Taking a Whole Approach in Preventing Burnout

As the pace of our world and our lives continues to quicken, and the demands often seem endless, many of us are at a constant risk of emotional, social, physical, and even spiritual burnout.  Even when we recognize that we are endowed with many gifts and blessings, and that life does possess meaning in various ways, we can still find ourselves drained in ways that leave us with little to give others.

Over the past two decades, through my own challenges, curiosity, and scientific and theological research, I have discovered that unfortunately, the keys to confronting this threat are not widely available, integrated, and explored across religious and secular wisdom.  While no one desires burnout, many times the advice offered only provides temporal relief, and not an actual process and approach that we can adopt in our whole lives.  But when we do come to embrace these keys, and become excited about the potential they have to create greater resiliency and capacity, not only does the possibility of burnout significantly lessen, but the fear associated with this potential (which often is just as bad) increasingly subsumes into a greater resolve. 

The list below (with articles/resources linked) is what I believe are the top 10 most important tenets in combatting burnout.  While each deserves a book (or podcast) to flesh out the details inherent in each of them, there is little doubt that starting with these ten areas of focus each day provides a framework to pursue flourishing as God would intend. 

1.  Sleep is one of the greatest assets and essential functions to prevent burnout.  When we do not make sleep one of the primary priorities of our life, we are inviting in the demons of our days.

2.  Most people who think they eat healthy actually do not.  When we come to learn how God truly ordains nutrition in our bodies and minds, we will come to understand a capacity that was previously unseen.

3.  The devices designed to bring convenience and access to our lives will drain us unless we learn to control them, and not they control us.  Sometimes this means foregoing them altogether. 

4.  Human beings were designed for regular movement not just to survive, but to thrive.  When we treat regular activity as something optional, we are welcoming stagnation and malaise into our lives

5.  All prayer has purpose and promise beyond our ability to comprehend.  But moving prayer, or rather praying in movement, provides opportunities that sedentary prayer does not.

6.  In order to experience God’s love fully and flexibly, we must continually and purposefully put ourselves in places of discomfort and deprivation.  If we don’t do this, we will struggle to experience the grace and gratitude that is inherent in the extraordinary posing as the mundane.

7.  If we are to truly come to know ourselves as a child of God, and God as our Father, we must come to both in silence.  Nothing—not even the best spiritual direction—will ever substitute for coming to know ourselves and God in the quietness of our souls.

8.  Life is an adventure being lived one second at a time.  All perspectives, all vocations must understand and embrace this.  Otherwise, despair will always be a doorway away.  The lows of life are replete with opportunity for meaning and growth, but only when we see life as the adventure it is.

9.  The people in our lives are one of the greatest gifts God will ever give us.  But we cannot depend on them, nor should they depend on us, for what we need and desire.  Only when we continually look to God and his entire creation will we free ourselves to love fully and live wholly.

10.  I am a child of God first and foremost.  No role, no calling, will ever rival this truth.  Being a pastor, a parent, a family member, friend, or worker may be my calling and my vocation.  But it is not my being.  Only that is a child of God.

One Reply to “Taking a Whole Approach in Preventing Burnout”

  1. Pat Navyac

    James, Our parish is conducting a fun and fitness challenge which is to walk 100 miles between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We have quite a few participants. I post updates during this time in our parish bulletin. Would it be permissible if I quote or use some of your material in the article “Taking a Whole Approach in Preventing Burnout”
    I heard you this AM on Relevant Radio, how inspiring.


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