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Quit Working So Hard

You may think burnout only happens to other people and that you're invincible. You're not. Here's 10 tips to see burnout coming and avoid it.

“You know they say it’s better to burn out than rust out, but either way you’re out.”

You've probably heard this or something like it before. And you've probably scoffed at the hypocrisy or ignorance of the statement. You are telling me about time management? Mr. Overcommitment himself is suddenly an expert on this topic. Or you think, Really? You always play it safe; you rusted out before you even started.

It’s easy to mock others for fearing burnout when you feel like you are invincible. I’m different than them. I’m young. I’m innovative. I’m resilient.

But the tide turns when you realize you are only 22 and you’ve already had a complete burnout. Twice. In one year.

My career as a missionary officially started in August 2010. I wasgetting paid to share God’s love with college students. Life couldn’tget much better.

By May 2011, I found myself completely burned out. Ibecame rather indifferent toward my job. I wanted nothing to do with my friends. I struggled to spend time with God. My body was rebellingagainst me in a constant stream of illness. I was battling insomnia and forgetting to eat, and I hadn’t consciously exercised in months. Somedays, I found myself too worn out to even leave my apartment. I had noenergy to do any of the things I loved and no motivation to changemy circumstances. At the end of the school year, my roommate confronted me. She was concerned I was falling apart and frustrated our ministry was suffering because I wasn’t fully present. I knew she was right, but Ididn’t want to hear it.

Fast forward through three weeks of me attempting to pull thingstogether. At the end of May, I boarded a plane and headed to Spain forthe summer. There, I worked with an awesome team of missionaries focusedon prayer and street outreach. My teammates confronted myovercommitment issues, forced me to learn to rest and taught me how to live life with a healthy rhythm of work, play and prayer.

When I arrived back on campus in early August, everything I learnedabout rhythm was quickly forgotten in the busyness of a new semester—long days, sleepless nights, forgotten devotionals and the resurfacingof all my bad habits. By early October, my boss noticed an onset offatigue again and confronted me because I was seemingly withdrawn. Later that same week, I found myself spending the night in the emergency roombecause the combination of a virus, anxiety, dehydration and exhaustion had left my body completely wrecked.

Burnout isn’t just a word older folks use to scare and contain the younger generation—as I had previously thought. It’s a psychological term used to describe exhaustion and diminished interest.

Here are a few facts, verifiable by good ol' Wikipedia and more reputable sources:

• Surveys show about one-third of young adults struggle with burnout.

• The most committed, enthusiastic employees are the most likely to burn out.

• Burnout is a vicious cycle rooted in the compulsion to prove oneself.

For much of 2011, I tried to prove to myself and to others I was making a difference. I worked harder, took on too much and was fueledby a competitive desire to succeed. In doing so, I wrongfully attemptedto take control of things in my life and simultaneously quenched God’sability to work through my life.

As the new year rolls around and I prepare for another semester, Iknow something needs to change. Restoring a rhythm of work, play and prayer has to be a non-negotiable.

I’m either an expert on this topic or a hypocrite for attempting todiscuss it. Either way, I won’t try to prove myself to you. I’ll simplyshare some things I know I need to keep in mind in this new year.

1. Get the rhythm right. It’s actually prayer, play and work. Did you notice I inverted the order? Priorities make all the difference.

2. Put God first and foremost in everything. If I continually invited Him into every aspect of my life, I would have no reason to stress.

3. Allow God to defend you. God is my defender. Idon’t need to justify myself to anyone. He’ll do it for me or kindlycorrect me, depending on the circumstances.

4. People who believe they can sleep when they’re dead never really get to fully experience life. Sleep is so important. I can function on four hours of sleep, but what’s permissible isn’t always beneficial.

5. Rest is a form of worship. Over the summer, I had to retrain myself to enjoy free time. I’ve never been so thankful foropportunities to exercise, appreciate nature, play my guitar, write,hang out with friends, read and just explore the awesomeness of theworld. Rest is about trusting God enough to take the time to appreciateHis blessings.

6. Turn off the technology. Let’s be honest. I don’t need my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and three email accounts pushed tomy iPhone every five minutes. I tend to idolize technology—I spend more time with it than I do with God and with people God has placed inmy life.

7. It’s okay to say no. There is freedom in admitting you can’t do everything.

8. Be honest with yourself and your friends. To guard against burnout, I’m inviting more accountability into my life.

9. When you miss out, others are missing out too. God placed me in my circle of influence to leave an impact. When I’m not fully present, I’m robbing people of what God wants to do in theirlives through me.

10. God is God. I am not. If I remembered who God isand who I am in Him, I would be less likely to work myself to the pointof burnout. I have to trust He is working through me and guiding my steps. I have to stop trying to wrestle control from Him.

In 2011, I tried really hard to be the best person I could be in my position. Obviously, I failed. I attempted to succeed through my own strength, and it quickly ran out.

I’m sharing this experience rather lightheartedly because I am truly grateful for the lessons I’ve learned this year. It’s much better toburn out in year one than to face the possibility of a vicious cycle offatigue in the future.

Overall, I’ve learned I’m simply supposed to love God, to love people and to laugh whenever possible. This year, I’m going to just focus on following Jesus, and my guess is His strength will get me farther than my own.

Kera Package is currently living in Ibiza, Spain, volunteering with 24-7 Prayer. Follow her adventures at

This article was originally published on Used with permission.



BJG commented…

A great book on this is Mad Church Disease - Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic by Ann Jackson


Samuel Blair commented…

Well done! I'm a hospice chaplain, have been one for about 7 years. Burnout is generally seen as inevitable in this position. Our company has over 50 employees and I can count on one hand those that have been here as long or longer than I have. It wasn't until Clinical Pastoral Education that I really saw how burned out I was already. And btw I just turned 40.

I appreciated the fact that your article wasn't the same litany of "do this, this, and this...". Usually when I read those "help with burnout" articles I just feel like yelling "I can't DO one more thing!!"

I'd also add to keep your options open. I journaled once that for us ambitious types, it's tempting to see a closed door as something merely to push harder against rather than God telling us to do something different. Callings change, so be open to when it does.

my journal is here if anyone likes: http://hospicechap.wordpress.c...


Erin commented…

Thanks for the post. I work a full time job, spent several years caring for a sick family member, and serving at church. There have been times where I have simply had to drop the ball and just take time for me. At first it felt selfish, but I have found that I cannot give to others what I don't have. Rest is definately worship. :)

Natalia Martinez


Natalia Martinez commented…

Well, here's me venting:

I'm burned out right now at my church. I'm the youth band director, the Sunday and Wednesdayservice pianist, and the Missions Ministry Leader. I work a fulltime 8am-5pm job at a Market Research company and study 6-8pm for my Bachelors degree in Music. I've been feeling so empty these past few months...I recognize that I've neglected my devotional life. I don't even want to get up for church most days now. Sometimes I even want to quit. But I thinkmy understanding and belief of God's love and plans for my life stop me. Myreasoning is the one stopping me. But themost of me, my body, my mind, myemotions just want to quitchurch life. I think this problem of mine is alsodue to the factthatfellowship at my church is becoming a burden. Gossip, hypocrites, superficialness, critics... it's suffocating, it's toxic.I read this article, I understand all its truth about prioritiesand rest, but I feel I don't even have the strength to do that. I don't have anyone to be accounatble to. I don't trust anyone at my church really worries about me. They just worry if there is someone to play the piano today. If there is someone to once in a while remindthem to give to missions and to run a Missions week.Heck, I'm being accountable to an online magazine.I feel like my church pastor and leaders are always rushing from one side to the other to deal with urgent mattersbut not with important matters. They're always reacting (their reaction timenot being soon either), and not preventing. I grew tired of rushing aimlessly with them.I'm tired.

Sarita Hartz Hendricksen


Sarita Hartz Hendricksen commented…

This was a great article. I could really relate to it as a missionary who lived in Uganda for six years. In fact, I've written something similar for missionaries on what I wish I'd known about missionary burnout, which is an ever increasing issue.

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