Five Ways to Avoid Burnout
The other day I was on the phone with my coach, sharing all my ideas and dreams for my coaching and speaking business.
I was coming off a few incredible months momentum, which included speaking engagements in Seattle, Orlando, as well as more coaching clients.
In addition, our family was doing very well.
However, in the same breath, I mentioned that I was tired, overwhelmed, and felt I didn’t have enough time to do it all - not only the work tasks, but also having solid quiet time or workouts. Not to mention I was not sleeping well.
Basically, I did a brain dump to my coach, as my clients often do with me - since we all experience moments like these where we are approaching being burned out.
After my rant, Brandon said:
'Your story is reminding me of Elijah. See ya’, I gotta get on the plane.’
His departure wasn’t that abrupt however, he had to get on a plane and couldn’t share his reasoning.
Curious about what the comparison was to Elijah, I did a deep dive into Elijah and arrived at some takeaways that I found to be helpful, so wanted to share them with you.
A quick backstory.
Elijah is a prophet from the Old Testament and first shows up in the Bible in 1 Kings 17.
Elijah’s story starts off with a run of incredible miracles followed by a temporary collapse from burnout in 1 Kings 19.
1 Kings 19 starts with Elijah taking God’s command to tell King Ahab, who was a bad man, that there will not be any rain for a few years. Knowing that King Ahab and his men would be after Elijah to stop this drought, God commanded him to go into hiding near a particular stream.
Elijah was to live by this stream and drink daily from the stream and ravens would feed him morning and evening. Elijah had the faith to obey this command!
Eventually, the creek dries up (1 Kings 17:7) and God commands him to travel to a nearby town where a widow will feed him.
He actually believed that? A poor widow is going to be able to feed him?!?!
When he meets up with the widow, she has very little oil and very little flour, plus has a son, which is another mouth to feed.
Yet, Elijah is faithful and bold yet again and says ‘Do not fear’ and that there will be enough to feed the three of them, which turns out to be ‘for many days’ (1 Kings 17:15).
Then Elijah participates in a crazy miracle of raising up this widow’s son from the dead. Here you can see Elijah’s relationship and dependency on God where he is openly frustrated with God and pleads to raise the boy, which God does.
Next is the big battle on Mt. Carmel against the prophets of Baal. Elijah sets the stage to have them lay down their animal sacrifice on wood and call to their god to have it be engulfed in flames.
Well, it doesn’t work.
These prophets get so embarrassed they end up making fools of themselves jumping around and even doing some self-mutilation.
Elijah’s turn was next and with bold faith, he made a dramatic scene. Elijah placed his sacrifice on the wood and then had water poured on the sacrifice and wood, not once, not twice, but three times!
After this, Elijah prayed to God, and the area was engulfed in flames!
Finally, after numerous years of no rain, the Lord sends rain.
So for numerous years, Elijah personally witnessed and benefitted from a long run of miracles.
Maybe you can relate to Elijah’s story.
Your miracles may not have been as crazy, however, maybe you have had a great run at work and at home. Numerous successful quarters in a row.
After numerous months of hitting your personal goals and dating your spouse.
However, it all comes to a screeching halt.
In 1 Kings 19:2 Jezebel says she will ‘make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Basically, she was going to have him killed.
Instead of praying to God to get out of this mess, King Elijah was afraid and immediately ran. (1 Kings 19:3 “Then he was afraid and he arose and ran for his life.”)
Why did Elijah run?
Why did Elijah believe in all the previous situations would end up well, yet, this time he freaked out and ran. In 1 Kings 19:3, it says Elijah escapes by himself to Beersheba and hides under a single tree.
I think he fled because he reached his breaking point. He was burned out.
After reviewing the story, I found five takeaways that were helpful to me, as well as my clients. My hope is they help you as well.
Five ways to avoid burnout:
Be restful Elijah was exhausted. He had been striving and working so hard that he was tapped out. He could not handle any more adversity or challenges. The same is true for you and I. When we are constantly striving, we eventually don’t have anything left in the tank to face another challenge.
How is your rest? What can you do to get more rest this season? What can you say ‘no’ to? Is it late-night TV, scrolling social media, or maybe even sending other team members to your meetings?
Be in community. Elijah was alone. In 1 Kings 19:3, it says “he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.” He ran away on his own. Also, he may have felt alone for a while because in 1 Kings 17-19 there is no mention of Elijah being with community.
How is your community? Are you in contact with good friends regularly? We often see executives in isolation. Too busy with work during the week, and family activities on the weekends. Week after week, this leads to isolation. If you happen to be in community, are you having conversations of depth (challenges and breakthroughs) or surface level (weather and sports)? How can you go deeper this week in your community?
Be humble. Elijah became too prideful. In 1 Kings 19:14, his mindset was “I, even I only, am left”. He didn’t think there were other prophets. He thought he was the man. He thought that God needed him to fulfill his mission.
Where do you need to be more humble? Do you think you are the only one that can do your job? A humbling idea is God doesn’t need us, but instead wants us. Elijah was putting the burden on himself that God needed him.
Be prayerful. In this instance, Elijah stopped praying. Up until this point, Elijah was communicating with God. When the widow’s son died, Elijah didn’t know what to do ‘and he cried to the Lord’ (v. 20). It is OK to cry out to the Lord our frustration. ‘O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ and then he does pray ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ However, Elijah didn’t pray before fleeing. He didn’t yell out his frustrations about Jezebel’s threats.
What decision do you need to ask God about? We approach burnout when we continue to try and make decisions on our own. However, we can seek guidance from God to have clarity and peace on the next decision to make. Just like you, there are times, I don’t get answers from God, but it is in those moments we need to have a posture of continually going to God, as opposed to shutting him out.
Be reasonable. Elijah had unrealistic expectations that he was done having adversity or naysayers. Often times in our pursuit of goals, we have unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish. It is said that we overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in three years. Maybe you thought that you would be further along by now. Maybe our employees can’t go 100 mph for 8 quarters in a row and they need a break. Or the market changes.
What are your expectations of the situation? Do you need to revisit them? Are they realistic?
No matter where you are on the spectrum of burnout, I encourage you to consider the above five questions as they have helped me slow down and make a few minor changes.