Unless you benefit from annual winter breaks in the sun, February is not necessarily a month we look forward to here in the UK. The long-range Met Office forecast invariably predicts cold and wet weather. It is still dark when you get up, the days are short and summer seems light-years away.
Add the usual pressures and stresses of a post-Christmas hangover, especially when the credit card bills arrive, and it’s easy at this time of year to run out of emotional energy.
For most of us, the weather and time of year just makes us feel low, vulnerable to colds or irritable. For some it may become clinical. Whatever you call it … depression, “burnout”, or “the blahs”… it is an inescapable warning light that something is out of balance in our lives.
Burnout is associated with situations that can hit us ay any time of year in which we feel:
- confused about expectations and priorities
- concerned about job security
- overcommitted with responsibilities
- resentful about duties that are not commensurate with pay
Burnout can occur when we feel we are unable to meet constant demands, and we become increasingly overwhelmed and depleted of energy. Debilitating sadness, anger or indifference can set in. The modern work-place is notorious for exacerbating the causes of burnout.
Try this test put together by Audrey L. Canaff and adapted from Recognizing Job Burnout by the American Counseling Association.
Are you experiencing job burnout?
- Do work activities you once found enjoyable now feel like drudgery?
- Have you become more cynical or bitter about your job, your boss or the company?
- Are non-work relationships (marital, family, friendships) affected by your feelings about work?
Do you find yourself:
- dreading going to work in the morning?
- easily annoyed or irritated by your co-workers?
- envious of individuals who are happy in their work?
- caring less now than you used to about doing a “good job” at work?
- regularly experiencing fatigue and low energy levels at your job?
- easily bored with your job?
- depressed on Sunday afternoons thinking about Monday and the coming week?
If you answered yes to five or more of the above, you may be suffering from burnout.
Mistakes that intensify burnout
Rick Warren suggests there are four intellectual triggers that make the physical burnout, so common at this time of year, worse than it needs to be.
- We focus on our feelings rather than the facts. The mistake of emotional reasoning says “I feel it, so it must be true!” The fact is feelings are highly unreliable. Great performers and athletes know they must learn to ignore the negative feelings they often experience after they’ve performed.
- We compare ourselves to others. This, of course, is a self-defeating trap. We end up comparing other’s strengths to our weaknesses, while ignoring our strengths. Or we foolishly label ourselves with derogatory statements. Labels never motivate us to change – they only reinforce what you don’t like about yourself. The Bible says you shouldn’t compare yourself to others because you are unique!
- We blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. You can influence people, but you can’t control them. People don’t always respond the way you’d like. So lighten up! Criticizing yourself or others is a poor motivator.
- We exaggerate the negative. This is called having a Pity Party. When you’re down, everything seems to look worse than it really is.
So what is the answer? There is a fascinating story of a man who experienced major burnout in the Bible and how God helped him recover (1 Kings 19).
Elijah was one of God’s prophets. Right after he experienced the greatest success of his life, Elijah’s emotions hit bottom. He was emotionally and physically exhausted. How did God restore Elijah?
God’s prescription for burnout
- Rest your body. God didn’t scold Elijah for feeling down. Instead he gave him a vacation with the needed food, rest, and relaxation.
- Release your frustration. Tell God how you feel. God encouraged Elijah to pour out his inner feelings to him. Prayer is a great way to let off steam. Remember, God isn’t shocked because He already knows how you feel!
- Refocus your life. Get your eyes off your problems and onto the fact that God wants to help you if you’ll let him. He can help you discover a new purpose and also provide the power to move in that direction.
To prevent or recover from burnout, learn to cultivate methods of personal renewal, self-awareness, and connection with others, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own needs and to find ways to get your needs met.
Think of your personal energy in terms of not only energy expenditure, but also of energy renewal, and focus on creating a balance in your life.
The Apostle Paul gives this advice “Do not be conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.” (Romans 12:2).
To enjoy a healthy, sustainable life, no matter what the weather or time of year, let your mind, your body, and spirit benefit from a regular service at Emmanuel or a church near you! Come for a check-up any Sunday. No appointment necessary.
For more information on overcoming stress and burnout visit http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm