How Do I Deal with Burnout

By Erin Ledbetter

The average person today, may not want to admit to burnout, but has probably experienced it to one degree or another.  Burnout is a common state in our culture.  We are constantly receiving messages telling us to do more, be more, and get more.  We are never satisfied with where we are in life or what we have in life. We hear it even when we greet each other.. “How’s it going?” “You know, staying busy… stressed… we’re making it.”

We may not always identify that as “burnout,” but that mentality of constantly doing and striving at least has us on the way to it!

Burnout is a state of being all around exhausted: physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  As believers, burnout happens when our doing FOR God exceeds our being WITH God. It is so easy to get caught up in doing so much, even doing a lot of good things, that we don’t lean on God to sustain all of our doing.

How can we recognize burnout?

  1. Never Satisfied – always wanting more
    • No achievement ever satisfies.  That raise or promotion at work that you thought would make things better, still leaves you longing for more.
    • Things are just never right. There is something always wrong and it becomes difficult to see the good in a situation. We can become cynical and bitter very easily. 
    • No experience is enough and we are left constantly looking for the next thing.
  2. Compassion Fatigue
    • Feeling like you just can’t or don’t want to care any more.  You care so much for others, but aren’t caring for your own wellbeing enough to fuel it.
    • There is always a need to meet and you keep meeting them even though you are tired of it and feel depleted.
  3. Feeling numb or trying to find things to numb out
    • It is common to turn to Netflix, social media, food, experiences, and sleep to try to unplug from reality.
    • Unplug from reality so much that you end up feeling more isolated and lonely.
  4. Anxiety
    • Can’t catch up – to do list never ends and you are always worried about what you have to do
    • Situations become bigger in your head than they actually are.  We can overanalyze every part of our life until we have created a false reality to worry about.
    • When you are so overwhelmed with life that you can’t enjoy what’s right in front of you, you may be experiencing burnout.
  5. Exhaustion
    • No amount of sleep leaves you rested.
    • Even when you aren’t physically tired, you may be emotionally or spiritually drained.

How can we deal with burnout?

Read 1 Kings 18-19

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah called fire down from heaven to show people that there is one true God and then in the very next chapter he says, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life!”  Elijah was facing persecution because of his faithfulness and in distress, cries out to God.  Elijah had just given A LOT being faithful to what God had for Him and went straight into persecution.

So, what was God’s response? First, rest, eat, and take care of yourself physically. 1 Kings 19:7 God sends an angel who says “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” This speaks volumes to us in the midst of burnout.  We have to pause and rest and care for ourselves physically or life will catch up with us and be too much.

And then Elijah is told to, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” (19:11) And God speaks to him there, restoring Him, spiritually.  

Then the Lord directs him to Elisha, who will help Elijah in ministry. (19:19-21)

We are going to face challenging seasons and circumstances.  We may see great things, but life is hard! Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

So we know we will face hardship and difficulty and burnout is a constant in our society.  But, there is hope!

In Mark 12: 28-31 Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Jesus says that is the most important thing we will do here on earth.  Followed by loving our neighbor. 

So let’s break this down into some steps to take to recover from and prevent burnout.  

Love God with all your strength.

Just like God had Elijah rest and eat before continuing, we need to take care of ourselves physically.  Resting, eating well, and exercising are critical to our physical wellbeing and our physical wellbeing can hold us back from loving God just as much as anything else.

Love God with all your soul.

God told Elijah “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” Elijah needed the presence of the Lord.  We need to just be in the Lord’s presence.  This is how we are spiritually strengthened to avoid burnout.  

  • Spend time in Scripture and prayer. 
  • Go for a walk and just meditate on the goodness of God.
  • Write down how you have seen God move.
  • Remember all God has done around you.
  • Take time each day to be still with God.

Love God with all your mind.

Seek God’s direction. What is He asking you to do? Get a plan and take action. Continue to grow your mind, learning about God and whatever purpose He has set before you.

  • Study the Bible. Not just for devotion, but for really knowing God and what His Word says.
  • Are you doing more than God has given you to do? Process that mentally and decide what you need to hold onto and if there is anything you need to let go.
  • Listen to podcasts and read books that keep your mind focused on God and His mission for you.

Love God with all your heart

If you are holding onto any bitterness, judgement, or anxiety, take it to God in prayer, lean on trusted friends, and seek counseling. Acknowledge and deal with lingering emotions. Let God heal your heart so you can pursue His purpose for you.

It is so important to have life-giving relationships.  People who encourage and lift you up, but also are there for you to work through whatever has led to burnout for you and pray for you.

  • Find a small group that will encourage you.
  • Tell a close, trusted friend what God is teaching you and the struggles you are facing.
  • Ask someone a little further in their spiritual journey to share insight with you.
  • Like Elijah, find people to run on mission with you!

When facing burnout, the first step to regaining some control of your life is actually giving up control.  Going to our gracious Father and telling Him all about it.  Surrender all the little things that you can’t control and ask Him to show you what to do next.  

It will probably involve giving up some things you have been doing and it may seem difficult or painful at first but we can’t walk in freedom without Him showing us what that looks like.  We  have to be seeking wholeness in Him, before we can pour out to others.

Finally, this Scripture leaves me with the most hope:

Matthew 11::28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Although life will be hard, Jesus never meant for us to do it all and carry it all on our own.

Three things to pray as you work through burnout:

  1. Ask God to reveal areas you can grow and become healthier.
  2. Ask God what you are carrying that you need to put down.
  3. Trust God to carry the burden. 

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