How To Fight Burnout
We were two months into the Covid shutdown and I sat in the corner of our bedroom, hunched over my computer. Teaching college-level economics to a classroom full of seniors who were already done with school had been a feat. However, doing the same thing via Zoom was an entirely different story.
For the first time in weeks, I could see light bulbs going off. Several students had actually turned on their cameras and were interacting. It was then that a toddler's head poked through the bedroom door in my background and yelled, “Daddy, come wipe me!”
Class was mostly done after that. No one was interested in returning to the Tax Multiplier for the remaining 20 minutes.
When Covid hit in 2020, our work and home lives collided. Many of us discovered it was hard to find a break from the demands, or to figure out a way to recharge and replenish while under lockdown. Parents realized quickly that juggling a career with kids in the next room was extra tough. Coffee no longer pushed us through the day, and the walls of our homes became prisons filled with boredom and chaos.
So I pitched an idea to my wife during the lockdown.
What if we each wrote down one thing to help us grow spiritually, one thing to help us grow physically, and one hobby to pursue? What if we then provided each other with the time, space and support to pursue those things each day?In all honesty, I was grasping at straws at this point. The previous day had drained us and we didn’t see an end in sight. But to my surprise, it helped! We took turns watching the kids while the other went for a jog during lunch breaks. We gave each other a quiet space each day to connect with God. By the end of that season, we laughed more. We even had the energy to throw a dance party on the front lawn during a May rain storm, after working all day.
But then that season came to an end. As the world began to open up and we both started new jobs, we found new schedules and tasks to juggle. Two years later, we sat around a pizza and both shared our woes. We were in a new stage of life, but feeling burnt out again. It was time to rethink what good rhythms would look like in this season.
I have to confess, I’m horrible at this. Change is not my middle name. Every time life shifts our priorities, I’m thrown.
However, there are a few things that have been shared with me along the way. When I implement them, they actually help.
Spiritual Health Spending time with God daily can be one of the easiest things to forego when things get busy, but it’s so important. Whenever I sense my attitude is off, it’s probably because I haven’t been consistent here. We’re all wired differently, so find a way to connect with God that works for you.
Note: Group Leaders has a free “Spiritual Pathways” assessment at this link. It will help you think through different ways to connect with God that are meaningful to you.
Rest and ExerciseAgain, each of us needs something different in this area. I’ve found that running is the best way for me to get exercise, and having at least 30 minutes of quiet "down time" in the evening is great for my outlook. I won’t get both of these 365 days a year, but when I do, it’s gold. I can think clearer and feel more at ease.
PrioritiesIf you’re going to find that perfect daily rhythm, you’re going to have to cut some things out. There are going to be things that pop up daily and scream for your attention. Prioritizing doesn’t always fix it, but it does help answer what things you can say "no" to.
Note: I’d personally recommend reading “At Your Best” by Carey Neiuwhof. He outlines a compelling way to prioritize the most important things when you’re in the best time of your day.
It really does take a village. We can do everything possible to prioritize what’s most important, but life happens and drags us away. These are the times that it’s crucial to have important voices in the room. Voices that can speak truth to us and challenge us when our vision on life is foggy.
If the cycle of burnout is something present in your life, here are a few more resources that can help you navigate those waters:
Life goes on and continues to change. We switch jobs and move. We have babies, then toddlers, then kids with school and activity schedules. Our circles of friends evolve. With every change, there’s a new set of things to manage. And it's on us to balance it all out, finding a good rhythm while making room for the things that replenish and refresh us. The alternative will lead to burnout.