“I wonder what it would be like if I died?”
The thought came suddenly. I was raking leaves with my family and the whisper popped into my head out of nowhere.
Just as quickly as it came, it was gone again and I was left standing amongst the leaves considering the emotional ramifications of a thought like that.
It’s terrifying to have no control over a thought that comes without warning.
It’s confusing in the moment to not understand why it happened.
It’s shameful to admit to other people that this thought crossed my mind.
Recognize Your Red Flag Moments
It was in this moment that I admitted to myself I was more than just tired.
I have 6 years of experience navigating life with anxiety and depression. The realization that you are once again sliding into a dark place is crushing.
Not every parent will encounter clinical anxiety or depression in their lifetime, but I think many of us can relate to seasons of deep darkness.
The silver lining is that over time you can recognize these red flag moments and do something to change your trajectory.
Experience has taught me to recognize a number of red flag moments.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Avoiding connection.
- Having lots of “me” time and never actually feeling better.
- Lacking the energy to make meals or tidy your home.
- Wanting to play with your kids but unable to get off the couch.
- Avoiding devotions because you feel blah.
- Procrastinating commitments.
- Scrolling aimlessly on your phone.
- Presenting as happy to others though you increasingly feel more and more empty.
- Feeling horrible guilt about everything you’re doing wrong but are too tired to fix it.
If you can relate multiple items on the list above, you may be in a season of burnout. The great news is, you don’t have to stay stuck.
The rest of this blog post is based on the assumption that if you are worried about your mental health you are going to see a doctor. See a professional and take care of yourself.
When I am in a season of burnout I often think of the verse in 1 Timothy 6: fight the good fight. Here are some ways you can fight back against burnout and get your joy back.
Fight Back with Honesty
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
You know what? If you’re struggling you need to talk about it. Find people you trust and share how you’re feeling.
Don’t hold back; lay it all on the table.
When I finally let it all out I feel a weight lifted. I’m exhausted from sharing my heart but also feel hope. I suddenly see a light in what felt all-consuming.
Whoever you share with can also help you come up with next steps. You are now fighting the good fight with people by your side.
Fight Back with Compromise
When you are feeling burnout, consider the max-mod-min approach to decision making. For example, your house is an absolute disaster. It’s driving you crazy but you’re tired. Here’s how to problem-solve with max-mod-min:
Max: I could clean my house from top to bottom and get everything back in order.
Mod: I could do a 20 minute tidy to get the main floor clean.
Min: I could do nothing and leave it all for the weekend.
All of these options are perfectly acceptable. Think about your energy levels and what kind of effort you want to put forth. Then choose your route – maximum, moderate, or minimum.
When you are feeling burnt, it’s okay to choose min more often than mod or max. As you can, slowly choose to do a bit more.
A healthy balance in life is a mix of max-mod-min. Give yourself permission to find that balance at your own pace.
Fight Back With Rest
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The pace of our world is busy. People who struggle with burnout go through the motions of the day with automaticity. We wake up, do all the things, and go to bed heavy with the certainty of doing the same things tomorrow.
God designed us to have built-in pause points. We need time to stop and breathe. Consider finding rest in these regular opportunities to pause:
Daily: in your daily rhythm there is likely a period of down time. Is it right when you wake up? Is it your consistent lunch break? Is it right before you go to bed? Find a daily rhythm of quiet. This is likely when you should spend time with God and block out all the other noise.
Nightly: you are a finite being who needs sleep. God made you to need it. Get into your pajamas at a decent hour and go to bed.
Weekly: do you have a day of the week that is for rest? This is a day that is meant to recharge you. Spend time with your family, live life at a slower pace. In our home this is a great thinking day. We sit with our coffees, reflect, and encourage each other. We take naps, go for car rides, and order take out.
Fight Back with Thankfulness
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Choose to be thankful. Even if it feels like you are just going through the motions I challenge you to write down a few things every day.
Pretty soon you’ll be able to look back and see that your story is filled with glimmer moments where God showed up.
You can even step outside of yourself and show someone else that you are thankful for them. Write out a letter of appreciation for a friend or surprise a co-worker with a coffee. This creates moments of joy in your day.
The reality is that recovering from burnout is a slow process. Be gracious with yourself and be open with others. Slowly but surely you’ll notice the old you coming back.
Share this Post
Jerrah-Lee is a middle school teacher with two young kids. She’s been married for nearly 12 years to her husband, Kevin. She loves learning and in recent years has focused her attention on brain science and healthy family relationships. She also enjoys learning about how to organize her family life in a way that is practical and balanced.