Esther Schubert wrote about this problem when addressing the problems that missionaries deal with (What Missionaries Need to Know About Burnout and Depression, Olive Branch Publications; New Castle, Indiana, 1993). Burnout and some cases of depression can be prevented. Here are ten ways that Schubert suggests for burnout prevention:
1) Learning to “off load” emotionally. This requires being in touch with ones own feelings, keeping short accounts (not allowing grudges and frustrations to build up in personal relationships) and dealing with issues as they occur.
2) Learning to say “no” when one is asked to do more than is reasonable.
3) Being alert to desperate feelings and understanding the emotional implications of those feelings. It may help to consider a “worst-case” scenario to defuse the subliminal unconscious fears. This will help any person confront the “what if” and to acknowledge the adequacy of God’s grace.
4) Eating a regular and balanced diet is certainly a great resource for good health and burnout prevention.
5) Making time for meaningful relationships and fellowship is necessary.
6) Keeping the capacity for laughter alive. Remember “A merry hear doeth good like a medicine!”
7) Exercise. Good exercise releases body chemical called endorphins that lift the mood and help in preventing depression.
8) Devotional Life. Our time in prayer and meditation compensates for the fact that many of our spiritual goals are vague. A strong prayer life provides us with encouragement. It creates a sense of God’s presence in our good times as well as our bad and challenging times.
9) Sleep Patterns. We must never forget that God is far more interested in us than He is in our work habits. We are not God’s pets; we are his “beloved.” If we wear ourselves out we will miss a wonderful opportunity of fellowship with the Lord. Self-destruction was not in His creative design.
10) Honor the Sabbath. All of creation is geared to one day of rest per week. Never forget that the Creator of the Universe took a day off himself.
These ten points can help prevent burnout from taking place. The first step however, is to acknowledge what is important to you. If you can understand that burnout and exhaustion were not part of God’s plan for your life this will be the first step to avoiding it.