Facing burnout in your family
by Dr. Dave Currie
What is burnout?
At the core, burnout starts showing itself with a person’s growing inability to emotionally cope and effectively carry out their normal life responsibilities. This causes us inner stress. Through the multiplication of life pressures, mostly real – although some only perceived – the person becomes increasingly exhausted. They’ve been juggling too many balls for too long. There’s a sense of having to give and give until there’s nothing left to give. It’s the perception that all physical, emotional and spiritual resources are now depleted. Normal life coping methods in these times of stress just aren’t cutting it anymore. The load has become excessive – just too much.
It can happen to anybody
That’s almost always true. Well-intentioned, good-hearted people that can’t say ‘no’ are often most susceptible to burnout. I’ve seen it happen to the performance driven types and pleasing others types. It occurs to the most confident and the most insecure. It usually impacts those who haven’t begun to master self-regulation (when to say no) and self-care (what keeps me healthy). How are you doing?
Facing complicating life variables
The roots of burnout can include a variety of challenging life circumstances including health issues, family additions or disruptions, sudden and tragic crises, job changes or challenges, relational disappointments, financial crunches, spiritual disappointments and beyond. These life challenges cause significant stress to all of us but don’t always have to bury us. Your emotional resilience determines your strength to sustain the extra weight that they bring.
Signs and symptoms I’ve observed
The following list is not exhaustive but it is indicative of what you will begin to see in those battling burnout. The more of these that are present, the more you can believe burnout is present:
• An increase of life responsibilities that crushes with no relief or end in sight.
• A decreased efficiency and less enjoyment at one’s work or life’s tasks.
• A sense of falling short of personal goals and life’s roles.
• A feeling of not meeting other’s expectations – especially bosses and family members.
• A self-imposed guilt over this perceived failure and disappointing of others.
• Disturbed sleep patterns varying from restlessness to lethargy: no sleep to nonstop sleep.
• Emotional extremes that can swing from angry outbursts to emotional meltdowns.
• Irritability, agitation, frustration and an increased lack of patience.
• Mind racing and the increasing inability to concentrate for normal, required periods.
• Increased social isolation even in their most satisfying relationships.
• Sexual libido fades and frequency wanes.
• Increased and consistent life stress leads to anxiety, despair and depression.
• Spiritual disconnect often occurs. Where is God? Why is He allowing this?
• When at its worst, burnout can cause the need for a person to shut down life’s routine for a while, to emotionally and physically recover strength and perspective.
My Top 10 Steps in facing burnout
1. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re showing many of the signs above, admit it early.
2. Reach out to others; don’t isolate. Involve the Christian community for support.
3. Discuss your struggles with family and close friends – listen, pray and make adjustments.
4. Ask God and others about making small but wise changes to lessen any causes of stress.
5. Accept that it’s okay to cut out some activities for a season and re-evaluate later.
6. Choose to drop your self-induced expectations for a while – cut yourself some slack.
7. Find ways to stay emotionally healthy. Cast your cares on Him. What helps you most?
8. Keep being active. Physical strength fortifies your persevering and coping ability.
9. Surrender to the Lord daily. Seek Him in prayer and find strength in His Word.
10. Talk to a doctor, caring pastor or trusted counsellor if symptoms persist to a third month.
Though this is only a cursory treatment of understanding and overcoming burnout, it is my heart’s desire that you and those you love will better grasp the nature of this compounding life stress and how to begin to handle it. “Cast all your cares on Jesus, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Let me know if I can be of any help. Send in your questions and comments through our website at www.DoingFamilyRight.com. May the Lord be your hope and anchor.