Recovering From Burnout

The state of our soul involves many things. One of the most critical factors seems to be burnout. Many good people who know and believe good theology find themselves in tall weeds because of physical, emotional, and spiritual exhausted. Deep fatigue has left them vulnerable so that their souls are at risk.

Why do we find ourselves so desperately tired?

In part the answer lies with our compulsions to do more than we are capable of doing in a healthy way. We are driven by something deep within which leaves little space for the nurture of our being.

Our compulsions are in service of addressing our exaggerated fear, shame, and guilt. If we are going to live more from our calling as Christians than our compulsions we must engage the disciplines of retreat and recalibration.

Retreat means giving intentionality to rest and reflection. Hopefully, we do that on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Recalibration involves a shift in our habitual and compulsive way of being a “me” which lead to burnout.

WHAT needs to be recalibrated?

1.  My Primary Relationships

The capacity for appropriate relational intimacy must deepen. The ability to be present and to nurture one’s most significant relationships must shift.

2.  My Deep Emotions

What we think matters, but what is happening emotionally within us matters just as much. Many of us are uncomfortable with emotions of anger, sadness, envy, jealousy because they don’t fit our idealized expectation of who we should be. However, WHATEVER EMOTIONS WE DISOWN WILL END UP OWNING US.

3.  My Source of Identity

The source of my identity is anchored in Christ or in an image forged from the demanding voices of my compulsions and expectations of others. This is why some of us work too much. Our identity is found in our activity, our successful performance. But ultimately, this proves exhausting because activity is never enough of a foundation and source for our identity.

HOW are these areas recalibrated?

1.  Spiritual Disciplines

Three disciplines are indispensable—Solitude and Silence, Scripture, and Prayer. But how you engage these may themselves need to be recalibrated. For example, we must BE READ by Scripture and not simply read it for what we think it might mean. Our prayer must shift from a lot of words to include a lot of listening.

2.  Spiritual Coach

Everyone needs someone who is down the road in age and life experience. We need a wounded healer who will walk with us. We need someone who has a clear and realistic understanding of the terrain of the soul. We need a spiritual coach who will help put our compulsions in the back seat of the car so that our calling and communion with Christ is driving our soul.

3.  Spiritual Friends

We must be willing to be known by others who have our best interest at heart and have the time to listen. We cannot change on our own.  

Burnout puts the soul at risk and that is serious business (“What will it profit a person if one gains the whole world but loses their own soul?”).

Retreat and Recalibration help anchor the soul in our identity in Christ and our calling. They help diffuse the energy of our compulsions around exaggerated fear, shame, and guilt. Remember, whatever else you are doing, the state of your soul matters more.