“A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”
— Lysa Terkeurst
In the first chapter of the Bible, God created humanity to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26b) From the onset of creation, work has been a part of what it means to be human. By Genesis chapter 3, however, Adam and Eve had violated the boundaries set by God and the blessing of work became a burden for mankind.
Thousands of years later, our insistence on self-reliance leads us to overcommit our schedules and under value rest. Instead of abiding in Christ, our desire for meaning and purpose are often tied to the Western values of money, power, and possessions leaving us feeling empty, anxious, and exhausted.
According the Psychology Today, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.”
These seven signs of burnout should serve as a check-engine light for your soul.
1. Physical Exhaustion
Our bodies are created to help us adapt to the many situations and seasons that we face. Over-stress of our systems with unrealistic expectations can result in physical symptoms such as poor sleep habits, frequent illness, weight changes, increased blood pressure, and hair loss.
2. Emotional Exhaustion
Burnout, especially caused by overload of an unsustainable pace or long work hours can leave us cranky and irritable. Emotional exhaustion can look like dwelling in negative thoughts, a consistently pessimistic attitude, and/or the inability to work through negative emotions throughout your daily life.
3. Worry Dominating Our Thoughts
Worry is a normal part of life, but a sign of burnout is when it dominates our thoughts. Sunday nights filled with dread, catastrophizing (assuming that the worst will happen) when approaching new projects or challenges, and a persistent cynical attitude, are indicators that burnout has forced our worry to spiral out of control.
4. Drop in performance
Burnout can be caused either by overwork or by underwhelm and a feeling that you are not being challenged or appreciated at work. A drop in performance may look like feeling unfulfilled in work that was previously meaningful, less efficiency, or increased mental distance from your job.
5. Spiritual Apathy
Our spiritual health can be an important indicator of how we are doing in and around our work. Burnout can lead us to retreat from God much like Adam and Eve hid in the garden. As we over-rely on our own strength, it is easy to neglect spending time with God, reading the life-giving truth of Scripture, and being in godly community,.
6. Social Stupor
Unrelenting pressure often leaves us with no margin for conflicts both at work and at home. For some, this looks like increased tension in our relationships and uncharacteristic outbursts of anger. For others, it results in retreating from community, self-isolation, and seclusion.
7. Under Functioning
Much like when a car runs out of gas, when we hit our max, it often leaves us on empty. Apathy towards our work, feeling useless, lethargy, and trouble concentrating are all signs that we are running on empty. Even more difficult is that feelings of energy depletion and exhaustion also lead to a build-up of tension and dread about projects that we can’t complete.
As Christian leaders, it can be easy to justify our lack of balance in the name of working for God’s Kingdom, but we are not immune to the growing culture of hustle that has left so many in our workplaces burnt out and at the end of their ropes. Instead, it is vital that we cling to the One who has set our boundaries in pleasant places. Remember, God cares for you and for the health of your soul, more than your accomplishments.
Suffering from burnout (or seeing the symptoms in our lives) can feel overwhelming. But choosing to trust in God, who can provide peace and perseverance for every season, will renew our spirit.
The healing process can be slow and it is wise to include mentors who can help you reestablish healthy boundaries and renew your relationship with the Lord. If you are suffering from burnout, you are not alone. There is hope in abiding in God who loves you and desires you to have life to the full.