Recovering from Spiritual Burnout
Burnout is a type of exhaustion caused by feeling constantly overwhelmed by prolonged physical, mental, and emotional stress. Many people think of burnout as something related to a person’s career, but burnout is also common among caregivers. In fact, many people caring for a loved one also end up dealing with spiritual burnout themselves.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care Chaplain Coordinator Tim Jensen sees this firsthand both with colleagues and with family caregivers.
“With caregivers, there are certain people who put others first all of the time. They’re not taking care of their own needs,” he explains.
“On flights, they tell you to put the breathing apparatus on yourself before helping someone else because you can’t help them if you pass out,” he adds. “But in regular life, some people never take care of themselves, and they end up hurting themselves as well as the people they are trying to care for.”
Symptoms of Burnout
Most people have days when they feel tired or stressed, but burnout is more than just one bad day. The symptoms begin slowly and build over time. Some symptoms to watch for when dealing with spiritual burnout include:
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Lower immunity or frequent illness
- Changes in sleep habits or appetite
- Using food, alcohol, or drugs to cope
- Headaches or muscle pain
- Taking frustrations out on others
- Feeling helpless, defeated, and trapped
- Feeling detached or alone in the world
- Loss of motivation or withdrawing from responsibilities
- An increasingly cynical or negative outlook
- Isolating from others
- A feeling of failure and self-doubt
- A decreased sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
Spiritual Burnout Recovery
When you are dealing with spiritual burnout, problems seem insurmountable. But there are positive steps you can take to begin spiritual burnout recovery.
“It starts with good self-care,” says Tim. “Think about what reenergizes you, what refreshes you, then find a way to do that. Maybe you just need someone who can come stay with your loved one for a couple hours, so you can go to church, or shop, or go for a walk in the park. Allow yourself to go and not think about the person you are taking care of for a little while. Rest. Walk. Shop. Don’t feel bad about it. People beat themselves up for being out for just a little while, but you need to live your life and take care of yourself.”
Making Peace with God
Some people dealing with spiritual burnout feel like they’ve been abandoned by God. They ask, “why is God allowing all this to happen to me?”
Tim shares, “Whenever someone has talked to me about that, I have tried to make them understand that life is something that happens. It’s not happening to you. It’s just happening. What you have to understand is that while this is happening, God is with you. He’s helping you through this. People feel like they’ve done something to cause this or God is angry at them. Or they get angry at God. But God is not afraid or intimidated by your anger. He will weather your anger and will stay with you and help you through this.”
When dealing with spiritual burnout, it’s important to take steps to correct it before it harms you or the people around you.
“Don’t wait until it is overwhelming to do something about it,” Tim advises. “We tend to put off making changes or decisions or asking for help until it’s too late. You don’t want to wait until you’re sick or you have to go into the hospital or you’re having a nervous breakdown or emotional breakdown, before you ask for help.”
Crossroads provides support to patients and their families who are dealing with serious and terminal illness. For more caregiver mental health resources and information on how we can help, please call 1-888-564-3405.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2021 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.