry and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick or Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Ed Welch. On conflict it would be advised that you read The Peacemaker by Ken Sande or his shorter version applied specifically to home life Peacemaking for Families.