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Battling Burn-Out: Simple but Not Easy

One big homeschooling problem revolves around the questions:

  1. How can you avoid burn out?
  2. What can you do if you burn out? 

Before we can tackle these questions, we need to know what burn out is.

Burn out:  to fail, wear out, or become exhausted by reason of excessive demands on energy, strength or resources (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

Well, going by the definition (which I never really looked up until today, and which surprised me with its simplicity) there are two options to combat burn out.

  • You can either reduce the demands on energy, strength, or resources, or
  • you can increase the amount of energy, strength, or resources.

This sounds very simple, but I think it’s like dieting.  Everyone knows you have to use up more calories than you eat if you want to lose weight.  But it’s still an uphill battle to actually do it.

Similarly, battling burn-out is simple in theory but difficult in practice

  • First you have to step back enough to decide whether or not you’re making excessive demands on yourself.   (Husbands can usually tell.)
  • Then you have to decide whether you can reduce the demands, or increase the energy, strength, and resources, or do a combination of both.
  • Then you have to decide how to go about it. 

Ways to reduce the demands include managing your time, being organized, planning wisely, letting things slide, delegating, reducing expectations, evaluating your priorities, and understanding how God wants you to live.

Ways to increase your energy, strength, and resources, include adequate rest, excellent nutrition, moderate regular exercise, fresh air, sunshine, fun, laughter, relaxation, repentance, gratitude, and living by God’s Word.

Most people who are on their way to burn out, or who are burnt out, need help with these steps.  They also need help not to become burnt out about avoiding burn out.  If you know what I mean. 

My story:  Because I have excessively low energy and strength since becoming ill a few years ago (I have celiac disease and some other unknown energy-sapping, muscle-weakening ailment), I am very conscious of my daily ‘energy budget’ as my doctor calls it.  And I cannot do the things many people do without risking burn out, as my doctor regularly reminds me.

So I now live my life with much less strength and energy than many women, but God has blessed me even in this.  I’ve had to reorganize and reprioritize the things I do and find more appropriate outlets for my energy… non-physical outlets such as reviewing and blogging rather than heavy gardening, hiking, and lots of field trips.  I’m also working on getting stronger at my own pace, with the help of the encouraging Fit Mommies

It’s wonderful that I now have the energy to be a wife and mother, to homeschool, to manage the home (not to do all the work, though), and even, with careful planning, to garden. I’m very grateful for these blessings that I used to take for granted.  Soli Deo Gloria.

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that you talk about this now. Gerald and I were just talking about it last night. I've never really experienced true burn out – whenever I have felt that I needed a break or time off to get some other things done we would just take a day or two off, then when my mind was at ease about being caught up with other things we could get back to school work. I never worried about how far we got each year or when we would finish. Recently I made a week-by-week schedule for the first time, mostly for the sake of my high-school age girls, but also did it for the older elementary age girls. Then came the stress. We feel we have to keep up with it or we won't get done on time…we no longer feel free to have a day off when we really need to. I'm beginning to understand why so many moms burn out. Now I need to find a way to take advantage of the beneficial aspects of specific week-by-week goals while maintianing the freedom to ease off as necessary.

    Good to hear you are doing reasonably well and are keeping up with a good diet and exercise. Keep it up!

    Carmen

  2. AnnieKate says:

    You know, we found the same thing. Life got much more stressful when we set deadlines and goals. We started doing that for highschool, just like you.

    In fact, I'm just working on the weekly goals for our last term, and I'm dropping as much of the little ones' work as I can justify. The older children have to get theirs done, though.

    I'm still looking for the same balance you are. One thing that has helped us is taking weeks off regularly.

    Annie Kate

    Edited by AnnieKate on Apr. 8, 2010 at 5:21 AM

  3. proverbsmama says:

    This is another very wise and insightful post. I really appreciate your wisdom. You are a rare gem — wise, insightful, godly, refreshing. I deeply appreciate the things you share on your blog. Never discount the "ministry" the Lord has given you through your blogging. (((Hugs)))

  4. proverbsmama says:

    I'm glad my words encouraged you. As I was sitting there, pondering on what to say, I felt led to type those words. Somehow, I had a feeling that you needed to hear (read) those words, and I believe that is why I had that "nudging" of the Lord to type them.

    I plan to link to this post in the near future. I think these words are very timely for any woman. After all, don't we often fall into the trap of trying to be "Super Woman"? It's no wonder we suffer from burnout.

  5. Erin says:

    I have suffered burnout, a horrible, black pit of a year and then a 2 year climb out, still feel new in my new skin. Anyhow my experience was the 2nd point.

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