The last few weeks, I have felt an overwhelming feeling of being "burnt out" and tired of my same old routine. Tired of being in Nashville while all of my friends are in Chattanooga and other places, and also tired of Nursing School and having no life other than school, studying, and work.
Every week our VP of Missions at Saint Thomas Hospital sends out a word of encouragement, and this weeks email caught my attention. Just thought I'd share it with you, and hopefully it will be as encouraging to you as it is to me.
Keeping Your Heart Alive
We are all familiar with the concept and phenomenon of “burnout.” It is the place where we find ourselves bereft of even one more single ounce of physical, emotional or spiritual energy. It is what happens to us when we have given, or been robbed of, all the strength we have, and the only identifiable characteristic that remains within us is an overwhelming sense of exhaustion.
We reach this point sometimes in our personal relational lives. Neighbors, friends, family members – those who inhabit the significant realms of our relationships – are experienced as needy and draining. We are overtaken by the complexity of their problems, by their inability to cope, and by the seeming absence of our being able to offer practical, effective and relatively immediate solutions.
We sometimes find ourselves in this situation when we are overcome by the tragedies, disappointments, failures, and setbacks experienced in our own lives. Often we are not able to see any way out from under the huge mound of troubles that are thrust upon us from almost every side.
At other times we experience being burned out at work. The tasks and opportunities that once excited and enlivened us have now become dull, tedious, boring. There is no sense of satisfaction, no enjoyment, only daily drudgery followed by more daily drudgery.
There is nothing wrong with having found yourself at one or even many of these dead-ends of life. In some ways these situations are unavoidable hazards for those who are willing to be open and genuinely engage in the lives of others and for those who are so generous as to put their “heart and soul” into their work. And so, the question becomes, “how can we keep our hearts alive in settings and among circumstances where it is so easy to lose heart?”
While not a “cure-all” formula, permit me to offer some observations that may offer relief and antidote:
-We need to be vigilant against the natural tendency of us all to view ourselves as powerless over the external forces of life circumstances. It is true that we have no power over sickness or death, no necessary control of global and national economic forces, no regulation of the behavior of others. But we do have complete control of our own integrity, a relentless persistence in our deep beliefs and convictions. In times of difficulty it is, indeed, easy to be overcome, but, for those who have taken time and effort to identify and cultivate roots in rich and immutable values, external adversity suggests that life may be very well changed, even radically changed, but certainly not at all ended.
-There is also a tendency within us to want to understand and interpret the events of our lives in the most simple of terms. We want things to be clearly right or clearly wrong, happy or sad, noble or base. We look at ourselves that way too, fairly consistently avoiding recognition of those unpleasant and painful sides of anxiety, anger, guilt, and grief. Because we regularly tend to ignore the “shadow” sides of ourselves, they become larger than life and more debilitating when they occasionally cycle into inescapable prominence. We do well to cultivate regular attention to all of our feelings, including the more distressing and negative ones, so that our hearts do not become untowardly dominated by any one or small group.
-We should take time to “polish” the vision planted deep within our hearts. The youthful idealism that promised so much hope and enthusiasm does not have to become dull and extinguished over time. We periodically need to remember those motivations and aspirations that prompted us to seek after love and to set high and lofty goals. The circumstances of our lives have certainly added more complication to their pursuit and attainment, but periodic remembrance, revival and resetting will keep the passions of the heart burning, providing sustenance and support throughout all our life.
Periodic exhaustion is to be expected in those who enthusiastically engage life and work. Incorporating regular rituals of reflection and rejuvenation provide the necessary periods of rest that build resilience and balance. Life is given to us as a gift. It may feel tattered every once in a while, but it is still a gift. Cherish it; care for it; keep your heart alive.
Jerry Kearney, Vice President of Missions, Saint Thomas Hospital