I recently saw a post on Instagram with the following text:
“Me: [extremely burned out] I need to take the day off to relax.
Also me: I wonder if there is a way to make relaxing more productive.”
I laughed, but I also cringed a bit because it hit a little too close to home.
We all know this past year has been a lot. Sometimes more than a lot. Often it has been downright overwhelming. That’s why it is not surprising when we realize we are experiencing some level of burnout in response to the demands of life pre-, mid-, and post-pandemic.
Burnout occurs when the pressures of life leave you feeling increasingly exhausted, emotionally drained, and, if left un-dealt with, experiencing chronic, low-grade mental or physical health issues that can impact every area of life. The hardest part of dealing with burnout is that you cannot work your way out of it. Managing burnout requires real pauses, real rest, real restoration, and sometimes making hard choices about what is the most important. Managing burnout requires radical kindness to yourself and making your needs a priority.
From my observation, guilt is the number one emotion that keeps people from taking care of themselves. The guilt from saying “no,” the guilt of taking time for yourself, and the guilt of not being productive, are all roadblocks to giving ourselves the care we desperately need to thrive. Believing that you are worthy of care and rest is the first step to addressing feelings of burnout. If that concept is hard to accept, start by asking who in your life would benefit from a more rested, relaxed you. I have a feeling that you probably have a few people who come to mind.
The next step to addressing burnout is realizing, with radical kindness, that you are not meant to do it all. You are a finite person who cannot work 24/7, and that is a GOOD thing. God baked rest into creation because He knew we needed it. He commanded us to take a Sabbath, a full day of rest, every week. We were created to work hard AND to enjoy God, creation, and relationships.
The final step in addressing burnout is identifying, scheduling, and doing things that make you feel more like yourself. That is different for everyone. For some, it is going on a run (not me, but I’m jealous of people who like running), spending time with friends (definitely me), or reading a book (sometimes me). It can even be going to counseling to heal the parts of you that need care. Self-care is any action you take where you give yourself what you need without withholding what is good for you.
Overcoming burnout isn’t going to happen overnight, but creating habits of kindly caring for yourself by saying no, intentionally resting, and investing in yourself, is a great place to start. Don’t let shame and guilt have the final word on your mental health. Recognize burnout as it’s happening. Choose a different path – it is the first step towards walking fully in who God made you to be.