Since counseling and ministry are helping professions, it is no surprise that burnout is an easy place to come to. It isn’t far-fetched to say that it’s even inevitable unless self-care is involved. This is scary to think about, I know.
Maybe you’ve experienced burnout before. Perhaps you’re on the verge of it now. Either way, it is a hard place to find yourself. To avoid burnout, you need to take into consideration three vital parts of yourself as a human being: your spirit, your soul, and your body.
These three are the same parts that you are teaching those sitting across from you to care for day in and day out. It’s time to care for your own to keep helping others. Here are five steps you can take to avoid getting to this place of burnout.
- Remember the Sabbath. In our culture, observing the Sabbath is a lost art. Even secular businesses used to close on Sunday’s, and the town was silent on this day. It has been seen as a day of rest for the human being. However, in the time we live in, we are always going. We are taught that rest is weakness and goals have to be met by moving full speed ahead 24/7. Within this busy way of life, it is hard to hit the brakes.Between work, commitments, family, staying healthy, volunteering, and so on, it can feel almost impossible to have a day out of the week set aside for rest.Nevertheless, it is essential. God worked, and then He rested.The Sabbath teaches us to lean into God’s strength and not our own. It shows us that we are incapable of doing it all at all times. It teaches us that we need rest to do good work. Follow God’s perfect example and begin implementing this weekly practice. Find out what it looks like for you.Make this your family day, your hobby day, your “no electronics” day. Make this a day where you remember who God is and what He has done. Observe the beauty of your humanness wrapped up in His strength. God is carrying you in your profession; you cannot do this alone. Use the Sabbath to become aware of this.
- Receive what you give. One of the most powerful things I was ever told by a counselor is something she learned from her counselor. It wasn’t only the advice itself that influenced me, but the fact that she went to counseling regularly! It is not weakness to need counseling.If you are in this profession, you believe this truth with all your heart. Put it into practice! Personal counseling should not stop when you become a counselor. We need others to help us grow and move towards health. Practice what you preach and get help for yourself. It is not weakness.
- Your family is your first ministry. Do you know what can cause burnout and lack of motivation for your career quicker than anything else can? Family neglect. This comes in many different forms. Neglect can mean being physically present but not emotionally present. It can mean being so tired from caring for your clients all day that when you get home, pent up stress comes out with those you love, and you snap.This may go on for a while, but once you realize how putting your family second is affecting them, you will lose heart and possibly even resent being a Christian counselor.< br/>Don’t let this happen.Make sure your family is first by not overbooking yourself. By taking time to spend just with them. By being honest about your day, your job, and how you are feeling. Your profession is not a typical 9-5. It takes an emotional toll on you. Make sure you are taking steps to love those closest to you well by being intentional.
- Have a healthy community around you. This one is vital for every Christian. But when it comes to the helping professions, you will notice the toll it takes to go without one much quicker. Build strong community. This means having life-giving friends to share with who will not judge you but will speak directly and honestly to you. This means having mentors and those discipling you to grow in your faith and become more like Jesus. This means having those who you are leading and walking alongside them.Nothing is more restorative than having an active community of people who stand by you and lift you up in prayer regularly. Having those you can take burdens to without fear and lean into is what will give you strength to get through the hardest days. The Lord knows we need a strong army of believers lifting us up. He will not fail to bring those who we need to us.If you do not have a healthy community of believers already, pray that God will bring you one. He will. If you already do, accept their love and help. Go to them when you need them. Don’t be afraid to lean into those who love you and who are for you in times of difficulty.
- Ask for help. If you are a Christian counselor, you love helping others. It is in your blood to build up and care for those around you. A downside of this is that your selflessness can sometimes turn into pride before you even see it coming. If you struggle to ask for help, you are not alone. You probably feel as if you should have it all together since you are walking people down a healthier road all day long. Don’t fall into this trap.Ask for help.Ask God for help and for His strength. Ask those around you for help. Whether it be in a real day to day form, or in an emotional way, don’t be afraid to receive. Start small if this is indeed a struggle for you. Implement little things that you can request from others to help you carry the load. You are not a burden. You say this to those sitting across from you in your office all the time. You need to believe it for yourself. You are loved, and you are not a burden because you need a little help.
Overall, you need to evaluate the health of your spirit, soul, and body. Then you can take the necessary steps to move forward and avoid burnout before it is close enough to burn you. Lean into God’s strength, not your own. Take counsel for yourself. Value your first ministry, your family. Surround yourself with a strong Christian community. Ask for help when you need it.
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Ana Nunez is a freelance writer and English Major who writes articles, devotionals, book reviews, and blog posts. She loves Jesus, reading, meeting with people in coffee shops, and writing her heart out. She was born and raised in Miami, FL and currently lives in Largo, FL. Catch her blog at https://anatheresann.wordpress.com