FIVE ideas to beat burnout

There’s power in going first, so I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve been pretty tired.

And maybe I’m not the only one?

Maybe what used to energize you feels like hard work. You have no capacity for criticism or condescension in any shape or form, real or imagined. People tell you that you’re being over-sensitive (and you’re over-sensitive about that). Maybe what you’ve taken on is unrealistic or unwise and all this is a sign of almost-nearly-burnout.

They say if you’re in ministry (or a parent – which is the same thing) you burn out quickest because you’re lighting fires for a long term cause. It’s possible that you’ll never see results, or be rewarded, Earth-side. That’s tough when people around you are ticking tangible boxes and achieving big, measurable things. You start doubting your calling. You even start doubting the One who called. And then when someone wonders when you’re going to get a real job you may or may not want to scream Do you know what I do for a living? I’m vulnerable for a living, ok? That’s what I do and it’s exhausting.

So I’ve been telling myself some truth – because I want to keep a soft heart and a strong spirit to keep doing what I’m called to do, for the fame of His Name. Here’s what I’m learning:

1 Don’t drive until the road runs out

In this brilliant article, Holly Gerth says that it’s stupid to keep driving until you run out of road. Rather, stop and refuel when your fuel runs low. Make hard stops for rest and prayer. Don’t think you’ll keep working until the work is done. It’s never done. Holly writes:

Jesus illustrated this when He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile’ (Mark 6:31). Those words might lead us to believe they had helped everyone they could and done all that was possible. But the opposite was actually true. The same verse continues, ‘He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.’

I’m convinced one of the reasons we see so much burnout, especially from those in ministry, is because we don’t think God gives us permission to pull away, slow down or take a break…

…while we get caught up in the urgent of each day, Jesus is focused on what’s important for a lifetime. He knows we may ‘gain more ground’ now only to lose all of it and then some when we come to a standstill from exhaustion. As a life coach, I said this probably more than anything else to clients: There is a significant difference between what’s doable and what’s sustainable.

Choosing to say ‘I’m done for now’ is not weakness. It’s wisdom… The work will be there tomorrow. The real question if we refuse to rest is, will we be?

2 Know your occupational hazards

Like people, occupational hazards can’t be solved, only managed.

As a writer/speaker, my top three creative spark snuffers are: tension headaches, fear (of failure and all forms of egg-on-face) and isolation. All three exist in my head (physically or philosophically), which is where I spend most of my time. And it’s hard to get away from my head because I have to take it with me wherever I go.

So I have regular physio to ease the knots. I do a dance class twice a week because no serious thought can contend with the volume. I smile and sweat and let the rhythm remind me that the world is a beautiful place. I write in coffee shops sometimes because the cost of a cappuccino is totally worth feeling part of society. I see friends. I sing loudly in the car. I share my ideas in safe spaces so that I don’t feel quite so me, myself and nobody.

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3 Stop with the false guilt already

The people you really should see. The things you really should do. The choices you’ve made that you really should explain and defend.

Stop it.

Start small. Like, I took Crystal Paine’s advice and cleared the book pile next to my bed because it mocked me and made me feel like the loser who wasn’t reading enough, learning enough, contributing enough. Now, I will read one book. And then another. And remain calm, and creative.

Burning out on obligations fuelled by what we assume others expect is a far cry from just lighting the next right candle. We’re asked to give an account for the hope that is in us. Nothing else.

4 Stop with the Messiah Complex

The world doesn’t need me, or you. The world needs the Saviour and we are not Him. Astoundingly, He chooses to use us, but no purpose of His can be thwarted, He will build His church, and there’s enough time each day to do His will. A friend reminded me that we are part of God’s Kingdom and God’s Kingdom is not in trouble. So then, neither are we.

5 Set freedom boundaries

Reign in the tired chaos with routine. Structure isn’t boring. It just writes the necessary in neat lines and leaves blank margins for wide open, easy breathing spontaneity.

So, be free to stay outside a little longer when the wind whips leaves across your lunch and you know the rain is coming. Listen for the colour of the storm on your skin. Hug your kid all elbows and giggles. Hide the stikeez and find the fun. Hunt for beauty, truth and possibility. Each day dawns within the safety of His new mercies and you’re going to be ok. You really are.

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20150913_173505 2015-09-17 10.02.56I have so much to learn. I’m happy to keep learning it here, with you.

‘Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.’

Hebrews 10:36

. . .

Thanks very much to those who sent are-you-ok messages last week when there was no regular Monday post 🙂 I may schedule posts every two weeks, until I’ve finished this next book (end-of-the-year-ish).

Always love hearing from you here, or on Facebook or Twitter.

More on some books and free stuff over here.

Featured image photo credit: Coralie van Reenen



  1. Always so good to hear from you and realise that at the end of the day we all have the same fears and guilt trips and business that just needs patient endurance and faith. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Dee.

    I resonate so deeply with this. You know how ministry fried me.

    Jesus – in his grace – helped me find ways back. Wayne Cordiero’s book, “Leading on Empty” was one of them. If any of your readers are in crisis, I would strongly recommend they pick it up and find the time to read it:

    As always, amazing stuff. You are amazing, friend. Jesus uses you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so timeous!

    I was asking myself (or God- one of those prayers at the stove)- Why is it that people in ministry suffer so much burnout? Why am I avoiding it by saying no to service and seeing the signs in those close to me in the church?

    Are we buying into a lie of: focus on God and He will sort out my life and family? I prayed with a friend whose husband after many years became a Christian. Their church got him into their discipleship program so fast that his head was still spinning when he was suddenly expected to serve most nights of the week. When he asked when he would see his family he was told: You will see them in heaven. Sadly he is now a very adamant atheist.

    I am not using this example to point fingers at a certain church but to find out: what is the lie/lies we are buying into? To expose them for what they are.

    I think one of them is, replacing God with the church and thinking: if I just do everything to further the specific church I am at, God will look after the rest.

    And the other lie is: only I can do this particular part of ministry.

    Thank you for this article and for your honesty and vulnerability.


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