Three women in their thirties discussing burnout 

It is not an exhaustive presentation. We all shared from what we learned as we traveled through the valley of burnout, camping there for a while, reaching the valley from different directions. Some having started the climb up a while ago. Awareness of where we are is a great starting point. And you don’t have to reach rock bottom to start going up again. The climb is arduous. Learning new habits, renewing our mind, accepting our identity by also “being” and not just by “doing”, as we are human beings and not human doings.  

Camilla gave us the facts as well as her perspective on burnout from an entrepreneur’s point of view, Rachel shared from a conference she and her husband went to this past year titled “Living in the overflow”. As she said, it is important to go in the right direction from identity to goals, and not let the goals define our identity. And she talked about how Jesus did it, as described in the gospels. 

Acceptance – baptism / identity

Sustenance – time spent in the desert to recharge spiritually. 

Significance – human being not human doing 

Fruitfulness – accomplish goals

I said a few of things too, and one thing I remember people nod their heads to was the focus on saying yes to the important and necessary things and not on what we say no to. Because saying yes to everything urgent and non important actually is a no to other things. 

Also, because I heard a few brave people share about their burnout and their feelings on the journey, I had to mention them. A clear sign of entering burnout is the sticky feeling of irritation, especially if in general you are a patient and positive person. From recurrent irritation to anger is only a short trip. And I’m not saying we give in to anger. It may burst into yelling for moms, like a pot under pressure. But that is not comfortable either. So we forcefully suppress these unpleasant feelings. The shame of losing our cool, and the force to keep it together may bring us deep sadness. But that is not a nice place to be in either. So we numb. And we shut down. To keep it cool. And the more we numb the less things we feel. For a while it may seem we got a grip on exhaustion or burnout or our own erratic emotions. But soon we realize we have fallen deeper into depression. We coast emotionally because everything is too heavy to deal with and we have no more tools or no more strength. Isolation happens and so forth. 

Taking time to do something enjoyable for half an hour a day. Uninterrupted. Acknowledging our pain, our inadequacy, our limits… I wrote poems and read them to trusted friends. And thus I climbed out of the darkness. And forgave myself, and through poetry, instead of forgetting now I remember it differently.   

A theme of burnout emerged from the last year. If I search for this particular word on my blog, a handful of posts are selected and they start like this:

I was frustrated, anxious, irritated that people had increasing expectations of me. In reality though, I thought I was frustrated that they don’t see beyond their urgent need, or desire. But I was more upset with me for not speaking up kindly and clearly.  I wanted someone to defend my time, to preserve my energy. […]

It has been a full year. Too full. I feel completely spent. The more I did, the more it felt like it’s not enough.

A short break is not enough. And that made me feel ungrateful. 

Burnout. I feel it all around me. Spread like wildfire. The burnout of life, the tedious day-in and day-out, of social distancing like a home arrest. We all used all our tricks to adapt, to survive and in some cases to thrive

What happens when your gifts bring you to the brink of burnout.

God commanded us to rest. He didn’t suggest we rest on the 7th day. He told us to do so, and He himself did it. Jesus, despite the never ending needs and sorrow, the crowds that swarmed him, he still pulled away in the dessert, in the mountain, in a boat, he sought time with […]

I have prioritized others with the best intentions but for the first time I felt the consequences of focusing outwardly. I met great people, I served in fantastic causes but my inner circle was neglected, as well as my well-being. 

I had hoped the giving will slow down but people will take as much as you are willing to give. 

Nobody will protect your boundaries. Spouses can make observation, kids will show you in different ways what they think. But ultimately I can’t rely on anyone else to protect my time, my energy, my self. In a way that can feel lonely, sad. But this realization is also empowering.