I am a minimalist. My kids will thank me one day when I keel and they don’t have to un-hoard my household. However, like any trait, there are pluses and minuses. When the call went out recently to give our extra household items to a needy family, I had to go shopping! I don’t keep “extras”.
On the flip side, when I realized I was approaching burnout last spring, my first thought was, how can I minimize the damage? The inspiration came to me as I was driving to the gym to renew my annual membership. I pulled a U-turn, headed back home and tore up my back yard. It took me two months to rebuild the yard but in the process my soul was renewed, my biceps strengthened, and my burnout nipped in the bud.
What does shovelling sand, moving truckloads of sod and dirt, hacking out bushes and laying paving stones have to do with avoiding burnout? Change, my friend. Good old “change is as good as a rest.” If “rest” is the antidote for burnout, then people need to figure out what “rest” looks like for them.
Sitting in silence is not restful for me. It’s depressing. My default position is the Pit of Despond! The best kind of rest for me is enjoyable activity. I love working with my hands. LOVE IT! (I also love admiring — and bragging about — my handiwork over and over and over until my friends get weary and start avoiding me).
My “spiritual gifts” are: Hands. Humour. These are the two attributes God has gifted me with so that I can share His love with others. When I use His gifts, it makes others happy — especially if I have just painted their bedroom! Not surprisingly, using His gifts makes me happy too. Happy people are seldom sidelined by burnout.
So how do you minimize burnout? (Avoiding burnout is another discussion involving prioritizing, creating margin, and time travel to another century where things were simpler and we were less “connected”!) You find a way to rest that feeds your soul.
You might not have the luxury of a sabbatical (mothers of preschoolers say Amen and refill that coffee cup). You might not be able to quit that job or reduce your hours (mortgage holders and parents of hockey players sigh). You might not be at the end of a difficult season as a care giver…we attended a funeral recently where the widow shared her need for daily grace from Above in order to get through a two-year trial of loving her mate into his eternal rest. She’s exhausted. Is she burnt out? I doubt it.
So how do you rest? You get creative. I have a friend who NEVER takes a day off. Physical symptoms alerted her to an impending burnout. She got creative and carved out one day a month for a mini-sabbatical. Her hope is to increase it slowly until she takes a weekly sabbath. On her day off she does what she loves, what feeds her soul — extended time in God’s Word and an outing to a park or spa.
Tearing up your back yard might feel more like the disease than the cure but if you are seeing signs that burnout is the inevitable destination of the path you are on, take a detour. Figure out what you love to do, what feeds your soul, and then find a way to do more of it. Warning! Saying yes to rest will involve saying no to something. Probably something good. Choose life.