Our 13 Favorite Books of 2023
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Over the past couple of months I have discovered a lot about burnout and how to recover from it. In this post I will share with you how I identified burnout in my own life and the key components that have aided in my recovery. Recovering from burnout isn’t quick or easy, but tapping into true rest, connection with trusted friends and meeting God in your brokenness will make it possible to overcome.
At the end of this past summer I began to notice it. I was feeling fatigued and even a bit down. I couldn't really put my finger on it and decided to chalk it up to exhaustion from running the kids around for 3 months straight and having little time to myself.
A few weeks later as I sat on the couch in our basement, the flood gates opened. Mac and I were talking and he simply asked a question. He said “Jos, I don't feel like you've been yourself lately, what’s going on?”
In an instant I was sobbing uncontrollably. It took me off guard. I didn’t understand why one simple question could be so exposing.
What I have discovered in the weeks and months following this moment has been quite a journey.
I discovered that I’m suffering from BURNOUT.
Herbert Freudenberger defined burnout as having 3 components:
I was checking all the boxes.
I am well acquainted with the fact that most of the roles I play as a nurse, mother, and pastor’s wife are caregiving roles. What I wasn't aware of was how disconnected I had become from my own feelings and needs.
I was carrying a lot of anxiety from the past 4 years: experiencing a deep fracture in our church community, watching countless patient’s die before my eyes (despite working tirelessly to save them) during the pandemic, raising 3 boys–one with special needs.
I thought it was normal to just keep going. One foot in front of the other. If I’m still standing, then I can keep giving of myself. But what I was coming to realize is that the years and years of giving to the unceasing demands of my life had come at a cost.
As Trisha Taylor from The Leader’s Journey describes it, burnout is not just from working too hard. Burnout is caused by the compounding anxiety that you absorb as you take on a high degree of responsibility. And the people most susceptible are those that are driven by passion to care for others.
Burnout is caused by the compounding anxiety that you absorb as you take on a high degree of responsibility.
Coming to this understanding was incredibly enlightening for me, but it was only the beginning of a long road to recovery.
My first instinct was to learn all I could on burnout and self-care. I wanted to quickly heal from it so that I could just move on. But if I know one thing from the past couple of months, recovering from burnout is not a quick fix.
Recovering from burnout is a process. In my own recovery process, God has been gently leading me to wholeness and restoration.
The first milestone in my journey to recovery was giving myself permission to rest. By rest I’m not just talking about a nap! I’m talking about discovering and rediscovering what fills me.
My therapist explained it this way. When we are young we have all sorts of hobbies. We find a myriad of ways to have fun and play, to engage our senses and release pent up energy and frustration. But as we age and the responsibilities of life become more intense, the stress tends to weed out our creative capacity. Before we know it Facebook, Instagram and binging Netflix have become our hobbies!
Finding both active and passive forms of rest is crucial in restoring a lost sense of passion that we feel when suffering from burnout.
While vegging out on technology may feel good at the moment, it does very little to feed our souls. Finding both active and passive forms of rest is crucial in restoring a lost sense of passion that we feel when suffering from burnout.
For me I’ve rediscovered music. I love to sing and play the piano, but it's a hobby that I haven’t practiced regularly in years! Now each night I play for about 15 minutes. It’s relaxing, peaceful and it makes me feel alive.
The second large piece in my recovery has been connection. In addition to a professional therapist that I meet with each week, I have had to intentionally reckon with where I really am in the presence of my inner circle.
A week after my couch moment, I woke up feeling anxious. Instead of carrying that anxiety by myself, I picked up my phone and texted one of my closest friends. “I’m not doing well, can we talk?”
This moment of choosing vulnerability and connection instead of isolation was a big step for me. I like the feeling of having-it-all-together. I prefer to process the hard stuff on my own, then bring people in later when I have it all figured out.
But processing my level of burnout was not going to be a DIY project. It was far too multilayered to attempt it on my own. As I brought others into my struggle, I began to unpack emotions and lived scenarios that I had unconsciously suppressed over the past 4 years.
I needed the support and grace that my inner circle surrounded me with to find wholeness again.
Rest and connection are then what led me to this third and final piece on my journey to recovery, which is meeting God in my brokenness.
I wish I could tell you that I started here, that I ran to the feet of Jesus the minute I started sobbing. But it wasn’t until I slowed down and started to unpack this mess that I truly realized my desperate need for Him.
I had been trying to do it on my own and with my own resources. I was trying to fix my own burnout. But no matter how much effort I put in, I couldn't heal myself.
All of my attempts at fixing myself had led to more anxiety and exhaustion rather than health.
So out of desperation, I laid down flat on my back and said. “God, I’m a mess right now and I don't even know where to begin.”
And the most beautiful thing happened. I could sense the peace of God wash over me like a wave and his presence warm me like a big bear hug. Then I felt him saying to me, “Josie, I see you. I know right where you are, I’ve been here the whole time. My resources are endless and I am working to restore you. You can’t heal yourself, but I can.”
This final piece has been the most transformative yet most difficult one for me. I initially resisted surrendering this to God because I wanted to maintain some semblance of control in a season when I felt so out of control.
But what I have come to realize is that all of my attempts at fixing myself had led to more anxiety and exhaustion rather than health. God was patiently waiting for me in the very center of my brokenness, reminding me that he is the only one that can pick up all my pieces and put me back together.