Burnout is almost an epidemic among leaders today, and whether you’re a leader or not, learning how to recover from burnout is major. It’s no longer just reserved for over-40 leaders either. Even young leaders are burning out. No longer is burnout an “I’ve been at this too long” kind of phenomenon.
So what happens if you burnout?
Can you come back?
Will you lead again?
Can you thrive again?
Is there hope?
Twelve years ago, I burned out.
It was the first time my fatigue pushed me over a cliff and left me unable to get back. It was more than physical exhaustion…it was emotional exhaustion. I had led for 12 years, but clearly, I had not processed my leadership properly. My first decade in leadership pushed me past the brink of burnout.
If you want more about my story, I write about it in detail in my best-selling book, Didn’t See It Coming. Maybe your spouse or best friend saw your burnout coming, but usually the person who burns out doesn’t.
Personally, I’ll never forget the depth of the despair.
And yet, a full twelve years later, I have never felt better, never felt more alive and never been more productive in my life.
10 Insights on How to Recover from Burnout
1. LIMITS EXIST FOR A REASON
As a young leader, it’s so easy to think limits don’t apply to you. In some ways they don’t.
Until they do.
People kept telling me I would burn out.
I thought I was invincible—and I was so wrong.
I have a much greater respect for God-given limits: limits for how much I can do, what I should be involved in, and even how much sleep I need.
I’ve discovered that when I respect limits, I ironically get far more accomplished. The desire to burn through all limits many leaders feel, is, in the end, counterproductive.
2. GOD IS STILL PRESENT, EVEN WHEN HE FEELS ABSENT
It’s hard to feel God’s presence when you’ve hit bottom.
There were months where I simply went through the motions—praying, reading my Bible and following God as best as I could, even though I felt nothing.
There were moments in which I felt there was no way God could be present because clearly I had failed him, or I wouldn’t be feeling the way I did.
But that simply isn’t true.
God was very present when I was burning out. In fact, he was doing some deep work in me: prodding, shaping and refining who I was. You could even argue he was preparing me for what was ahead.
Did it have to be as painful as it was? Of course not. Had I listened earlier and heeded the warning signs, I probably wouldn’t have burned out.
But God is sovereign, and his faithfulness doesn’t depend on me.
God is still present…even when he feels absent.
3. YOUR UNRESOLVED PAST WILL SINK YOUR FUTURE
Unprocessed ‘issues’ are deadly.
My wife had urged me to go to counseling for a few years before I actually went. I was too proud to go. I sent people to counseling, I didn’t go to counseling.