When the chores and demands and obligations of Life keep increasing, and the rewards and gratifications keep decreasing, these are the ideal conditions for becoming burned out.
When the once roaring fire in the hearth is now no more than a puff of smoke, this is the context for burn-out.
When you feel hopelessly stuck, marooned in a malaise, and could care less, you just might be burned out.
Burn-out is real. It means that the soul has become an absence. It has disappeared or gone into hiding, and the desire to make or create anything has evaporated like a morning fog. Burn-out is a state of mind and heart. The mind is a tsunami of anxiety and worry. The heart feels broken or withered or both. Burn-out is not the human condition, but a condition modern Americans frequently create unaware.
Burn-out may not kill you, but it sure can contribute to your poor physical or emotional or spiritual health, and it can indeed kill the spirit. It encourages a spiritual paralysis, a lack of point, purpose, or hope, a marching in place in quicksand, and the pure futility of going incessantly in circles.
One sure sign of being burned out is to be easily and frequently irritated. We see our tempers flash for no reason, and we dwell on the smallest slight. We’re always feeling betrayed or let down or punished for no reason, and paranoia is a word we know hovers overhead. We plot revenge. We long to get even. We yearn to push someone down to lift ourselves back up. Like dry brush to a flame, being burned up only accelerates the fury of being burned out. The madder we get, the more our soul is being scorched and charred.
Being simultaneously burned out and up is a sure sign of worshipping at the feet of the triune God of PERFECTIONISM, PEOPLE-PLEASING, and PERFORMANCE. The more we strive to do it all and be it all and keep the dozens of balls in the air, the more furious we become at the chasing after wind, and the more irritated at ourselves for the stupidity of trying to do what we know cannot be done. This is the ramming of the head against the proverbial wall, until the head aches so bad, we cannot see where or why we are going.
There is a severe slump & slouch to a soul carrying the weight of the world. There is a grimace on the face, and the look of being ready to explode at any moment. Most of all there is sense of a spirit in ashes, a smoldering spirit, a hope in tatters, and desire that is in decay. Burn-out and being burned-up is a lethal combination, if not seeking to snap the body with stress, it is busy trying to devour all our joy.
How can we heal the soul being burned alive by excess expectation? By eliminating some of those expectations. We can choose to rest and relax, or add the kindling of being kind to ourselves. We can even be so brash as to use the bellows on the spiritual fire, and actually ask for what we need, or shockingly ask for assistance.
We can keep it simple. Take a good long walk. Listen to good music. Engage in chasing beauty around, or having a lovely meal with friends, where the conversation just might have some meaning. We can swim or dance or play a game or sport. We can savor the offering of a gift to someone, or making a phone call to a long forgotten friend. We can lose ourselves in a good book, or TV series, or meditation, or taking a drive about the countryside. You know the drill. Taking care of the spiritual fires must become a daily discipline.
Daily devotions will help tremendously. Take some quiet time, be still and serene, choose a sacred spot you love, and be there with your Self and your God. Do some solid and deep spiritual reading or reflection. And pray, pray a lot, pray without ceasing. Pry open your soul to the fresh air of the Word of God, which is always whispering in your ear that you are cherished and adored and beloved.
I further recommend counseling or therapy or guided meditation or yoga or 12 step groups or anything else which promotes and prompts you to pay attention to the state of your soul. Be aware of the state of your fire. Know how and when it needs immediate attention. It does not need to always be a roaring fire, but don’t let it become a dimly burning wick either.
Please also remember this, prolonged anger is always defeating and damaging to the soul. It is a wasting of time and talent and creative energy. Yes, anger can jar things loose, or light a spiritual spark, or get rid of some unhealthy toxins, but it can also bury us alive under an avalanche of negativity and cynicism. Anger should never become your mode of operation, or your daily fix, as addiction to anger only breeds contempt for Life and the eventual selling of the soul.