During a business dinner, an associate asked me about the book I was writing (The Relief of Imperfection.) When I mentioned the topic of perfectionistic thinking, workaholic behavior and burnout, he nodded and said, "Well, those things are not worth dying for!"
Soon after this I read an article about a trend called "downshifting." Downshifters are men and women who choose to leave all-consuming jobs for a little slower pace so they can experience more enjoyment in their lives. I don't know about you, but I admit this sounds really good.
Happy Labor Day weekend 2013! Perhaps you're really grateful that you get an extra day off. Or maybe you're one of the many who work through the holiday weekend. Before I write/say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to work. You probably are, also (whether its work for ministry, volunteer service, an income-producing job, home schooling or taking care of your babies.)
More and more I talk with people in my coaching, mentoring, and every day life who are realizing that striving and working all the time (to be the best parent, to constantly reach for full potential for yourself and your family, to get more clients and make more money, to help others with very little time to refuel) is not what God had in mind when we made us with the capability to work. There is more to life.
LIFE is worth living for. So this weekend, how about STOPPING the work for a little while to focus on one of the life's enjoyments listed above. What do you choose? Whatever it is, have fun!
You want to pray with me? God, teach me the meaning of life with its balance of labor, rest, and enjoyment. Slow me down to listen. I know "It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work my worried fingers to the bone. I know You enjoy giving rest [and LIFE] to those You love. (Prayer based on Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message)
It's the weekend! Maybe this means you're taking a break from work. Maybe not.
In my experience as a life coach, speaker/teacher/trainer, and mentor, I've noticed that many people struggle with issues related to work and service. It matters not if they're an executive, nurse, homeschooler, ministry volunteer or a young parent. Even medical exerts agree that there's an "action-addiction" epidemic.
In her book Working Ourselves to Death, author Diane Fassel maintains that though action-addicts (another name for workaholics) work, serve, or rush a great deal, they aren't always working.
Yet, even Jesus--who came to earth to do the most important work of all--said "no" sometimes. (Check out Luke 8:26-38 & Mark 5:18-20)
The truth is: Your work & service (whether it's in the office, in the home, on the field or at church) don't have to be relentless or perfect to be significant, meaningful and productive. :-)
I find that such a relief. What about you?
What kind of a worker are you?
"When you burn both ends of a candle, it may produce twice as much light, but the candle burns out twice as fast,” writes Myron Rush in his book, Burnout. “People experiencing burnout suddenly discover that all of their mental, emotional and physical energies have been consumed." This was true for me. I managed my family of two teenagers and developed my company into a million dollar endeavor, yet felt like a walking dead person.
"I've fried my brain,” I said. “I'll never be the same." Yet I’m a grateful burnout survivor—along with others who have learned to stop burning the candle at both ends. How’d we do it?
This post is #4 in a four week blog series on BURNOUT.
I'm curious: Do you think that BURNOUT really happens? And who do you think tends to be susceptible?
(This blog series is adapted from a series of short online articles that I wrote for Genius Ave.)
In a few days, I'll post the 4th blog in the BURNOUT series I've been sharing: Number Four will be "Life Beyond Burnout."
#1 - Are You Burning Out? (Maybe It's Compassion Fatigue?)
#2 - When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Burned Out (What IS Burnout?)
#3 - Stop Living Like You're on Fire
#4 - Life Beyond Burnout (It's Coming!)
The reason I'm posting right now is because I promised the women at the LIFT Summer Refresher JUST PRESS PAUSE where I spoke on Friday that I would post the poem I wrote and read to them. So, here it is. :-)
WHAT DO YOU NEED? (It may be different than what your friend needs!)
Some of us need to stop thinking and do,
while others need to stop doing and think.
Some need to stop asking and give, though
others need to cease giving and ask.
Some of us need to stop crying and smile,
yet others need to stop smiling and cry.
Some need to stop confronting and give in,
while others need to quit compromising and confront.
Some of us need to stop waiting and run,
Though others need to stop running and wait.
Some need to practice discipline and organize, yet others need to cease
structuring themselves into a box and relax.
God is big enough to help us all. What do you need?
So "relax" because there IS life beyond burnout and because being spiritual and loving God doesn't mean you have to respond to life's surprises exactly like your Bible teacher, pastor, mother, sister, brother, best friend or spouse! :-)
By the way, I also posted the poem on The Intentional Woman Facebook Group page. I'd love to have you join us there.
Maybe you’re just tapping your toe in the burnout cauldron. Perhaps you’re going down for the third count. Identifying your symptoms and the degree of your burnout will help you make intentional decisions to regain healthy balance. Here’s a shortened list of symptoms ranging from the occasionally bothersome to the more severe.
1. Decreased energy/unfocused/confused/disappointed
2. Increased fatigue/stress/sometimes use caffeine/sweets to lift mood
3. Change in weight/occasions of insomnia
4. Less creativity/vanishing sense of purpose
5. Headaches/decreased libido/muscle aches/dizziness
6. Feelings of depression/resentment/rigidity
7. Decreased social activity/nagging anxiety/emotional numbing
8. Exhaustion 24/7 with inability to sleep
9. Chest pains/shortness of breath/stomach problems/dizziness/disorientation
10. Inappropriate outbursts/periods of risky behavior/unhealthy blood pressure/diagnosis of illness
“If you don’t want to burnout, stop living like you’re on fire,” writes Brene Brown, a vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston. Adopting reusable freedom-producing strategies can help you avoid additional symptoms or escape an established burnout system.
What has helped you avoid or recover from burnout?
What IS Burnout or Compassion Fatigue?
Maybe It's Compassion Fatigue
If you’re like many moms I know, you’re tired. Weary. Crying babies. Sassy Teens. You love your kids AND sometimes you just want a little relief. Maybe you can’t escape to your dream-get-away right now, but you could use an energy-break. Here’s four doable relief-tips for you:
1. Ask “What do I really want to do?” When you’re in a quandary about a decision, hopefully your response(s) will help you decipher which is your desire or need and not merely what someone else wants you to do. (Trying to make everyone happy and follow their advice can be truly exhausting.)
2. When you get into bed at night, instead of praying “Lord, what did I do wrong today?” and then ruminating about what you coulda- shoulda- woulda done, pray, “What did I do right, Lord?” Then listen to how God’s spirit prompts you, and praise Him for your blessings and His help. (Constant negative self-talk can rob your energy–and your joy.)
3. When you’re overly tired, lacking energy, or just plain overwhelmed with the mundaneness of mommy-hood, ask yourself “Since I’m going to do this activity or task anyway, how can I do it easier–or even with a little fun)? (Doing something you enjoy, like listening to your fav music while accomplishing an unpleasant task can actually revitalize you.)
4. Before you get out of bed and/or reach over to pick up your baby in the morning or greet your early-bird toddler, take thirty seconds to talk to God. Request His guidance and help for your day. Consider asking, “Lord, what do You want to show me today?” Then watch for evidence of His love and direction. (Anticipating good things can be an attitude and energy booster. And a way to get to know God more intimately.)
So…Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!
Dad and I walked from our hotel along the Nile to a large church near downtown Cairo. We arrived early, but the church was packed on this Palm Sunday morning. Ushers set up folding chairs in the aisles. People crowded the narthex. The standing crowd parted to allow the fifty blue-robed choir members to march down the center aisle. They carried palm branches and sang. We couldn’t understand the words, but we read them in the “guest” bulletin. “I love you, Lord. Come and be with us…” they sang. I cried.
The articulate pastor met with us after the worship service. “We all have something to give, whether Western or Eastern Christians,” he said. “If we learn how to share, then people would know that the giver cares and sees the receiver as a fellow human being and brother.” He explained that was why he appreciated the Christian relief and development program I worked with at the time. We partnered together to offer food, training, jobs, and transportation to deeply disadvantaged families.
The pastor’s daughter, a physician visiting from the United States, talked with us that afternoon. “As a child I wondered continually when someone would come take my dad away. “Yes,” admitted the pastor. “I’ve been in danger of being jailed almost every day of my life.”
I chatted with the daughter (who practiced medicine in the U.S.) about topics like over-working, exhaustion, transition and burnout. “You know what it’s like to race inside, don’t you?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” she admitted. “It’s like a treadmill — if I try to get off I will fall.” Then she recounted stories about two of her patients who did fall off the treadmill during testing. We chuckled at the analogy.
Although this happened years ago, I think of it today as I celebrate Palm Sunday 2013. Jesus left His perfectly supportive surroundings in heaven to live in this fickle world. One week He was adored, praised and openly honored with parades and palm branches. The next week He was mocked and killed. Seems so unfair. Yet, Jesus came for a purpose–the ultimate purpose!–to sacrifice His life so that all of us can be re-united with our perfect Creator God. All of us, the burned-out doctor, threatened pastor, penniless parent, and caring giver.
It doesn’t matter where you live or what’s happening in your life, Jesus says (about himself), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [spiritually] but have eternal life.”
It’s God’s personal invitation to you. If you’ve accepted this loving offer, what does this Palm Sunday 2013 mean to you? How are you celebrating today?
Note: To protect the people involved, I changed some details of this true experience of mine, left out names and exact places, and chosen not to post actual photos.
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.