When You Feel Like Giving Up: Simple Steps to Avoiding Burnout
- Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Are you struggling with motivation? Is it taking all you’ve got to just face what’s on your to-do list?
I remember waking up one morning and thinking “I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I don’t feel like doing all that I have to do today. I feel like I’m running on empty.”
It was then that I knew burnout had hit me square between the eyes. I’d lost my fire, my fervor, my fuel.
I’d written books on letting God meet your emotional needs, yet emotionally I was feeling empty. I wrote about how God strengthens us through our alone times but I was feeling weakened. I’d written a book on how to truly rest and I was feeling more overwhelmed than ever. And a year earlier I’d written a book on discovering and living out your dream and yet I was struggling with a lack of motivation.
What was wrong with me? Why was I feeling so complacent? Why did I have no motivation to continue forward?
I met with a doctor-friend of mine and his wife over lunch one day and talked about it.
“Burnout manifests itself in a certain activity you’re doing to the point that you’ve emptied the battery out,” said Dr. Jeff Birchall, who at that time was seeing a new person dealing with some sort of exhaustion, anxiety or depression every day…and following up with about four every day.
Dr. Birchall said 50 percent of the population suffer from burnout at some point in their life, 10 percent at any given moment .
The symptoms of burnout? They sound a lot like the symptoms of running on empty: chronic fatigue (exhaustion, tiredness, a sense of being physically run down)
- difficulty sleeping (waking in the middle of the night and finding yourself unable to return to sleep)
- decreased concentration (can’t finish things)
- anger at those making demands
- self-criticism for putting up with the demands
- cynicism, negativity, and irritability
- a sense of being besieged
- exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things
- frequent headaches and stomach aches
- changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or gain
- shortness of breath
- increased irritability (men tend to get angry more; women tend to cry more)
- social withdrawal
- feelings of helplessness
Maybe you can relate to some of those symptoms. Burnout can sometimes look like depression. Sometimes like anxiety. Some of us feel just a hint of it, like we’re getting our toes wet…others of us are drowning in it.
I knew I wasn’t in a state of depression. I wasn’t suffering from anxiety. But I was tired, overwhelmed and frustrated. The fire of my relationship with God that once burned brightly now seemed to be barely flickering. The juices had dried up. The motivation was lost. I was running on empty.
My friend says some cases of burnout or exhaustion require medication. Some require counseling. And mostly all of the cases require a change of environment to get the balance they need in their life. That one was mine. I needed the balance. Too much striving, not enough trusting. Too much work, not enough rest. Too much expenditure, not enough filling. It was time for something to change.
So I went to the Psalms – Scripture’s songs of human emotion – and related to the songwriters. They, too, experienced seasons of weariness and emptiness. They too cried out for help. And I began to notice a link between their cries for help while flat on their faces, and their ability to get back up on their feet again. What I saw in there, as that link, was a shift in focus (following times of prayer and praise) and a sense of determination.
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