Avoiding Burnout, part 3

Here is part 3 from Summit’s counseling pastor, Brad Hambrick. Here is part 1 and part 2.

Generosity vs. Sacrifice

In order to properly allocate these last 51 hours you need to understand the difference between generosity and sacrifice.

Generosity: Planning to give more of the last 51 hours to serving God and others than we are comfortable doing and learning to find our joy in this service.

I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities [giving habits] do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say that they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities [giving] excludes them.

~C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Sacrifice: Cutting into the first 117 hours for crisis needs. This type of activity should be relatively rare because it is unsustainable.

God may lead us into seasons of sacrifice, but they are not sustainable. The financial parallel is again helpful. If you give the money for your house payment to pay someone else’s mortgage, you are simply trading foreclosures. Thus, when sacrifice is made, it should be done (1) in consultation with a community of trusted Christian friends, (2) in concert with the efforts of one’s church, and (3) only on a defined, short-term basis.

Start the day in relaxed dependence. This is merely a new description for “quiet time.” This description focuses on the state of being (relaxed dependence) rather than the activity (reading, praying, or journaling), but both are essential. For those struggling with burnout the temptation can be to make your time with God one more thing you’re trying to 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 so that we are in the best position to face life’s struggles. Whenever possible, we want to avoid situations where our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak (Matthew 16:41).

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, or listening to music. Use this as a tangible reminder that you can stop moving and the world won’t.

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 ill-prepared to face, then study in these areas during your personal reading time.

Have non-functional friendships. When all your friendships know you because you are their teacher, parent, boss, colleague, 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.

Listen to your body. As embodied souls, if something depletes you emotionally it will show up physically. Pay attention if you begin to feel tired often, get sick frequently, have more frequent headaches or muscle pain, notice changes in your appetite or sleep habits, clenched jaw when trying to relax, or digestive problems.

Listen to your emotions. If you begin to experience 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, don’t respond to this as criticism calling for you to “do more” but as a concern 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. 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 equipping others to come alongside you.

Listen to how you read your Bible and pray. 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?

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