Stressed Woman

How to Beat the Burn-Out

TIRED! That was the only word I could think of. Typically, my husband—who leaves for work by 5:20 a.m.—sends me a text asking how the morning routine and getting out the door went.

For us, that can be a risky inquiry since, quite often, departing for the day is something just shy of the Exodus.

In spite of appearing quite normal, my son’s global intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) require a lot of assistance—which isn’t that big of a deal.

The bigger deal is me: the mother who hates mornings, rarely has “anything to wear,” and struggles with ADD and focus challenges.

I kept thinking, all moms juggle morning routines. I’ve been at this for over 20 years. Why is this still such a big deal?

Beginning to Burn-Out

This past Thanksgiving, we shared in one of our favorite traditions: each person offers something they are thankful for, struggled through, or saw God’s hand in during the past year.

For the first time, it was difficult for me to say anything. I am very aware of the many people who struggle for water or a morsel of food each day, and of my own son, in his teens, who has so many limitations, so many needs, yet whose life reveals how amazing it is to have a body that simply functions well.

I’m aware of the blessings that surround me, so it’s not that I wasn’t thankful . . . I was vacant. Void of the usual humor and fun I have brought to the table in the past.

A few days after Thanksgiving, I wrote out all the events that my family has encountered the previous two years:

  • Three back surgeries
  • Two deaths of close friends
  • Two weddings
  • Two school changes for my son and all his care
  • A loved one declining with Alzheimer’s
  • Seizures
  • Hospital care
  • Alternative and Western medical care

You get the picture. But, the bigger problem is that . . .

  1. I had kept equally busy
  2. Set higher and higher goals
  3. Said yes to too many things
  4. Didn’t take time off for vacations or hobbies

I was tired. I was burned out.

Understanding Burn-Out

As I typically do, I researched what it’s like to be “burned out” and found some of these symptoms:

  • Low-to-no motivation
  • Inability to focus
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Physical illness or fatigue
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Apathy
  • Isolation
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or fun
  • Dried up, low-to-no creativity or imagination

As a writer and creative, I couldn’t afford this burn-out. So I began to do some research; I wasn’t going to stay stuck.

Sponge
photo credit: Squeezing sponge via photopin (license)

I learned that stress and burn-out are two very different experiences. Think of a sponge and water . . . stress is being saturated in responsibilities that appear too daunting.

Burn-out is being sucked dry, without inner drive, parched. It also involves . . .

  • Perfectionism
  • Exceedingly high goals and standards
  • A lack of self-care
  • Guilt when the goals aren’t met
  • Prolonged anxiety

And there’s more.

Recent brain research found that the structure and operation of the brain is compromised with burn-out.

Burn-out compromises parts of the brain affecting . . .

  • Emotional control and responses
  • Fear
  • Aggression
  • Thinning of the prefrontal cortex (essential for cognitive functioning)
  • Inhibited brain structures that affect the release of certain neurotoxic chemicals through the whole body

I have to imagine this experience of burning out is more common than we want to admit.

As Christians, we have prayer, quiet time, journaling—listening for Christ to lead is on our “Highly Valued” list.

However, does our time reflect this value? One of the reframing steps is to examine the reactions and decisions we have made that have led us to where we currently are. (Let’s just say I didn’t score so well on balance and soul care.)

Let Me Hear from You

Christ came to save the world. He was constantly thronged by people hoping for healing and wanting to hear and understand His teaching, yet I’ve never read that He was all dried up, like the sponge analogy above.

Because this is so important, I’m writing another piece on how we reframe our lives to avoid burn-out. It’s possible. I’m working on it . . . slowly but surely.

Will you PLEASE join me in this endeavor . . . beginning today?

We can’t do this alone and the Enemy would love to keep us at a distance. So let’s pull together, do some evaluating, then reframe our lives to make soul care a priority for the days ahead.

Reread the list of symptoms above. Do any of them resonate with you? I promise we can make changes together. Let’s connect!

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