The first two articles in this series have focused on recognizing and treating burnout, but what if you are not burned out and just want to take healthy steps to prevent reaching a state of burnout? Here are a few ideas on how to start consciously making choices that will help prevent burnout in the long run.
1. Recognize the stressors in your life. One of the main reasons people become burned out is stress. As Hopson says, “burnout comes from too much stress stacking up over a period of time without relief” (Hopson, 14). To alleviate burnout, one must identify areas of stress and create a plan of action to relieve some of the stress or cope healthily with the stress.
2. Know how you recharge best. Remember that no two people recharge the same, so comparing your personal frequency of needing recharging or ways of recharging to other people is not usually helpful towards maintaining personal health. Remember also that, as people, we have many different areas or batteries that need recharging. We may spend time hanging out with a friend and feel we’ve recharged that area of our life but feel slightly drained still because we need to recharge the personal time battery or our spiritual battery. We need to know several ways we recharge best and vary our ways of recharging to help us recharge in each area of our lives.
3. Know Your Limits. By realizing both physical and emotional limits and realizing what the best way is to ‘recharge your batteries’ global workers will be more effective in ministry and less likely to burnout. Keep in mind that just as different people recharge differently, different people stress differently. One person may find a particular task or situation extremely stressful while it never phases his co-worker or spouse (Hopson, 1- 2). This in itself may become a source of stress if you notice the difference in reactions and begin to believe you alone are different and are reacting ‘wrongly’ to a situation when you are simply reacting ‘differently.’ (Maslach, 11). One of the best ways to help prevent burnout is to recognize when you are stressed and to realizing that you are not alone in your stress.
4. Asking for help when needed is a sign of strength, not a weakness. “No human is superhuman, and inevitably long-drawn-out stressful events will take their toll” (Foyle,31). Many people are reluctant to admit they are burnt out because it feels like a failure on their part, it means time needs to be spent to recuperate, and it will most likely mean they need to admit to others their need for help (O’Donnell, 98). The faster we recognize our own areas of weakness and acknowledge those areas by asking for extra help whenever necessary the less likely we will be to become overwhelmed and burn out. We were not made to live life on our own. We were each made with unique strengths and weaknesses so that we would lean on one another in those times of weakness and act like The Body is intended to act.
5. Be patient with yourself as you learn about yourself. It is interesting how it is often easier to be gracious to those around us than it is to be gracious to ourselves, isn’t it? Becoming burned out takes stress over a period of time. If we didn’t become burned out overnight, we cannot expect recovering from burnout to be an overnight process. We also can't expect ourselves to fully learn what might cause us stress and push us towards burnout overnight. It may take several months or even several years to recover from burnout, and even longer to learn and establish the healthy habits to prevent burnout. But take hope and know that the one who perseveres through the burnout will emerge stronger and will be better equipped to help others through similar experiences.
Foyle, Marjory F. Honorably Wounded, Monarch Books, 2001.
Hopson, Jodi; Hopson, Emma; Dyar, Jeff T. EMT-P, Burnout to Balance, Press, 1980.
Maslach, Christina, Burnout – The Cost of Caring, Prentice-Hall Inc. 1982.
O’Donnell, Kelly, M********* Care, William Carey Library Publishing, 1992.