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Burnout: Pull Over and Rest Awhile

Do you find yourself growing increasingly snappy at your volunteers? postponing phone calls? growing more and more impatient with kids? sighing a lot?

Perhaps you're not getting enough rest. Experts at the University of Pennsylvania claim that 40 percent of us are sleep deprived. In fact, "Chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness are now so common that they are, for the most part, simply accepted as the unavoidable price of demanding modern lifestyles," claims Lydia Dotto, author of the book Losing Sleep.

Unfortunately the price of modern lifestyles is high. Consequences range from slight irritability to impaired concentration to depression-and an inability to do God's work.

So how can you get this much-needed rest in your life? Ecclesiastes 3:1 claims, "There is a time for every event under heaven." Doesn't this include leisure?

Many of us have an allergy to rest-we avoid it like the plague. "A great number of people think they're wasting time when they rest," says Dr. Victoria Codispoti, who does psychiatric evaluations for a sleep disorder clinic in Akron, Ohio.

Do you operate as if work is the only virtue? Do you take to extremes the adage, "Idleness is the devil's workshop"? Are you subscribing to the more-is-better philosophy? If so, it's time to take a new look. Here are five ways to get started:

1. Reinterpret your concept of rest. Study the Scriptures to get God's perspective on rest. Proverbs and Psalms are especially ripe with the lessons of letting go and trusting God. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told his disciples to go to a "lonely place and rest awhile."

Rest is not laziness. It's regeneration. It's not a cop-out but a biological need. "People don't realize that their bodies need some period of rest every day," Codispoti says.

2. Discover your personal fatigue cues. For me, symptoms similar to "coming down with the flu" trigger my awareness that I need a break. Others get cranky or "ouchy." A friend of mine loses the ability to attend to one task at a time. If your cues signal fatigue, get some rest.

3. Take a lesson from Jesus. Did Jesus hurry? Did he dash around getting things done? Did he zip across the countryside in a flurry of accomplishments?

Of course not. Jesus stopped to be with people. He was never too busy to listen, to recognize people's needs, or to engage in long periods of prayer.

4. Be still. Can you really experience God when you're rushing from appointment to appointment? Can you pray while you're worrying about fitting everything into your schedule? Are you able to dwell in God's presence when you're dead tired?

Scripture tells us to "be still" in order to know God. Even Jesus needed quiet and solitude. Being still means stopping both mentally and physically. It doesn't mean going off in a corner to think about your problems. It involves spending quality time with God.

5. Create your own rest stops. Next time an event is canceled, rather than using the extra time to do yardwork or sort laundry, take time out for you. Bask in the beauty of a glorious sunset. Watch your favorite sports team on television. Maybe you'd rather listen to jazz, do a crossword puzzle, or read by candlelight. Whatever it is, it needs to be something you don't pressure yourself to do.

Or exercise mini-rest stops throughout the day by practicing the advice given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to "rejoice always." A positive attitude is a refreshment in itself. Take advantage of free moments to pull off your burnout highway and thank God for the singing birds or find three things you can thank him for today. As you do these things, you'll find much-needed rest.


Judi Bailey is a licensed professional counselor in Ohio. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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