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You Can Recover From Burnout: 12 Keys to Finding Your New Normal

6. Find Something Else to Take Your Attention Away From Your Pain

The problem with pain (or at least my pain) is when you do nothing you only have your pain to focus on.

Pain is selfish. It will demand all of your attention, unless you decide not to give it.

Distraction is a powerful tool to get your mind thinking about other things. Watch a movie. Go out for dinner. Go for a hike. Head out to a party. Take in a concert. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

At my worst, I would go to social settings and not want to talk to anyone, sometimes even ‘hiding’ from people behind my wife who is a foot shorter than me and 100 lbs lighter. But at least I went.

One night we hosted a dinner party and I left the table early and ended up crying in my bedroom for the rest of the night. But at least we threw the party. It got my mind off the constant cycle of depression.

7. Do What You Can

Again, you may need a long sabbatical. But I took three weeks off and went back to work. On my first week back in the office, it took me longer to write a three line email than it took me to write this entire blog post, but I focused on doing what I could.

The first weekend I preached, those who knew the shape I was in all told me, “We would have had no idea you were feeling so bad. You were amazing.” I knew how I felt inside, but it was good to know I could still be helpful to others in some way.

I think for me it was important to discover what I could still do.

When you’re burning out, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

8. Don’t Do Anything Drastic or Stupid

Underline this. Because my illness involved my mind, I was tempted to do all kinds of things that could have ruined my life.

I felt like abandoning my calling, running away from everyone I knew and everything I knew, even my wife and kids.

In my worst moments, thoughts of ending it all crossed my mind. I am so thankful I didn’t succumb to any of those impulses.

Some days I just said to myself “don’t do anything stupid today.” And if I didn’t, that was progress. I’m so thankful I didn’t do anything rash or irresponsible.

When you’re not at your best, avoiding stupid is a win.

9. Trust Again

One of the contributing factors to my crash was a few relationships (not my family) in which trust was broken. As hurt as I felt and as cynical as I was at points, I made a conscious decision to trust again.

And the wonderful thing is: So many people are trustworthy. And God always is. Trusting again after your trust has been breached keeps your heart fresh and alive and—ultimately—hopeful again.

10. Closely Monitor Balance

I used to pride myself in being able to go at whatever I was doing longer and harder than anyone else. Pride’s not a good thing.

I now closely monitor how I’m feeling, my rest and my balance between time with people and time alone. I’m hyper focused on it. Because I can’t afford not to be.

I build margin into my schedule because without it, the edge of the next cliff is right around the corner.

Margin is a leader’s best friend. The more you have, the more you thrive.

11. Watch for the Warning Signs

I watch these 11 signs of burnout diligently. From time to time, I’ll see a few of the warning signs creep back in. I tell the people around me immediately when I sense I might be heading for the cliff. And I pray about it and take a corrective course of action.

Sometimes you get false alarms. One time, I was two days into what I thought was a ‘mini burnout,’ but I sounded the alarm bells. In the end, it turned out to be my frustration over a leadership issue that was producing the symptoms. As soon as I cracked the leadership issue, the symptoms disappeared almost overnight.

But that kind of monitoring is for me central to staying healthy.

12. Take Full Responsibility for the Health of Your Soul

Nobody else is responsible for your health. You are. Pray, read your Bible, seek life-giving friendships, replenish your energy, eat right, work out, love deeply.

These things nourish your soul. If you don’t do them, nobody will.

Finding Your New Normal (After You Recover From Burnout.)

It took me almost five years to get back to normal…but I realized early on that normal wasn’t going to do it this time. This time, I needed a new normal.

Here’s why: Getting back to normal will get you into the same burnout it took you into in the first place. 

For years now, I’ve worked hard to establish new rhythms and patterns that could sustain my life.

In the process, I accidentally discovered something.

These new habits, rhythms and patterns didn’t just keep me out of burnout, they made me far more productive and effective.

I had spent my 30s wanting to write a book. Since coming back from burnout, I’ve written three and am working on a fourth.

I also started speaking to leaders, writing this blog and hosting a weekly leadership podcast, all the while holding down a full-time job AND having more family and recreation time.

The #1 question I get asked post-burnout is “How do you get everything done?”

I finally decided to summarize the principles and strategies in an online course called The High Impact Leader.

Whether you’ve burned out or not, far too many leaders struggle with overwhelm: never getting things done when they’re supposed to be done.

Constant interruptions and distractions keep many leaders from getting their most important priorities accomplished. In addition, work keeps bleeding into family time.

You don’t have to live like that anymore.

What About You?

It was a long road back for me personally, and I had to keep believing that God wasn’t done with me. Eleven years later I’m so thankful. Our church has never been healthier or more effective.

I am enjoying what I’m doing more than ever. And the opportunities before me have never been greater.

How much of that could I see or imagine 11 years ago? Exactly 0 percent. But I had to not give up despite that. In those moments and days where I still don’t feel good, I cling to the hope that the sun will rise again. And it does.

So that’s my story.

I’m praying for you today and I hope that in some small way this helps those of you who are defeated, discouraged or believe it’s over.

It’s not. Our God still lives. And He loves you.

What’s your story? What’s helped you or people you love?

This article originally appeared here.