Avoiding Burn Out

This is from a talk I gave at a teacher training back in 2002.  Funny how some things never change!

I’m sure most of you know what I mean by burn out. Burn out comes when you have taken on too much, and you hit the wall. Those things you were once excited about doing just piled up too high, and now you don’t like doing them at all. They are heavy. You are tired. The things themselves haven’t changed. You have.

So what do you do when you are burned out? It could be that you’ve been helping at your kids’ school or homeschooling or volunteering to help in countless ways. The things themselves are good, but there are just too many of them and not enough hours in a day. And once the peas start falling off the plate, you know something’s got to go. Keeping your perspective here will be helpful. Let’s remember that most of these commitments have deadlines and due dates, and then they will be over. That’s reassuring! My husband and I call these crowded times “hunker down times” when we just hunker down and plug on through. Sooner or later we will get through the tunnel and come out on the other side.

Meanwhile, we need to remind ourselves of a few feminine tendencies. One of those tendencies is to fill the vacuum. We see a need, so we move to fill it before considering all that filling it might mean. And once we fill it, we can’t just pull out without leaving someone in the lurch.

We often volunteer or agree to do things before we consider all the consequences. We might feel pressure or even guilt, so we volunteer to do things that we should have thought about for a week before we raised our hand. It sounded like a good idea at the time. We might be the impulsive type, and we make decisions too quickly.

Whatever got us into such a fix, it’s important to get out from under it in a gracious and godly manner. That usually means fulfilling our current obligations and then learning to be more careful. Sometimes husbands or fathers can come to our aid. “I really don’t want you to volunteer to babysit next week.” Ahh. What a nice husband to say such a sweet thing! It also means that we might have to acknowledge that we acted unwisely in taking on too much. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that we must hunker down and keep our promises. If you said you would be a substitute teacher for the term, then don’t back out now. If you said you would make three pies for the potluck, don’t show up with a bag of chips. If you said you would help with the field trip, you just cannot call an hour before and say how sorry you are that you just can’t make it. That is called flaking out.

One of the ways we learn to be wise rather than hasty in our commitments is by having to stick to them. Then, after we’ve done what we said we would do, we are in a position to say, “Self, don’t ever say you’ll do that again!”

Burn out sounds pretty bad. Let’s not burn out. It’s not a sin to be tired, but it can be a sin to give up and throw in the towel. Just take a breather and get some rest after you get through it. Then learn your lesson and take your time. Let someone else do it next time!

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10 thoughts on “Avoiding Burn Out

  1. Nancy,
    I bought this talk from Wordmp3.com several years ago. I most recently listened to it again while preparing for another school year. I have found that my husband has to help me guard my time and commitments. Otherwise, I try to put on the Wonder Woman costume and do it all…not a pretty sight! 😉

  2. Thank you for this. I’ve noticed that there are seasons even in this. There seem to be seasons where my energy, productivity and efficiency are running high and I’m capable of more. Then there are seasons when my frame is weak and I have to pay attention to that and not overload.

    I don’t think I have this talk, I’ll have to check. Was this a Veritas Press conference, ACCS or Logos?

  3. Yep, that’s me. I tend to want to throw myself into things headlong without really thinking about whether or not I can do it. Then I crash and my husband is left with an exhausted, depressed wife. So lately he’s been spending some time helping me craft routines (a real weakness of mine) so maybe we can avoid the sprint/crash cycle. It’s no good thinking I can tackle some huge project when all the previous week I’ve been too distracted to even make the bed :)

  4. Am feeling that right now, but for me it’s partially my sin of procrastinating that now has me in a “hunker down” mode. My deadline for the biggest commitment is Wednesday, so the end is in sight. It’s only 11:30 AM and I was needing a break already (been up since 5 AM) – hence checking your blog. Thanks for the encouragement to stick with it and keep it in perspective. Now, I need to get back to work!

  5. I’m just glad someone else said they don’t make the bed sometimes! That just made me feel 900 times better.

  6. Luma,
    This talk has been given a couple of times: the first time in 2000 in DC at the ACCS conference, and then I gave another version of it at a Veritas conference, maybe that was 2002.

  7. Hey Nancy. I just finished listening to it. I really needed to hear this. My weariness has grown over the last 8-9 months and I’m at a real low right now. This was very encouraging. Geoff listened to part of it with me also and I think we’ll both be discussing how to put into action some of the suggestions you made.

    Thank you again for the encouragement.

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