Have you ever felt completely burned out? I have and I’m sure you have, too. Maybe you are struggling with burnout at this moment. Many of us carry huge loads today. Most of us live with some combination of the following:
- Working outside the home
- Working from home
- Children with learning needs
- Children with health needs
- Children with dietary needs
- Our own health issues
- Debt or excessive bills
- Church issues
- Unhealthy relationships
- Lack of friendship or support systems
Any combination of these is going to be a drain on even the strongest person. Sustained struggles in multiple areas over time is going to lead to burnout.
Acknowledge Your Limits
One of the greatest mistakes we make is failing to acknowledge our limits. We all have limits and the more we try to ignore them, the worse it will get. We were designed with limits physically and emotionally. Any time we try to push past them for extended periods of time, we are going to end up in trouble. What kind of trouble?
- Physical illness
We don’t have to live life burned out all the time. I do believe there are a few actions we can take right now that will almost immediately lower our risk for burnout. Let’s start with these three today and the rest of this week we’ll look in more detail at other areas of our lives where we can say “no” and live healthier lives.
Make Sleep a Priority and Get Enough Sleep
Sufficient sleep is not optional. You need to make sleep a priority. (Obviously those with babies are in a tough phase of life and I totally get that. It was the sleep deprivation with an infant that completely changed my views of the necessity of sleep.)
The internet is full of articles about the short-term and long-term health risks associated with insufficient sleep. The difference between trying to get by on five or six hours of sleep versus getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is HUGE. If you aren’t getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, you need to make some immediate changes because you are sleep-deprived.
Turn off the TV, get off social media, and go to bed. Everything in life is worse when you are chronically sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep leaves you more susceptible to illness and depression. If you are in debt, you can’t afford to be sick. If you have children, you definitely don’t want to be sick. If you work, you don’t have time to get sick. Lack of sleep means you have less patience. If you homeschool or have a child with extra needs, you need all the patience you can muster. Get your sleep.
Any health issue you have is going to be made worse by being sleep deprived. Go to bed and take care of your own health so you can take care of the people in your life.
Let One Thing Go Right Now
Figure out one thing you need to let go right now. Pick one thing that hangs over you and you know you need to get rid of.
It might be a weekly meeting. It might be a time-consuming group. It might be an expectation of yourself that isn’t reasonable at this stage in your life. It might be a bad relationship or friendship. It might be drama on Facebook or other social media.
Find one thing that sucks your energy and get rid of it right now. Make the phone call. Delete the account. Unfriend the drama queen. Whatever it is, do it right now.
Create Some Margin In Your Life
When people struggle financially, the first rule of thumb is to create an emergency fund. This financial cushion keeps you from being in chronic state of financial stress. The same principle holds true for our emotional and physical needs. You need margin.
If we aren’t allowing for margin in our lives, we are going to be under chronic stress. And chronic stress leads to burnout. I confess this is one area I struggled with for some time. I was fine keeping on top of everything as long as nothing unexpected happened. But sickness or some other unexpected complication would completely erase whatever tiny margin I might have had.
Now that I’m also dealing with chronic illness, I am ruthless about keeping margin in my life. I cannot afford physically or emotionally to overwhelm myself. Stress is a horrific trigger of my illness and nothing ups my stress levels like a lack of margin.
How does a lack of margin impact your life? If every minute or even hour of your day is scheduled or spoken for, you don’t have margin. If every evening of your life is filled with obligations, you don’t have margin. Take time to determine how you can add some margin to your life. Where can you let some commitments or expectations go so you will have the necessary margin in your life to avoid burnout?
Burnout Is Not Inevitable
Burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable. While we may never escape it forever this side of heaven, we can drastically reduce its occurrence and intensity in our lives by making some simple changes to our lives.
This post is part of my 5 Days of Saying “No” series.