Learn the Cure for Burned-Out Syndrome
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Burnout can occur for many reasons, and is common in certain professions, including the military, clergy, and healthcare. As a busy physician with young children, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith was a prime candidate. She remembers the day her chaotic life simply stopped her in her tracks: “So I did what any burned-out human would do after picking up the kids from day care. I set them in front of the TV with a snack, and I lay on the floor.” She remained there for quite a while. “The smile creeping on my lips was only mildly disturbed by the dog licking my face and the toddler crawling over my leg. It was peace in the middle of a mental storm. If I’m completely honest, I’m to blame for this storm. I created it. I fueled it. I continually recruit and pull others into it with me. I didn’t mean to do it. It was the reality of the life I created.”
Eventually, her husband found her there. “His smirk faltered when the first tear fell. I came undone. He kneeled by my side when the floodgates broke. Me. The strong one. I was burned out, and the life I had created was consuming all I held valuable.” It was then that Dr. Saundra determined to study what rest really meant and how she could make it work in her life.
SLEEP IS NOT REST
“Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual,” says Dr. Saundra. “Restoration is not mere cessation,” she explains. “Rest is not merely taking a break. Rest is about replenishing, restoring, renewing, recovering, rebuilding, regenerating, remolding, and repairing.” There’s no getting around it, she emphasizes. “Rest will win every battle you initiate with it. You can either honor your need for rest, or surrender to the one-two punch of a mandatory rest.” Dr. Saundra speaks nationwide about seven types of rest we need:
· Physical. Both passive (sleep, naps) and active (stretching, breathing exercises, prayer walks). “Sleep is required for health. It is not the foundation of rest, but the by-product of rest.”
· Mental. “The life-changing power of tidying up your mind starts with letting go of those thoughts that are not producing a positive effect in your life.”
· Emotional. “Authenticity is living and behaving in a way that is consistent with your core values, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s being real about your current state of affairs.”
· Spiritual. “Your faith and relationship with God affect your ability to feel well rested.”
The next three types of rest tend to be a surprise to most people, Dr. Saundra says.
· Social. “A lack of strong relationships increases the risk of premature death from all causes by 50 per cent. We need to be around life-giving people and limit time with negative, demanding ones.”
· Sensory. “Too much external stimulation clogs up your life and slows down the flow of rest in your body.” Most people don’t think about how much cell phones, radios, TV, and even our kids tire our brains, Dr. Saundra points out.
· Creative. “Creative rest lets you focus on your basic need for wonder. It’s allowing white space in your life and giving room for your creativity to show up.”
THE GIFT OF BOUNDARIES
Dr. Saundra offers a list of twelve “gifts” that rest provides, including boundaries, reflection, communication, freedom, faith, and productivity. She goes into depth on each, explaining the benefits. Setting healthy boundaries is one of her favorite gifts of rest, as it displays self-respect. “There’s nothing wrong with being helpful when it fits your values, your priorities, your energy, your gifts, and your passion,” she explains. “But there is something wrong with saying yes for reasons that have nothing to do with your heart’s desires and everything to do with the fear of letting someone else down. Much of the pressure we feel to do more and be more is not coming from God but from our own ambitions, from employers, from family, or from friends.” A few of the many benefits of setting healthy boundaries are:
· Emotional boundaries protect you from others’ abuse.
· Sensory boundaries protect you from fatigue and overstimulation.
· Social boundaries protect you from the perfectionism trap and value your inner circle.
· Spiritual boundaries provide room for unhurried intimacy.
CHOOSE YOUR BEST LIFE
A 2008 Gallup-Healthways well-being index showed that 55% of people describe their lives as difficult or struggling. “Over half the people in the room with you are miserable,” Dr. Saundra concludes. “Marriages are failing, suicide is on the rise. We are turning to anything that gives us a sense of freedom.” There is an alternative, she says. “You alone can choose your best life. You have to decide to make rest a priority. Your ability to identify which types of rest you are missing and correct your rest deficit is the key to enjoying the gifts and promises of rest.”
Dr. Saundra elaborates on the three promises she says will accompany getting all the types of rest we need. You will:
· Renew your energy. We do this through active and passive rest, she reminds us, as well as downtime. “You cannot have an energized life without downtime, and plenty of it.”
· Restore your sanity. This isn’t easy, Dr. Saundra says, but very possible. “It requires you to trust yourself, to love yourself, and to be patient with yourself. It requires you to honor the boundaries of your well-rested life.”
· Recover your life. “Happiness is not connected to an event or a goal but in being able to notice beauty in the people and situations around you. Your life becomes richer, your words more powerful, and your actions more purposeful. As you retreat from the business of busyness, you create space for the gifts of faith, choice, art, and productivity. In resting well, you recover your life.”
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