After posting a blog called “Four Warning Signs You Are Approaching Burnout,” I heard from several friends and leaders who were struggling with burnout or felt they were headed in that direction. They wisely recognized warning signs in their lives and were committed to making adjustments. Self-leadership is critical. We must lead ourselves well, and this includes leading ourselves away from burnout. If you cannot lead yourself, you will struggle to lead others. If a leader is unhealthy, all those around the leader are impacted.
While leading yourself is vitally important, it is also extremely challenging. The famous pastor D.L. Moody quipped, “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met.” We struggle with ourselves. As you wrestle with the challenge of leading and caring for yourself, here are some practical ways to avoid burnout:
1. Listen to your body.
When you feel continually fatigued, listen to your body and get some rest. When stress begins to manifest itself physically, in eye twitches and random pains, listen to your body and make adjustments to your schedule.
Exercise helps reduce stress by producing endorphins that act as, to quote the Mayo Clinic, “medication in motion.” Exercise also helps you sleep better, which, of course, helps you avoid burnout.
3. Spend quality time with people who love you.
Christian community is nurturing. God uses community to shepherd His people. Spending time with people who love you is life giving.
4. Learn the rhythms of your work.
Every role has seasons that are more intense than others. Learn these as quickly as possible, and schedule your life around them. Slower seasons are often the best time to take vacation time and more days off. Take advantage of the slower seasons so you are more prepared for the challenging ones.
When a leader suffers burnout, more than the leader suffers. Care for yourself so that you may care well for others.