There’s nothing like passion. Seriously. When it comes to being an attractive representative of a product, organization, or idea, nothing speaks more convincingly than enthusiasm. People respond to charisma and energy. Sometimes this can be dangerous. Just look at the personality cults that are born, cause chaos, and die with a full belly of human souls.
Usually, though, it is a worthy and admirable thing when someone is so excited that they want to pass on the good news of their experience. Especially for people of faith.
Yet, the distance between being ‘on fire’ and being ‘burned out’ can be extremely small. Maybe just an inch or two. You know how burnout feels (if you don’t, you have my respect. Really, I am in awe of you.) Here are the symptoms of burnout:
- Your passion fades.
- You feel numb in circumstances that used to make you joyful, peaceful, angry, or sad.
- Little things make you disproportionately angry.
- Everybody drains you. You dread meeting another person because they may suck out your energy.
- You become cynical. This is different from healthy questioning or needing to be convinced.
- Nothing satisfies you. I first noticed something was wrong with me when I walked out of an exciting soccer match, not really caring what happened in the final half-hour.
- You can’t think straight. You may do rash things, like buy a sports car with money you don’t have.
- Your productivity drops. You work long hours but have little to show for it.
- You’re self-medicating. Think: addiction, escapism, sensation-seeking.
- Sleep no longer refuels you.
See yourself in this list? Well, you are not alone. Before the pandemic mental distress and illness were commonplace. During the pandemic they became universal. Now, after the pandemic, they still impact every family in the Western world.
I can identify passages in my life when I lost my energy, passion, desire, and motivation and contemplated chucking things in. Over decades I’ve come to understand a bit better how I got into those unhealthy situations, so I know what to look out for when I see them rising within me again
Carey Nieuwhof is a church leadership guru whose opinions I respect. He recently suggested that the entire country is experiencing collective burnout. He has a point. Read through the list above and you’ll see just how many symptoms of burnout apply to our national psyche right now. Numbness in the face of massive death from the pandemic? Check. Getting disproportionately angry about things? Check. Becoming cynical? Double Check. Everything draining us? Checkmate. Self-medicating? Game, set, and match (to mix metaphors).
Here’s Nieuwhof’s prescription
- Drink From a Deeper Well. “The main thing your social media and news feed do these days is feed your anxiety. What used to feed your mind and heart now just feeds your despair.” Pray, meditate, read scripture (but make sure it is not filtered by your news feed.)
- Bind Wounds, Don’t Aggravate Them. “What if you just decided that your approach in life and online was going to be to bind wounds, not aggravate them; to try to heal your enemies rather than harm them?”
- Offer a Real Alternative to Hype and Hate. “Our world is looking for an alternative right now. Deciding what you want to be known for is the first step in the right direction. The next generation is looking for an alternative to hype and hate. They’re looking for hope. The church is their best hope for finding that.”
- Take Care of Yourself. “This is a long, tiring journey we’re on. So, take care of yourself. What do you need to do today so you can thrive tomorrow? Cancel some meetings? Delegate a little more? Say no to some new opportunities? Go for a run? Get to bed early tonight? Stop drinking every night to relieve the stress? Take a nap? Get that workout in?”
- Unfollow. “The kind of people who are always stirring up controversy, magnifying division, and taking entrenched partisan (rather than principled) stands became such a distraction and agitation for me that unfollowing or muting seems to be the best option. It’s difficult to think (and pray) deeply when you have people constantly yelling in your ear about their take on every issue whether it matters or not. It’s hard to bring something positive if you constantly fill your mind with negatives. It’s hard to bring peace if you only fill your mind with division.”
‘Amen’ to all of that.