Dena Johnson Martin Crosswalk.com blogspot for Dena Johnson of Dena's Devos
- Published Oct 05, 2022
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life—including your home, work, and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away. (From HelpGuide.org)
Have you been burned out?
As a registered nurse, I have definitely felt the effects of the last few years. I haven't been on the front line like many of my co-workers, but Covid has still impacted my life in many ways.
In the early days, my hours were slashed affecting my financial security. Then, I frantically tried to save up my paid time off in case I got Covid and was forced into a two-week (at least) sick leave. Since that time, it has been a constant struggle to save up enough paid time off that I felt confident I could actually step away from work for any time off.
But it's not just Covid. My reality is that more than a decade of my life revolved around giving every ounce of myself to my kids and my job. While I look back on that decade with a smile, I also have to acknowledge that I lost a part of myself. I worked myself to death (necessarily), and I've never been able to fully recover.
Burn out has been an ongoing issue for me for several years.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I'm sure we've all heard Isaiah 40:31 quoted to us--or we've quoted it to ourselves as an encouragement to keep going. For years, I interpreted that verse as saying I would always have the strength to keep going.
Until one day...
Do you see that little phrase? The one that says, "will find new strength." Other versions say, "will renew their strength." It struck me one day that the scripture doesn't say we will never hit a wall; instead, it says when we do hit that wall, God is able and willing to give us a new strength that will let us pick up and move forward.
But how do we find that new strength? How do we get out of a state of burn out?
Rest. God created us to rest. He commanded us to take a Sabbath every week, to take a day to rest. Jesus frequently got away to a quiet place to rest and pray. Remember when he slept in the boat while the disciples were fighting a storm (Matthew 8:24)?
I know our culture values busyness. We value activity. Rarely do we take the time to truly rest. I know I am guilty. I am an active person. I can't stand to sit still. There's always something that needs to be done around the house, in our lives. The laundry calls my name. Someone wants dinner. Grocery shopping. Exercise. Work. It's a constant activity. And if I do sit down for any amount of time? I fall asleep. As soon as I get still, my body begins to relax and fall asleep. Maybe that is God's way--my body's way--of telling me I am not getting adequate rest.
Maybe what you need is some time to simply get away and rest. Maybe you need to commit to going to bed earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep every night. Maybe you need to take a weekend and simply do nothing for anyone, but simply rest. I'm just going to tell you that if you need a weekend of rest, it's ok not to go to church. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is nothing.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
Play. In recent years, I've thought a lot about what my life was missing. When I first became a single mom, I actively sought out fun and cheap activities for the kids and me. I worked three days each week, and we took at least one day every week to do something fun. We went to the local amusement parks. We visited the Science Museum of Oklahoma. We traveled to some of the local national parks. Anything fun (and cheap) made the list.
When I changed to a traditional five day work week, I didn't have the extra days off to play with my kids. I think I lost the aspect of fun in my life.
Running was my outlet in those early days. I pushed my body to do more physically than I ever dreamed possible. There was something about running that cleared my minds and helped me meet God in ways I couldn't meet Him sitting in my house.
Injuries now prevent me from running. The endorphins are no more. The sense of accomplishment and power I gained from running ten miles is gone. I'm still looking for an activity I can love that will give me the same sense of clarity.
Even though life changes, I know my life is missing fun. We are looking for those outlets that will help us find things we can do that will put a sense of excitement and adventure back into our lives. We've begun doing some paddle boarding and kayaking (now that the weather is too cool to continue). We are going to the gym in the early morning hours and doing water aerobics. We are finding activities we can do together to find put fun back into our lives.
Meditate. I am a firm believer in cognitive therapy, meaning we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2) by learning to think on things that bring our minds back to God (Philippians 4:8). If we are not controlling our thoughts, our thoughts will take us down that path to burn out. We have to learn to put boundaries around our minds and live in the moment. For me, that means when I close my work computer at the end of the day, I put work aside. Totally. Completely. I don't think about it again until I open my computer on the next work day. It's not an easy task to learn to set those boundaries, but it is a necessity.
A friend recently wrote a poem that really impacted me. It was all about how God is the very breath in our lungs, that even as we whisper his name, we find His name. As we breathe in, Yah. As we breathe out, weh. Yah-weh. Yah-weh. During a recent meditation event at work, I found myself simply focusing on Yahweh as I breathed. With each breath, I said His name. Yah-weh. Yah-weh. Yah-weh. I found myself relaxed in ways I rarely experienced. His peace washed over me. Yah-weh. Yah-weh. Yah-weh. I now try to quiet myself as I go to sleep breathing the name of Yah-weh. Throughout the day, I remind myself to breathe the name of Yah-weh. He is the breath in my lungs, the very life within me. Yah-weh.
Maybe it's time you begin to slow down throughout your day and focus on breathing the name of Yah-weh. With every inhalation, Yah. With every exhalation, weh. Focus on Him. Focus on the very source of life. Let Him wash over you.
Are you fighting burn out like me? Like so many people I know? Let's commit together to find the new strength He promises.
(If you would like a great sermon series on mental health, please click here for the Life.Church series by Craig Groeschel. The last sermon was on burn out.)