I’m wondering how do I get to the point of BURNOUT :
For which cause I faint not; but though my outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. for my light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while I look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Of course, when burned out I should first consider the possibility of a medical cause. Check for thyroid, anemia, sugar, etc! Am I fighting the exhausting leftovers of PTSD? Am I discouraged by my endless screwups caused by ADHD? Is there a psychotic component that would wear out anyone? If not, it’s probably burnout.
A comforting thought that comes to mind on my condition of burnout is that burnout is the normal state of life! People who see life’s problems, care almost too much, get involved but don’t let it go and rest in the Lord, they burn out. So, at least, I am in good company.
You’ve never struggled with burnout? Think that means you are stronger and more godly than those who do? It is more likely that you have learned to
- Simply not care while asserting that you do,
- Live life in a fog of routines
- Just sleep, eat, drive to work, work without thinking, drive home, eat, escape into fantasy land of TV or video games, then sleep and repeat.
- Or, you have a “successful” balance of getting drunk or escaping into other ways of drowning out stressful reality,
- Or, you have disappeared into an area of “godly” works, performance, helping at church, and doing things that have less emotional stress,
- Or, you are tense and hanging in there and will burn out sooner or later.
If you deal with burnout, you’ll be glad to know that you are part of the 80% of the population that deals with it too. How much more blessed are the burntout!
Then there is the 10% who avoid looking at themselves by focusing on everyone else to control them, judge them, jerk them around, or fix them. This allows them to say, “See I must be OK because I can mess with you.”
No, I find some comfort in the fact that since I struggle with burnout I must be one of the “good” guys. I love the Lord, his Word, his ways, his people, his ministries; yet have not found the balance of resting in him and letting him do the work while I go along for the ride.
I attach too much to everything, do things without asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden, keep reviewing what I have done critically thinking that I have to do it perfectly for God to use it, worrying about the future,(someone has to, right?) and stuffing my feelings.
All of my heroes — Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Hosea, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor — all became “Why don’t you just kill me God” depressed. They loved God and his people and his Word but were doing his work in their own strength and whining about how hard it was.
THEN they learned to rest and THEN God did great things through them. So burnout is a whole lot better than trying to be OK by not caring.
So how do I use up my energy faster than I can replace it and burn out?
When things happen in life-I am hardwired to overreact. I become too angry, too sad, too anxious, etc. I then put out serotonin in order to calm down, norepinephrine in order to ponder and plan, dopamine in order to be motivated to act and feel satisfaction.
If I use up my calmdown molecules, my think and do molecules, too fast by not living in God’s grace and not speaking to my inner-self according to his principles; I will have “dark thoughts,” be exhausted, wonder what the point of life is and burn out.
How do I mess it up? Please Lord help me stop and do the opposite.
- Sweating the big stuff, by thinking round and round on the details of problems I can see no solution to. Hoping to find a solution or at least protect myself.
- Sweating the small bystuff-making mountains out of molehills, “awfulizing.” Hoping this will get me off the hook of trying.
- Stuffing stuff by suppressing issues from past hurts. Hoping the problems will just not cause trouble and fearful that I will crack up if I got in touch with my true pain.
- Worrying about the future, thinking this will better prepare me for it.(take NO thought for the morrow)
- Comparing with how others are doing–hoping this will get me to “snap out” of my current function and just be like them.
- Comparing with how I used to do or with how I expected life to go. -Hoping this will get me to “snap out” of my current poor state.
- Coming at life with expectations and concern about my “rights” and reputation and comfort.–Thinking this will protect me from pain.
- Trying to motivate myself through self-contempt. Hoping to get over my natural tendency to have good intentions and poor follow through.
- Procrastinating hoping the problem will go away, be fixed by others, or that I will be more competent next week.
- Reviewing the details of how others and life have hurt me–hoping to protect from further hurt or to get others to compensate for my pain.
- Reviewing the details of how I have messed up–hoping to not mess up or at least be let off the hook for further effort.
Living without burnout
I need to learn to dwell only in the just right now right here and just being myself.
If I mull on the past and think
“if only” or
“can you believe they did this or I did that or didn’t do the following”
“oh the years the locusts have eaten they can never be regained,”
then I am TRYING TO BE GOD!
Only he lives in tomorrow or yesterday, I only live in the right now and need to pay attention to that. He will never give me grace to steal his job and handle tomorrow or yesterday. He likes his job and I am not qualified.
- I need to quit looking at the future and thinking “what if this or that happens or doesn’t happen?”
- I need to be grateful for what I have and take ABSOLUTELY NO anxious thought for tomorrow not even for food and clothing.
He knows I need these and if he chooses to let me hide naked in caves or starve to death, I wouldn’t be the first of his children to go through that. Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is my reward in heaven.
The task is to:
- Become aware of my inner mulling and take every thought into captivity
- Ask that MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL questions, “Really? is it my job, right now, to do something about my concern?”, and when the answer is NO:
- Give myself permission to refocus on what, in him,I can do, what he has given me, who he has placed in my life, WHO HE HAS MADE ME TO BE and then seize hold of my reality invest and enjoy.
I need to remember that it is all small stuff to God. Is anything impossible with him and I can do all things through him, he will never test me beyond his capacity to uphold me but will, with the test, give me the words and strength to not fall into sin.
There are several ways I make a problem hit me harder than it should, I:
- Forget all the things God has already done in our life.
- Forget all the people and tools he has placed in our life to help us.
- Forget all the beauty and good that will be there no matter how the current concern turns out.
- Forget the gifts and abilities God has designed into me and how he has already used these to help others.
So, in order to not forget, at lunch, dinner, and bedtime I need to:
- Find one positive thing that God has helped me do.
- Find one positive thing that god has done for me through others, and tell them so.
- Find one thing that is honest, true, just, pure, of good reputation, beneficial and just plain cool and savor it.
- Rejoice in my own design and delight in being myself.