Ever felt like you’ve just got WAY too much going on?
Like you just need to get away and hide? Like the house of cards you’ve built in your busy-ness is about to collapse?
And you just can’t handle it?
I have. And it’s no joke.
One time, I was in a particularly difficult season of life. The pace was high, and I was on the edge. I was in a meeting – a normal mundane meeting – and for no reason at all, I almost burst into tears. Stress had escaped the carefully crafted bounds I had created for it and was wrenching itself to the surface, I was almost out of control.
That day I realized I had let my stresses build for far too long unchecked.
Today – that may be you – and if it is, I’ve been there, and I’m with you.
In our culture, stress is universal. And burnout or breakdowns are common.
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that stress is confined to those with bad jobs, or tough lives at home.
It’s not – no one is immune.
I love my career, and I love my friends and family. I want to pour 100% of what I have into each – and that competes. It’s just not possible.
So, what do you do with that?
How do you protect yourself when your own drive pushes you beyond your abilities?
How do you handle stress without burning out?
I’ll be the first to say that I have made a lot of mistakes in this area – however, those mistakes have afforded me some great opportunities for learning.
Disclaimer – I’ve never burned out – but I’ve come close. I’m fortunate to work with some great leaders who have encouraged this topic to be an open dialogue. Also – navigating seasons of high pace is an active and evolving conversation for Sarah and I.
Here’s some things I’ve picked up along the way that I hope will be helpful to you:
1. Know Thyself.
Chances are you know when you are under a high degree of stress – but do you know how you got there? Or how to get back from there?
Each of us are wired a certain way, and the better you know yourself, the more easily you can unlock your triggers, symptoms and remedies to stress. The real ones… the ones that live beneath the surface.
I take pretty nearly every personality test I can get my hands on, as each reveal different things about me that I can use to grow and learn.
One of the best ones is the Meyers Briggs test, which you can take here. Once you have your type, head here to see how you navigate progressive degrees of stress, and also how to get out of it.
Knowing these things allow you to identify stress earlier, so that you may get out of it earlier, before you hit burnout.
Also, and this could be a whole post – know the things that fuel you, and get them into your schedule no matter how difficult it is.
2. Seek God.
When I am seeking God, I have a higher threshold of stress before burnout.
When I’m not, I am more likely to crash and burn. For me, this looks like regular prayer in solitude, or time in scripture. For you it may look different. It’s difficult to describe the cumulative effect of this if you are not a believer in God, but if I am doing these things I am generally a lot more resilient and joyful.
But believe me – I do need to work to make it a discipline just like everybody else:)
And before you picture me in a closet with my legs crossed and singing kumbaya – I have a 1 year old at home – so for me this most often looks like quiet time while I’m driving or a 3 minute pause for prayer before I leave the car.
If you are not rested, you will get taken out by burnout in a time of high stress.
Sleep. Do not stay up late watching Netflix. Do not work into the wee hours. These things will slowly start to take you down a spiral that it will be difficult to escape from – even if you fancy yourself a night owl.
It can be hard, but trust me, the more you cheat your sleep the more succeptible to burnout you make yourself.
4. Communicate with your spouse.
One of the best things I do for my marriage in times of high stress is communicate about it proactively with Sarah, and do it directly and honestly.
It’s better for us to look a month ahead and say “Ok, this is going to be an intense month, what compromises do we need to make for us both to get through it well?” versus hoping for the best and ending each day disappointed and exhausted with a list of unsatisfied expectations.
Proactive, honest communications about how time and energy will be directed are key here – otherwise you will compound the stress rather than mitigate it.
5. Exercise and eat well as often as you can.
These two simple factors count for a lot. When things get crazy getting them in as often as you can will keep you mentally and physically sharp.
Better fuel in the tank = better response to stress.
6. Become Great Friends With “Good Enough”
“Good Enough” is that friend that hangs around and nobody really wants to talk to – you kind of know they’re there but don’t want to be dragged into a conversation.
For perfectionists like me, you feel like nothing is ever good enough. However – in the unending pursuit to make something perfect, you will waste time perfecting one thing that you could have used to complete 15 things.
When things are busy – either at work or at home – you need to decide when something is actually good enough so that you can ship it and move onto the next. It may not be comfortable – but if you can master this relationship you can become a machine.
What works for you? What’s your top way to navigate stress without burning out?