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.

Stressed Woman
Image from Photodune.

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.

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!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Scotty Sullivan

    Roll down the window…. 🙏🏻

    • Scotty,
      Why did I know you would send something like this…..PERFECT! Yes, we have been since the seizure. You know my family is about all type A’s so this slowing down thing is pretty new to me but I’m trying. We sure do miss you around our place. Hope you had a beautiful Christmas and New Year’s holiday! Great to hear from you! Colleen

  • Lynda Churchill

    Continuing to pray and miss you dear friend…

    • Sweet girl,
      Coming back to life slowly…what a year. When we have like 6 hours to catch up, I would love to hear your voice. It looks like you are in a great place and very happy. That brings my heart so much joy! How is your health, your holiday season, life? Much love, Colleen

  • Anthony West

    Colleen; Your recent blog post hit me square between the eyes; it was as if I was reading a column about my life in 2016. I have struggled mightily this year and the cause is burn out. My wife’s mental illness has been extremely challenging (over 4 trips to the hospital this year alone); a custody battle to gain guardianship of her affairs (lost of money spent on this endeavor), extremely challenging issues at the job (politics, back biting and poor economy which has led to a substantial reduction for our business unit’s bottom line), poor health, lack of sleep and struggling with depression. I cannot remember experiencing such a low point in my life and I find myself losing hope and struggling with my faith in God’s plan for me. I almost dread the calendar turning another day for fear of more problems and pressure yet I have no way of stopping this “merry go round” of horrors that has become my life. To put it bluntly, I’m than tired and burnt out, I’m a “walking dead man” spiritually and mentally and find it harder to wake up every day.

    Pray for God’s comfort and encouragement from the Holy Spirit will enable and empower me to move past this “dry place” and into the “green pastures” He has promised to those that believe in Him.

    • Anthony,
      As always, it’s so good to hear from you. Not that what you are enduring is great but to know you ARE indeed ENDURING is amazing. I’m so very saddened to hear about the extremely challenging issues you continue to face. I wish I knew more about the mental challenges of your wife; my degree’s in psych and education are helpful in wading through some of the stuff. If she is considered ‘mentally ill’ legally, I don’t know why you would have had a problem getting guardianship over her items. However, we have been at the guardianship issue this year in spades and there are so many ridiculous rules it could be that her situation slips past what ought to be helping you rather than causing such a mess. I truly dislike the legal system but it’s what we have to work with. And, I totally understand how you could become hopeless dealing with just that…I’m so sorry.
      As far as the job goes and having endured some extreme betrayal in getting out of an abusive marriage years ago, I learned to remind myself that the whole time Christ was on earth, the economy was pretty poor, Jesus faced unending, scathing backbiting and political agendas, and somehow was able to rise above it all. My thought is that perhaps you are living with what Mark 8 talks about in laying down our lives (thoroughly dying to self), picking up our cross, and following Him. I KNOW there are thoughts like…how much more, Lord…what else needs to die for me to live this ‘abundant’ life you talk about…???? And in the midst of suffering, those questions are not helpful really because they express a tone of angst and doubt. I get it humanly; I wrestle with it consistently; yet I know in suffering, we have to take our mind fully captive and resist anything that puts a wedge between us and the Lord. Oh Anthony, it’s so much easier to write that than to live it-I understand.
      Your last statement is so honest and filled with sorrow. It must feel like you are a ‘walking dead man’, wondering where in the world are those ‘green pastures’ when all you have found is a dry, parched desert. However, as you fully die to self, that is part of the process…coming to an end totally of yourself to fix or change things and asking God to somehow make a way. I think of the Israelites and the Exodus…I’m sure they wondered what the heck Moses was doing for 40 YEARS…or the years of captivity…400. People lived and died without seeing God’s promises fulfilled. Which leads me to believe our greatest, deepest, most complete hope is found in our looking towards eternity with hope. What is on earth is passing…and it takes FOREVER for some things to pass. But I want to encourage you to journal these experiences because they are the making of you. God would NEVER allow such hardship if there wasn’t a purpose hidden in it all. He does not love to cause misery; He is with us in it but doesn’t remove it at times because there is a greater purpose in it all. I don’t know what that is for you but I KNOW your suffering will not go without being used for a greater purpose. Not an outward, world famous purpose which is how many Christians measure God’s fulfillment of promises. It may be He is keeping you from something that would kill your soul, withholding some things to test your endurance, I have no idea. But that is something to ponder. Finally, I would encourage you to not “TRY” so hard anymore. I came to a place where praying and reading my Bible felt like pure drudgery. So I simple said, Lord…I’m too tired to pray but you know my soul so it’s yours. I’m too tired to hope but you know what will bring hope so I’m going to trust you for that. I’m too angry about ______ but I know you are able to soften my soul and put a forgiving spirit in me. Just give your whole self-the good, bad, ugly-all of you to the Lord like a puppet without a hand in it. Allow the Lord to place His sovereign hand into your soul and bring you back to life. That is my prayer for you my dear friend…that God would fill you and breathe life back into your soul. When I finally escaped the abusive marriage I felt lost for a long time. Slowly, ever so slowly, the Lord brought me back to life. If he can do that for me, He can do that for you. So my prayer for 2017 for you is that the Lord would fill you and you would be able to let go, forgive, accept, make different choices, and find hope like you haven’t had in a long time. Please don’t be a stranger; I’m here to help cheer you on. You will get through…one day, one moment at a time. Your friend, Colleen

      • Anthony West

        Thank you for your encouraging words and understanding heart.

        • Anthony,
          You are so welcome. Sorry the reply was lengthy! I do really want to help so write whenever you would like to talk. Colleen

  • Liz McIvor

    Thank you for this . I’m very interested to hear more .