Burnout appears in many different ways. It encompasses everything from physical exhaustion to deep cynicism to escape into sin. Now, you may be asking yourself why I’m addressing burnout on a blog about small groups and discipleship. Some of you are burning yourselves out, and it’s completely unnecessary. Here are some ways to beat burnout:
Start with Your Physical Health
Focus on your physical wellbeing before you focus on the emotional or spiritual part. This may seem counterintuitive. In fact some may attempt to pray away burnout as an attack of the enemy or ask for supernatural strength. God could do that, but consider how God dealt with Elijah after the showdown at Mount Carmel. Elijah slept and ate and slept and ate and repeated (1 Kings 19).
If you don’t feel good physically, you don’t feel good about anything. Your temper is shorter. Your work is twice as hard. Maybe your brain is in a fog. Now, I’m not going to give you a list of 40 things you need to do every morning to succeed, because to me just the notion of 40 more things to do dooms me to failure. In your own way, factor in these things:
Sleep. Get adequate rest. Most adults require 8-9 hours of sleep per night. I know that Elon Musk only needs 4 hours of sleep, but you aren’t Elon Musk. Put your electronics to bed an hour before your bedtime. Turn off the TV. Maybe read. Then sleep. Try to wake up without an alarm clock.
Eat. Everybody knows what’s healthy and not healthy to eat. If you need a guide, follow The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. Don’t do extreme diets. Eat your vegetables. Drink water. Lay off the bad stuff. As Dr. Daniel Amen says, your brain consumes 30% of all of the calories you take in. What you eat affects how you think!
Exercise. Do something physical every day. Combine exercise with something else you like to do. I walk 150 minutes per week. When I’m walking alone, I talk to God. When I’m walking with my wife, I invest in our marriage. Don’t put this off. Don’t buy a gym membership. Don’t buy a new outfit. Don’t put a new Peloton on your credit card. Open the front door of your house and take the first step. Find an exercise video on Youtube. Do something to move every day.
Get a Check Up. Don’t skip your annual physical. If you have a concern about your body, talk to your doctor. Don’t Google it. While a physical ailment can set you back, worrying that you have a health problem also adds to your stress.
Then Move to Your Emotional Health
After you’re getting adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition, then move to your emotional health. Improving your emotional health doesn’t require a trip to the counselor’s office, but it could. Choose a couple of things from this list to focus on:
- Have you laughed several times today?
- How do you talk to yourself? Is it positive?
- What amount of time this week did you spend living in the present?
- How are you relaxing and recreating?
- What is your level of cynicism? Cynicism is often repressed anger, which comes from fear.
- What are you over-doing? Over-eating, over-screentiming, over-anything.
- Have you forgiven the last three people who offended you?
- How much is envy affecting you? Most people are depressed after using social media.
- Who have you talked to about your feelings?
- How can you delegate strategically? Find someone to share the load. Empower your people.
Finally, Focus on Your Spiritual Wellbeing
When people sense burnout, they immediately want to reduce their stress, which is good. But, in many ways stress is caused by your perspective. Perspective is based on spiritual things.
Listen to God. Listen. Don’t talk. I use an app called the One Minute Pause created by John Eldredge. It’s a great guide for silent prayer. I also use a couple of resources by Pete Scazzero: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day and Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day. I also alternate using YouVersion reading plans.
Make Your Requests of God. Philippians 4:6-7 is my power verse for beating burnout. (It might be my life verse).
Honor the Sabbath. God worked for six days in creation, then rested. You are not better than God. For pastors and church staff, Sunday is not your Sabbath. Designate a day to rest from your work. Spend time with your family and friends. Relax. If you can’t manage a full day, start with half of a Sabbath.
Manage Your Expectations. I would never accuse a pastor of laziness. That’s why I’m writing an article on burnout. While you want to fully give yourself to the cause of Christ, Jesus will build His church. While you might consider your effort as diligence and faithfulness, you have to be careful that it’s not really co-dependency. Do you need to be needed? If you do, then you have to ask yourself: “Who is this about?”
Make a Joyful Noise. Sing praise to God. You can sing in worship services. You can sing with Youtube videos. I keep an old hymnal handy. Singing praise will lift your mood and your perspective.
Repent. Confess your sin to God and turn from it. Don’t try to justify or excuse it. Get rid of it. “Confess your sins to one another that you might be healed” (James 5:16). If you could stop on your own, you would have stopped. Break the power of sin in your life, which is the secret. Tell somebody. Call somebody. Confess to an Uber driver. Break it today.
Practice the Presence of God. Remind yourself that God is always with you. Thank Him for every little thing you can be thankful for as you go through your day. Stop and ask for wisdom when you need it. God is with you.
I’ve heard people say, “I would rather burnout than rust out.” I don’t think either ending is good. I believe God intends for you to wear out gradually.
Start with your physical wellbeing: Sleep, eating, and exercise. Start today. Don’t make a big plan. Just get going.