Running on Empty: What is Burnout?

Some people do not know they are tired and keep going.  We who are like this need to stop and ask ourselves, "how are you doing?"  We need to care enough for ourselves that we ask the question and give an honest answer.  Then, we need to care enough for ourselves that we take care of ourselves.  This sounds so simple, yet many of us treat ourselves as slaves.  We might even have Bible verses to justify our mistreatment of ourselves.  We do need to, "take up our crosses", and die to self; but that does not mean neglect of self by not allowing rest and refreshment.

We actually need to develop a gracious relationship with our selves: our bodies, our souls, and our spirits; while at the same time, we do need to put the sinful nature to death.  Burnout is not the result of the later, but neglect of the former.

Websters Definition of BURNOUT:
1. a : exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

The psychological markers of burnout are: exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy, with exhaustion as the hallmark; according to mental health experts.  Ignoring these symptoms and stoically toughing it leads to things like heart disease and finally, death.  Certainly there is a lot of unhappiness that is preventable before the red lights flash on your dashboard.

Exhaustion is when you are empty.  It would seem like common sense to go off-line when exhaustion begins.  We might be exhausted because we keep skipping the breaks we need to take.  We also may have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and when exhaustion hits, we interpret it unrealistically as disappointing defeat and failure.  No, it's just your mind and body signaling the need for rest.

Exhaustion is the main symptom of burnout, but cynicism and inefficacy are it's corollaries.  If you feel exhausted and go forward, you will experience inefficacy and you will be cynical.

When I ignore my exhaustion, I get cynical.  The burnout causes us to "go negative".  The cynical person may be burned out from great disappointments in their life.  Negativity empowers the negative and sets out the welcome mat for dark forces to roost.  Pretty soon, the negaholic needs deliverance, which may be had simply by repenting and ceasing the negativity.

Cynicism is defined as: an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.  Cynicism also involves skepticism, pessimism, sarcasm, misanthropy, and sardonicism (Collins Thesaurus).  Cynicism is the ugly face of burnout.  The cynical person may very well be a person who is suffering from a lack of resting in Christ and while they mean well, they are not rested in him, and are burned out.  The healer, counselor, minister, teacher, or leader may convey the attitude that they, "hate people", when they are in fact burned out and have involuntarily moved into cynicism.

Inefficacy is when you lack capacity to do something: no capacity, no power.  Burnt out people are "tapped out" in the creativity, new ideas, departments.

I believe that if we will get our rest in God, that God will take care of the rest.

Next time, I will give some thoughts on the sabbath.