Before I became a Christian, I was what you might call a perfectionistic high achiever.
I pursued high grades, college scholarships, and whatever awards and accolades I could get my hands on. But as I matured and saw how empty these selfish ambitions were in and of themselves, I started yearning for a different direction in my life.
Enter Jesus. I fell in love with him and his church when I was 19, and started pouring my life into more “spiritual” pursuits.
But as it turned out, the perfectionist in me didn’t really go away. I continued not only to pursue excellence in my schooling and career, but I also drove myself hard to be an excellent Christian.
I led Bible studies and small groups, organized and volunteered on committees, participated in the worship team, served in children’s ministry, hosted people in our home…if a need existed, I was there to meet it.
People who live like this are destined to crash and burn.
In other words, we eventually hit Christian burnout.
It’s a contradictory term. When we’re really living Jesus’s teachings, we should feel the opposite of burnout. He’s the guy who promised rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).
Burnout happens when we take on loads we’re not meant to carry.
My sanity started to crumble around the time I had kids, because I was carrying so many responsibilities that I was no longer emotionally stable. It’s a long story, but over several years, God revealed to me that I am not a superhero, as much as I really, really, really want to be one.
So what about you? Are you resting in God’s strength? Or are you taking on more than you’re meant to carry…and burning out because of it?
7 Signs of Christian Burnout
While burnout is not exactly a disease, there are a few symptoms of being overstressed that can indicate you’re pushing yourself too hard.
1. Your physical health is suffering:
Insomnia, weight fluctuations, muscle tension, fatigue…These are all signs that you’re not taking care of yourself, and it’s taking a toll on your body. I have to remind myself sometimes that Jesus himself chose to be in human form. He needed to eat and sleep and rest so that his body could function well enough to get up to teach and heal the next day.
2. Your mental health is suffering:
I used to burst into tears weekly, at least, because of the pressure I felt to “do it all.” In retrospect, I may have been dealing with postpartum depression. What I’ve learned since then is that it is okay—healthy, in fact—to slow down sometimes and let yourself process your feelings. You can say no to commitments. You can talk to a counselor or medical professional. These are not signs of weakness, but of humanity.
3. You mostly say “yes” out of obligation:
While it’s healthy to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time when it comes to meeting needs in your church and community, something is wrong if pretty much everything feels like a chore.
4. You don’t have time for regular self-care and rest:
When life is demanding, self-care can feel downright luxurious. I had to learn the hard way that since I am not a superhuman, however, to look at is as a need rather than a luxury.
5. You’re not anchored in Christ:
Trust me, I know from experience that you can look like a Christian rockstar and be completely at odds with the Holy Spirit. I think of the example of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Poor Martha; she was trying to be a phenomenal hostess for Jesus and yet Mary, looking like a total slacker, “chose what was better” by sitting at Jesus’ feet and letting him speak to her heart. You can check all the boxes on your good Christian list, but if you’re not being transformed in the presence of Christ in your life, you’re going to eventually burn out.
6. You are resentful and cranky:
I know myself well enough now to recognize that when I am reacting in a cranky mess—even quietly—something is off. That’s a sign I need to evaluate how I’m doing, spiritually.
7. You want to rebel:
Yes, this is actually normal. We’re much more likely to crack when we’re under pressure—Jesus’s disciples demonstrated this more than once. Whatever rebellion looks like for you, you’re much more likely to succumb to the temptation in a state of weakness, like when you’re burned out.
Is Constant Striving Taking a Toll on Your Spiritual Life?
If so, one book I’d highly recommend is “Made Like Martha” by Katie M. Reid.
This book is perfect for overachievers, as Katie extends an invitation to “discover what it means to rest as God’s daughters without compromising their God-given design as doers.”
Full of biblical truth, spirituality, and hope-filled freedom, this practical resource will really help you embrace your life as a woman who gets things done.
This book resonated with me so much, I had to recommend it to several of my high-achieving, driven to perfection friends. Do you need to hear this message too?
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through my links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the many costs of running this site and allows me to help provide for my growing family. Thank you!
What to Do About Christian Burnout
If you’re like me, you’ve either crashed and burned living like a “good Christian” or you’re on your way there. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prevent it!
1. Practice Sabbath
Yes, Sabbath is still relevant today, and it is so much more than just having a bunch of rules one day a week. It’s a way of living, so that you can recognize your limits, know when to stop, and trust in God’s strength rather than your own.
I set boundaries and expectations for myself and our family daily, weekly and monthly, so that we do not push ourselves beyond what can realistically do.
(My course, Choose Rest, explores this in depth!)
2. Set Boundaries
If you find yourself saying “yes” to commitments beyond what you can realistically take on, I encourage you to explore this concept. You are responsible for yourself and your decisions; you are not responsible for other people’s feelings about your decisions.
3. Work on Your Time Management
So many burdens cease to be problematic when you are more aware of where each hour of the day goes and prioritize what’s more important. Even if you’re not naturally good at time management, it’s not a difficult skill to learn.
(See more: The Ultimate Time Management Guide for Moms.)
4. Get Real and Vulnerable in Your Friendships
Part of undoing my superhuman wannabe tendencies has been getting help from my fellow humans. My mentors and peers have helped me work through my feelings and weaknesses, so that I’m much more aware of my motivations and limits.
5. Go to God
This seems so obvious, yet it can be the thing I avoid doing when I’m struggling with burnout. Ask God for help, for wisdom and for guidance with your priorities and how you spend your time. Meditate on his word. Rest in his presence. I believe then when you do this in earnest, it becomes pretty obvious what you should do.
Have you suffered or are you suffering from Christian burnout? What do you think would help?
Guest post by Gina of GinaMPoirier.com.
Gina is a happily married mom of three, stress management coach and writer who helps overwhelmed, exhausted moms find peace and purpose in the everyday. Check out free resources for Christian moms at ginampoirier.com.