Last week, we talked about 11 signs you might be burning out.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply recognize you’re burning out. Instead, you have to proactively deal with burnout. Next week, we’ll explore strategies for coping with burnout that you can do at home. For today, though, here are nine ways you can cope with burnout while you’re at work.
- Go back to good old fashioned contact work. The biggest sources of frustration for most youth workers are their colleagues and churches – not the teens they actually work with. So when tension starts to mount and signs of burnout appear, instead of sitting in your office stewing, meet a student for coffee or ice cream and connect with them. Talk about life and about Jesus and allow God to remind you why you got into youth ministry in the first place.
- Know what breathes life back into you and what doesn’t. What parts of ministry energize you? What parts of ministry deplete you? If you can’t readily identify these things, take time to figure out your answers to these questions. Each day, do at least one life-giving part of your job.
- Delegate. Once you know what energizes and depletes you, start delegating. Find people who are gifted in areas you aren’t. Ask them to do the tasks that deplete you in order to get them off your plate. Not only will doing so give you some breathing room, but it will also give others the opportunity to serve out of their giftedness.
- Disable your wifi. As we talked about last week, one of the signs of burnout is spending way too much time surfing the internet. So, take that temptation away. Turn off your e-mail and your push notifications. Better yet, when you’re at work, disconnect from your wifi. Instead of going online throughout the day, look at and deal with social media (including e-mail) only during designated times like when you first start working, return from lunch, or right before you leave for the day.
- Get outside. A little bit of sunshine can do you a lot of good. So take a 15-minute break and go outside. Go for a walk or a run or sit on a park bench and read a good book. At first you might feel like, “I don’t have time to do that!” but once you cultivate this pattern, you’ll start to see that the benefits you gain from a short break outside will more than make up for the 15-minutes you spend away from your desk.
- Change your scenery. Sometimes working from a new place can jumpstart your energy and creativity. So when the signs of burnout start appearing, rather than work from your office, work from home, a park, or a local coffee shop.
- Set a concrete time to end your day… And stick to it. As youth workers, there’s always more on our “to-do” list. It’s also easy for our work life to bleed into our home life, something that can accelerate your descent into burnout. Knowing this, set a concrete time to begin and end each day. Then, stick to whatever timethat is. Once you go home, don’t reopen your laptop. Don’t answer texts from students who just want to say HI. Knowing you have a concrete end time will help you work more effectively and efficiently throughout your day. It will also help you honor your family and friends outside the church. Finally, it will give you space to breathe, something that will, in turn, enable you to be ready (and maybe even eager) to serve the next day.
- Take a vacation… Or if you don’t feel like you can do that, a mental health day. Whether it’s for one day or three weeks, time away from your church, your ministry, and your job will do you a world of good and give you much needed perspective. For this to work, however, you truly have to be gone. So turn off your cell phone, leave your computer at home, and let the world – and your ministry – continue without you.
- Reconnect with God. When burnout looms, prioritize your relationship with God. While setting aside time to connect with God might be part of this, chances are good it won’t be all that’s needed. Sometimes, in the midst of burnout, our relationship with God just feels stale. So find ways to mix things up and connect with God in new ways. Take a prayer walk. Start a journal. Use an adult coloring book to reflect on Scripture. Pray in color. See a spiritual director.
How else do you cope with burnout while you’re at work?