They Do Exist.

10 Things I Learned About Burnout & Missing Out

Editor’s Note: I’m a chronic “yeah I can do that!” girl. Saying ‘no’ is not in my natural vocabulary, and I can vouch for Kera. I too, used to look down on people who played the “I don’t want to get burned out” card. But burnout is real, even when you’re young. I’d argue particularly when you’re young. Taking care of yourself is more important than not letting people down. Today’s post is written by Kera, who blogs at www.kerapackage.com and tweets at @kera_package. – Lauren

“You know they say it’s better to burn out than rust out, but either way you’re out.”

When this adage is shared, I usually scoff at the hypocrisy or ignorance of the statement. “You are telling me about time management? Mr. Over-Commitment himself is suddenly an expert on this topic.” Or I think, “Really? You always play it safe; you rusted out before you even started.”

It’s easy to mock others for fearing burnout when you feel like you are invincible. “I’m different than them. I’m young. I’m innovative. I’m resilient.”

But the tide turns when you realize that you are only twenty-two and you’ve already had a complete burnout. Twice. In one year.

My career as a missionary officially started in August 2010. I was getting paid to share God’s love with college students. Life couldn’t get much better.

By May 2011, I found myself completely burnt-out. I became rather indifferent towards my job. I wanted nothing to do with my friends. I struggled to spend time with God. My body was rebelling against me in a constant stream of illness. I was battling insomnia, forgetting to eat, and hadn’t consciously exercised in months. Some days, I found myself too worn out to even leave my apartment. I had no energy to do any of the things that I loved and no motivation to change my circumstances.

Thankfully, summer brings a welcomed change of pace in campus ministry. The break began with a confrontation with my roommate. She was concerned that I was falling apart and frustrated that our ministry was suffering because I wasn’t fully present. I knew she was right, but I didn’t want to hear it.

Fast forward through three weeks of me attempting to pull things together. At the end of May, I boarded a plane and headed to Spain for the summer. There I worked with an awesome team of missionaries focused on prayer and street outreach. My teammates confronted my over-commitment issues, forced me to learn to rest, and taught me how to live life with a healthy rhythm of work, play, and prayer.

When I arrived back on campus in early August, everything I learned about rhythm was quickly forgotten in the busyness of a new semester. Long days, sleepless nights, forgotten devotionals, and the resurfacing of all my bad habits. By early October, my boss noticed an onset of fatigue again and confronted me because I was seemingly withdrawn. Later the same week, I found myself spending the night in the emergency room because the combination of a virus, anxiety, dehydration, and exhaustion had left my body completely wrecked.

The last three months have been a slow recovery, but in the meantime, I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities. By time my body forced me to reevaluate my schedule, I had to put myself on the bench for much of the game just to ensure that I could continue to be a part of the team in the future.

Burnout isn’t just a word that older folk use to scare and contain the younger generation – as I had previously thought. It’s a psychological term used to describe exhaustion and diminished interested.

Here are a few facts, verifiable by good ‘ole Wikipedia and more reputable sources:

  • Surveys show that about one third of young adults struggle with burnout.
  • The most committed, enthusiastic employees are the most likely to burn out.
  • Burnout is a vicious cycle rooted in the compulsion to prove oneself.

For much of 2011, I tried to prove to myself and to others that I was making a difference. I worked harder, took on too much, and was fueled by a competitive desire to succeed. In doing so, I wrongfully attempted to take control of things in my life and simultaneously quenched God’s ability to work through my life.

As the new year rolls around and I prepare for another semester, I know that something needs to change. This time I’ve learned my lesson. Restoring a rhythm of work, play, and prayer is nonnegotiable.

I’m either an expert on this topic or a hypocrite for attempting to discuss it. Either way, I won’t try to prove myself to you. I’ll simply share some things that I know I need to keep in mind in this new year.

  1. Get the rhythm right. It’s actually prayer, play, and work. – Did you notice I inverted the order? Priorities make all the difference.
  2. Put God first and foremost in everything. – If I continually invited Him into every aspect of my life, I would have no reason to stress.
  3. Allow God to defend you. – God is my defender. I don’t need to justify myself to anyone. He’ll do it for me or kindly correct me depending on the circumstances.
  4. People who believe they can sleep when they’re dead never really get to fully experience life. – Sleep is so important. I can function on four hours of sleep, but what’s permissible isn’t always beneficial.
  5. Rest is a form of worship. – Over the summer, I had to retrain myself to enjoy free time. I’ve never been so thankful for opportunities to exercise, appreciate nature, play my guitar, write, hang out with friends, read, and just explore the awesomeness of the world. Rest is about trusting God enough to take the time to appreciate His blessings.
  6. Turn off the technology. – Let’s be honest, I don’t need my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and three email accounts pushed to my iPhone every five minutes. I tend to idolize technology as in I spend more time with it than I do with God and with people God has placed in my life.
  7. It’s okay to say ‘no’. – There is freedom in admitting that you can’t do everything.
  8. Be honest with yourself and your friends. – To guard against burnout, I’m inviting more accountability into my life.
  9. When you miss out, others are missing out too. – God placed me in my circle of influence to leave an impact. When I’m not fully present, I’m robbing people of what God wants to do in their lives through me.
  10. God is God. I am not. – If I remembered who God is and who I am in Him, I would be less likely to work myself to the point of burnout. He is in control, and as long as I follow Him, I’ll be okay.

In 2011, I tried really hard to be the best person I could be in my position. Obviously, I failed. I attempted to succeed through my own strength, and it quickly ran out.

I’m sharing this experience rather light-heartedly because I am truly grateful for the lessons I’ve learned this year. It’s much better to burn out in year one than to face the possibility of a vicious cycle of fatigue in the future.

Overall, I’ve learned that I’m simply supposed to love God, to love people, and to laugh whenever possible. This year, I’m going to just focus on following Jesus and my guess is that His strength will get me much farther than my own.


Want to join us & pass this along to other women in your life?
Follow Good Women Project on Twitter: @goodwomenproj
Be a fan on Facebook: facebook.com/goodwomenproject

Subscribe to our email newsletter for insider updates here or subscribe to the blog here. Or both.
Everyone on our team is volunteer, and we are funded 100% by you. If you'd like to donate, you can here.
We're also doing fun stuff on Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest!


24 Responses

  1. Liz

    This could not have come at a more timely moment in my life. Earlier this week I completely collapsed from overwork, stress and a lack of daily time with God. I never realized just how deeply rooted this compulsion to prove myself through work was in my life till now and boy is God letting me know it! What I had convinced myself was a virtue of hard work and discipline was actually un-Godliness in disguise. I'm taking the rest of the week off to relax and hopefully begin to build a more balanced lifestyle, somehow one week doesn't seem like enough. Thank you for writing what I needed to hear, here's to a new year of seeking balance, joy and an inner peace that can only come from seeking God.

    December 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

    • Thanks Liz! It was a blog posted on another website that actually forced me to start reevaluating my lifestyle: http://theresurgence.com/2011/11/08/10-signs-you-…. Too many of the signs were in my life, and I had to start reconsidering things again. Unfortunately, by the time I figured this out, I had a really bad cold and struggled to make the necessary adaptions. And, I found myself using my illnesses as the excuse when the problem was actually a little deeper. Good news is that I'm healthy again, and making the appropriate changes as I head into the new year. I'm looking forward to a better 2012- one where I'm completely me and completely focused on God throughout the year. My prayer is that this post will help others to guard against burnout and to better prepare for the new year as well.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      • Elisa

        I read that article as well last year and dismissed it as not applying to me… doing the cycle of fatigue, along with zero desire to read the Bible and seeing it as another task and seeing a "Too busy to pray means busier than God ever intended you to be" quotation was what got my attention a year later.

        I'm currently pretty pulled emotionally out of ministry, and just continue to cover the logistic aspects as I fall in love with God so I can just let HIS goodness pour out of me, instead of me pouring out myself and going to God to refill me. I've been trying to prove to God that I have worth to him. It's been harder than I expected to allow him to rewrite my heart.

        February 20, 2013 at 1:08 am

  2. Gwen

    Thanks a lot for the post, Kera. This is something I have often thought a lot about. There was a point in my life (late teens or early twenties, I can't remember) where I felt overworked – though not to the point where serious illness threatened. A very supportive family who noticed right away what was happening wasn't afraid to tell me that I needed rest.

    I still am trying to find that balance and not burn out. Saying 'No' is the hardest part for me, especially when it comes to ministry. I have yet to experience the freedom to say 'no,' without any feelings of guilt, to be honest. But I'm slowly learning that I cannot (and will not, come to think of it) do it all. I am learning that if for any reason I cannot be there, they still somehow get by without me. And that's okay.

    Thanks again for a great post!!

    December 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

    • Thanks Gwen! The honesty of supportive friends is invaluable. I owe a lot to my friends, especially my teammates this summer… for helping me recognize the problem. The funny thing is that none of my medical issues this year were serious; they were just repetitive as I simply failed to take the time to recover. I'm still learning what it means to rest, but I'm definitely closer to adopting a healthy rhythm as this year begins.

      I think what is helping me learn to say no is recognizing that when I say no someone else will be given the opportunity to say yes. God is big enough to show me what responsibilities are mine, and to inspire others to rise up and take the responsibilities that are theirs. What if my desire to overachieve prevents someone else from stepping into a role that they were meant to do? Also, if I keeping saying yes, am I really being faithful in putting my all into the tasks that were given to me?

      Thanks again for commenting! =]

      December 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

  3. This is so real!! It's good to know I'm not alone. Thank you for sharing!!! I needed this.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

    • It's good to know that other people can relate. Thanks!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

  4. Hannah

    Thank you SO much for sharing, Kera! I'm in the midst of a "crash", and am sick and stressed out. THIS WAS SO TIMELY…PTL!!! Your words have really helped to bring perspective, thank you!! God is good.

    December 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    • Thanks! I'm glad God is using my experience to give others perspective. That's awesome and super humbling. There are two worship songs that I've been clinging to over the last few months… perhaps you'd like to listen to them? One Thing Remains [ http://youtu.be/8l_jrjd2agU ] and This Night by Lydia Cash [it's on iTunes]. Lyd's song is all about emerging from a difficult season stronger because of the knowledge that God guided you through it. The process of recovering from a crash is hard, but you already said the key phrase "God is good". It's so true and He is totally bigger than seasons like this.

      December 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

  5. Wow, this was everything I needed to hear and more… a friend of mine sent this blog to me. Apparently, she knew I needed to read it. She knows my "I can't say no" problem in life and she also knows it was always to prove myself.. I'm 20 years old and started my junior year of college ready to prove to everyone I could handle anything that came my way and any leadership position. I started August 14th and was in the hospital by the middle of October. I had to try and find a balance from them on out but I kept failing. Eventually I just got tired too much to do anything which threw my balance off to the other end and I couldn't do ANY school work and my ministries suffered. What God helped me realize was that I hadn't said "here's my week, God — do with it what you want to". I said "okay God, we've got this opportunity this opportunity and this opportunity" and went at it without His consent. If I do that again next semester, I'm not going to last. And that's not the way things are supposed to be.

    This blog is going to be something I look back on often throughout the next semester that starts in 2 weeks… thank you for the list of things you need to keep in mind, because it's certainly things I need to keep in mind as well…

    December 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    • You've hit the key: offering God your week and your schedule and your energy… and pretty much your everything all the time. The most difficult things about this year for me was the fact that I knew better. I have had seasons where I live my life in constant prayer, and those have been the most fulfilling times in my life. I know from experience that I should start everyday by approaching God and asking what He has for me. Yet, even after I restored that rhythm of life over the summer, I felt like I had to prove myself when I returned to campus and attempted to take control again. That never works. God's way is always better. One thing I've found helpful is scheduling times for God and scheduling a Sabbath day or portions of days. I have to put them in my planner and have accountability partners ask about my devotions and times of rest/recreation. Otherwise, I find myself failing to actually follow through with my intentions.

      Thanks for sharing your experience! =]

      December 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

  6. Aanna

    It is difficult for me to get my brain around the fact that just because I’m capable of doing a task and passionate about completing it does not always mean God is leading me to do it. It takes serious prayer and evaluation to know what kind of activity to put in my life.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    • Aanna, I totally agree! I also struggle to wrap my mind around the idea that sometimes I need to give up what I am capable of completing in order to take on something that God has called me to that is way beyond my limits. I'm learning that sometimes I need to say no to what I can accomplish in order to make room for what God wants to accomplish both in and through me. It's crazy how the whole "greater than you can ask or imagine" thing actually reigns true if we let it. I'm learning that a posture of prayer is absolutely essential.

      December 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      • “I also struggle to wrap my mind around the idea that sometimes I need to give up what I am capable of completing in order to take on something that God has called me to that is way beyond my limits. ”

        Oh my gosh. So true!!! You ladies are rocking my world right now!! Such an on time word for me. Thank you Jesus!

        April 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  7. I know that this is something I am really in danger of, and have felt myself on the brink of a couple of times before. In fact, a couple of times last year (first year of university) I even saw it coming, but didn't do anything to stop it. "The term is so long and there's so much I have to do and also so much I want to do – I'd rather use up all my energy and then recover from it at the end of term, rather than miss out on some things now." And in all honesty, that's still my attitude, half way through my second year. I spend the 11 week semesters flat-out doing stuff, adrenaline carries me through it, and then I crash for a couple of weeks at the end.

    The trouble is, I have a hard time changing things because I don't really WANT to change things – the not wanting to miss out on opportunities as they present themselves is a big one. "Oh, it's okay if I get a bit more tired, because otherwise I won't get to see these people I haven't seen in ages." / "It's okay if I get a more bit tired; I should go to CU because what if there's a really good message tonight?" etc. I don't want to miss out on things in the day-to-day, and I don't even WANT to want to miss out.

    This semester I was definitely much better at resting in God and drawing strength from Him, and admittedly the crash this Christmas was nothing on last year's, or Easter's. But I am aware that I'm in danger of it becoming more serious. A fantastic post, but I fear I'll find it hard to change anything unless I learn the hard way.

    December 30, 2011 at 5:08 am

    • I have the same habit! That's how this has happened twice this year. I totally saw it coming the second time, but by the time I noticed it… I consciously decided that I would wait and recover at the end of the semester. The problem is that I missed so much of the semester because I was tired and working at half capacity.

      "But that attempt to be all things to all people is really a form of pride. If you try to be all things to all people then you’ll end up being nothing to nobody. Why? You’ve got nothing left to give. No margin = no grace, no creativity, no vision. By trying to do more we become less." -Mark Batterson [http://www.markbatterson.com/uncategorized/guard-the-margins-guarding-your-heart/ ]

      At the end of every semester, we have a meeting with our student leaders to discuss how the semester went as well as strengths and weaknesses of all ministry. As I listened, I realized that I had very little role in the areas of strength. And the areas of weakness were areas that I was supposed to be overseeing or that I am extremely passionate about. I almost cried during that meeting, and I learned that I need to make taking care of myself a priority… because when I don't I miss out on being a part of what God is doing and others miss out on what God wants to do in their lives through me.

      I had to learn the hard way, but my prayer is that you won't. I know you don't want to miss out.. but think of how much you miss during those few weeks you crash. Or the times you miss spending with your family/friends at home during break because of the recovery period? Overall, you miss a lot more opportunities by overcommitment than you would be resting. Opportunities are presented in the margins.

      December 30, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  8. Erica

    I love how you wrote that "rest is a form of worship." One of our pastors preached last year that worship is a form of rest, and that one reason we are called to worship is that by doing so we better find our rest in God. That message has stuck with me all year. I liked how you flipped it for me, and offer you the reverse in exchange. :)

    January 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

  9. So true! Thanks for sharing! =]

    January 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  10. Pingback: Strategy vs. Submission | born today

  11. Awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing. Definitely needed this. I am nearing my senior year in college and starting my field practicum, and this last quarter before then has brought me some serious burnout and doing the exact same things you described in your post!! I have been losing weight, not sleeping or having an appetite and struggling with anxiety which effects every part of our lives. I am slowly working to get myself back on track. Thank you for the reminder for myself and all of us out there that forget to take care of ourselves!

    April 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

  12. Tessa

    I have this post hanging next to my desk as a reminder… stop, rest, breathe! :)

    April 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

  13. Pingback: Workaholic: The Wrong Badge Of Honor - Good Women Project

  14. Pingback: When The Church (And Your Friends) Are Terrified Of Your Negative Emotions - Good Women Project

  15. Excellent blog here! Allso your web site loads up very fast!
    What web host are youu using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wiish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

    Also visit my web site :: fireworks for sale

    May 23, 2014 at 1:25 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>