Self-care Is Not Selfish

Even God rested, ya know?

Genesis 2:2-3

Why have we fallen into this social norm that you have to put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own to the point of neglecting yourself?  We are all guilty of having burnt the candle at both ends from time to time, but what happens when the candle burns out? How do you know when the candle is burnt out?

Here are some sure signs of burnout (paraphrased from Carey Nieuwhuf in Didn’t See It Coming.)

  1. Your Passion Fades – when the things that once made you excited or made you happy can’t satisfy you anymore, your passion is dying.
  2. Numbness – you struggle to feel the highs and lows of life.  You know how you should be reacting, but you just can’t.
  3. Disproportionate Response – for me this is one of the tell-tell signs. The smallest thing will trigger a grossly disproportionate response. Once I spilled a cup of water on myself and cried for three hours.
  4. You Are Peopled Out – this is how we say it at my house. You just don’t want to be around anyone.  The people that usually energize you and make you happy are just draining.  
  5. You’re Becoming Cynical – you’re just a bucket of cold water.  Anytime someone is excited and has something hopeful in their lives, you come along and splash them back to reality. Really you’re just a negative Nancy.
  6. Nothing Satisfies You – no matter how much you sleep, eat, pray, etc., you just can’t be satisfied. This is also a symptom of depression and could be a red flag.
  7. You Can’t Think Straight – squirrel! Multi-tasking is a myth! You physically cannot divide your attention effectively and do it all.  If you can’t control your thoughts and your mind is racing – you’re burning out.

I am burnt out.

For years I have ran a marathon with a few sprints thrown in every few months and haven’t taken the time to recover.

Matthew 11:28-30

Recently, God has been showing me I have my life out of balance. I have been using a shotgun approach, scattering my efforts everywhere when I should be using a sniper rifle and really targeting my time.  When I was in college I took an intrapersonal leadership course. We studied various leadership theories and one I really enjoyed was the Dipper and the Bucket Theory by Donald Clifton. The theory states: we all have an imaginary bucket and dipper.  Inside our bucket is our happiness. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it is empty we feel empty. Our bucket is filled or emptied by our own actions and those of others. Your dipper is used to fill other people’s buckets. Unfortunately, if we aren’t careful, we can take all our own happiness to give to others and ours is never replenished.

My bucket is empty.

Under the guidance of my pastor, I made a list of all the things in my life that I’m giving my time to.  I was really honest with myself and started to categorize those things. I used a Marie Kondo (Tidying Up) type approach to my list.  As I looked at each item I asked myself, “How does this thing make me feel?” When I finished my list I found that there were about 15 things on the list and about 80% of the list gave me feelings of stress and anxiety.  The other 20% were things I truly enjoyed doing and looked forward to.

That’s just sad y’all!

When I looked at the list I tried to figure out, “Where is God in all of this?”  The answer? He wasn’t there. All I could see was my own ego and ambition. My family and friends barely made the list.  I was heartbroken. This was my fault. I had let everything and my own sin get in the way of what really matters. I crossed off the things on the list that I could get rid of.  Then I had a real conversation with God about what I needed to do to make that list better represent Him and my family. I developed the following filter for future commitments:

Does it bring glory to God or His kingdom? –

  • Yes – Do I have the time to commit that won’t impact anyone else? – Yes – DO IT/ No – DON’T DO IT
  • No – Do I have to do it? Yes-DO IT  No-If I want to do it, will it create more work for my husband or take away time from something else? Yes – DON’T DO IT/No – GO AHEAD

There are exceptions to the filter, but this is my starting point.  I also don’t commit to anything right away. I talk to my husband and really think about how this might impact my family and day-to-day operations of my life.  

“Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” – Paul Perkins

The first step to any recovery is admitting you have a problem.  I am burnt out. I self-medicate with food and more work. Unfortunately I can’t quit eating and I can’t quit working.  However, I can quit overeating and overworking if I start drawing better boundaries for myself and relying on God.  

You can’t recover from burnout overnight.  However, with the right balance of medical help, christian counseling, prayer, and rest, you can start to feel better.  I have been in recovery for the last month and I have already started seeing major improvements in my health and my demeanor.  I’ve started saying no and I leave work as soon as I can to keep myself from overworking. Big changes in my life are coming that will make it possible to spend more time exercising and caring for my family.  I am so thankful that God is still working on me!

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