Ready to quit? Practical advice for when burnout takes hold
As a teacher, everyday can feel like one of “those days.”
A typical day at school includes: morning bus duty, parent conference, meetings during planning hour, department meeting after school, sponsoring clubs, lunch duty, paperwork, hopefully planning for the next day — oh, and teaching, too.
Like many teachers, my days are jam-packed on top of being a wife and mom. After one particularly full morning, I looked at the clock and realized I felt like I had worked a full day before it was even 8am. Students began flooding the halls. But when I closed my door and began teaching my eyes met with a few students, and I remembered, “This is why I do what I do. They are why I do what I do.” It is easy to understand burnout and turnover in the teaching world, and I bet your job is much the same.
God can do it all, but He chooses to work through us and allows us the opportunity to co-labor with Him.
In Genesis 1, our first description of God is Him at work. In imitation of God, we work, too. God can do it all, but He chooses to work through us and allows us the opportunity to co-labor with Him. This work brings Him glory and brings good to the world. Our work may look different — CEO, teacher, engineer, parent — but the concept of burnout and the temptation to quit is universal.
So what do we do when an overbooked day is a normal day, when burnout seems to come with the pace of the job? Can we break the cycle?
Five Ways to Fight Burnout at Work
1. Remember your purpose.
Psalm 127:1-2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Our work is meant to fulfill God’s plan and purpose. When it's uncomfortable and you want to quit, remember His calling is greater than our comfort.
2. Be intentional about who you spend time with.
Stay connected with others so you don't feel isolated, but choose a healthy community for yourself. Avoid negativity. Proverbs 13:20 cautions us to think about the company we keep: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” If burnout is a tendency, be wise. Surround yourself with positive people who will remind you of what’s eternal and help you be true to who you are in Christ.
3. Ask for help if you need it.
In Genesis, we see that God delegated work to Adam. He gave Adam the job of naming the animals. Likewise, find places where others can help you if you need it.
4. Be a lifelong learner.
Attend conferences or professional development to hone your skill and find opportunities for growth. Throughout the Bible, we see the disciples and others choosing to spend time listening to what Jesus has to say. We revere the disciples as they were chosen to spread the Gospel, but throughout Scripture, we find them at the feet of Jesus soaking up His words. They knew the value of being a lifelong learner.
You probably read that and thought, “Yeah, right!” or “You don’t know my job!” You’re right, but rest must become a regular practice for us. The good news is that Matthew 28 promises if we take our burnout to Jesus, He gives us rest (Matthew 28:28-30).
I’m still learning to put these tips into practice, and some days I’m more successful than others. But time and time again, I’ve seen that when I follow God’s commands and Jesus’ example, life really does get better. Maybe not easier, but better. Because while my workload as a teacher is still the same, I’m better equipped to handle the pace when I’m listening to Jesus and doing what He says.