Avoiding Burnout: 31 Tips for Entering the No-Fry Zone
Author’s note: Some of you know that I struggle painfully with overcommitting, overworking, and a number of other (uh, prideful, fearful, faithless …) related issues that cost me and the ones I love. So before school kicks off, I am posting this list in hopes of a more God-loving, people-loving year for me and anyone else who would benefit.
1. Sleep may be more important than you think it is. Remember, God made it. Get some.
2. Mentally set a time on the clock when you will stop working and do something that replenishes you. If you need accountability, tell someone in your household and ask them to hold you to it.
3. Pray about every activity to which you’d like to say “yes.” Ask God to uncover your motivations for a “yes” and pray about whether He would have you say “yes,” too. Make sure your hubby is on the same page, and when appropriate, invite your children’s input.
4. Make a goal to spend a certain amount of time playing, cuddling, and/or generally enjoying your kids every week or every day. Though there will be other times to pursue some of your activities, their childhood is only now.
5. Politely say no.
6. Take one day a month or a week to “fast” from technology. Ask yourself if you really need to be that accessible.
7. Talk with your husband about reasonable limits for your kids’ activities and the effects your decisions will have short- and long-term. Seriously consider the cost-benefit ratio, and pray together with open hearts about your schedule(s).
8. Ask for help when you need it.
9. Swap babysitting with a friend for one day. Consider taking part of the day as a spiritual retreat, and part to do something you thoroughly enjoy.
10. Set up a regular date night with your husband.
11. If the “good” is the enemy of the “best,” decide what you’ll set aside (e.g., that basket of laundry) for something more important (that game of Chutes and Ladders your kids have been begging to play, or calling a friend).
12. What projects on your back burner would make you feel the most relieved if they were tackled? What friend might be willing to lend (or swap) her expertise in organizing, artistic skill, or childcare to help you dig out?
13. Politely say no.
14. Take a bath, eat something you really like, or enjoy the equivalent that causes you to slow down, savor God’s goodness in this moment, and remember His sufficiency to fulfill what is necessary.
15. Slowly read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.
16. Examine whether you have enough relational breathing room in your schedule to enjoy friends, extended family, your kids, your marriage, and your walk with God.
17. Remember irreligiosa solicitudo pro Deo: A blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for Him (from Hilary of Tours).
18. Rest one day a week. If it helps, make a few guidelines for yourself about what you won’t do (empty the dishwasher, cook, answer e-mail … whatever works for you).
19. When you feel your stress levels rising because of your task list, take five to 10 of those critical minutes and “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Completing your task list with Godward joy and worship and peace means the difference between tasks that make His Kingdom come … and tasks that make your kingdom come.
20. Sit down to have conversations, eat meals, take a deep breath, and pray. Recall that for most of history, people have had this luxury.
21. Trust God to provide other people to do what needs to be done.
22. Observe the immediate and distant effects of your schedule on your kids. When they look back at their childhood, what will they remember? What will they know was most valuable in your home?
23. Read Gary Thomas’ Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?
24. Set aside a day or a portion of a day just to play with your kids.
25. Memorize and meditate on verses like Psalm 23, 127:2; Matthew 6:31-34; Ephesians 2:10; and James 3:13-18.
26. “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”—John Ortberg
27. Think about the things that you do to relax … and whether they actually relax you. Do you know what rejuvenates you?
28. Politely say no.
29. Create pockets of silence and rest in your life. Turn off the TV, the iPod, the radio. Use the time to simply, quietly be with God instead.
30. How would you complete these sentences? Pray about what your answers reveal.
• “If only I could ___.”
• “I cannot wait until ___ is over.”
• “If only I had ___.”
• “The last time I felt like this was ___.”
• “I wish ___ would just do his or her share.”
• “I have to do ___, because ___.”
• “If I had an extra 24 hours, I would ___.”
• “I hate being overwhelmed, because I get so ___ with the people I love.”
• “I am drawn toward [insert activity], because it makes me feel ___.”
• “I can’t stop ___, because then ___.”
31. Ask God to help you listen to Him. Then practice, practice, practice.