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Recognize Burnout Before Burning Out: Part 1

How do you deal with burnout before you've burnout?


Recognize Burnout Before Burning Out: Part 1

Gretchen Asuncion: Then it kind of blows up in your face of, oh, did I take on too much or I missed something. 

McGill Onate: There’s a lot of different things that I’m, like learning throughout this entire conversation, so hopefully you guys can enlighten me and stuff like that. 

Brother Richie Juatco: There’s actually a condition that God is waiting for, so that He can give that strength. What is that? 

[Show intro] 

Shannon Santamaria: You’re listening to Heart and Soul, a podcast from the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church Of Christ. I’m one of your hosts, Shannon Santamaria, and it’s here where we have real conversations with friends who are helping each other reach the best Christian version of themselves. This is Heart and Soul

[Show Open]

Shannon: Hey guys! Welcome to Heart and Soul! And with me today are my hosts, Gretchen. Hey, Gretchen! 

Gretchen: Hello, hello! 

Shannon: Welcome back! And McGill. Hey, McGill! 

McGill: Hey, Shannon! What’s up, everyone?

Shannon: It’s good. It’s nice to see you here today with me. And with us is a minister of the Gospel, Brother Richie Juatco. Hi, Brother! 

Brother Richie: How are you? How are you, Shannon? Gretchen? McGill? Very nice to be with you guys!

McGill: Good, good! How are you?

Brother Richie: I’m very good. I’m very good. Thank you for asking! 

McGill: Oh, of course.

Shannon: It is so nice for all of you guys to be joining me today. I actually wanted to talk about what a lot of people have been feeling lately and that’s burnout. I know, before we met, I was talking with you guys a little bit about burnout, just a casual conversation. And I thought, why not bring it to Heart and Soul and, you know, be guided by the words of God?

I actually spoke to one of our friends, Dr. Sydney Fontanares. Just a refresher: Dr. Sydney is a clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area and a Church Of Christ member. She’s been on our show a couple of times already, and I reached out to her about burnout. Now, here’s what she had to say: 

[Phone ringing] 

[Phone conversation with Dr. Sydney begins] 

Shannon: Hey, Dr. Sydney! 

Dr. Sydney: Hi. Hello. Hi, Shannon. How are you?

Shannon: I’m good. I’m so glad you were able to make this phone call with me. 

Dr. Sydney: For sure. 

Shannon: I know that our podcast is actually talking about burnout and experiencing burnout, and I have a couple of questions for you. Are you free?

Dr. Sydney: Yes! I am.

Shannon: Okay, awesome. So I wanted to ask, what is the clinical definition of burnout?

Dr. Sydney: Sure. So according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity. So kind of to, if you don’t mind, Shannon, if I could break that down? 

Shannon: Yeah, definitely! 

Dr. Sydney: You know, there are, you know, when you’re working, there is a normal response to feeling stressed or tired, and usually if we take a nap or do something to take care of ourselves, we can bounce back. But with what we’re seeing with people who experience burnout, they’re having a little bit more difficulty in doing this. And then not only are they having difficulty with bouncing back at work, but also it’s starting to affect different aspects of their life, including outside of work.

Shannon: Oh, wow. 

Dr. Sydney: Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of, what we call it, I’m not exactly sure what we call it, but it kind of sneaks up on you actually, and you don’t quickly, you know, see it coming. We call it, what is it? 20/20? Hindsight is 20/20. 

Shannon: Shannon: Right. 

Dr. Sydney: And then you look back and you’re like, oh, man, I was burnt out this entire time, and that’s why it… m-hmm? 

[Phone conversation with Dr. Sydney fades] 

Shannon: That was actually a little bit of my conversation with Dr. Sydney. I wanted to really define, you know, the clinical definition of burnout right off the bat. There might be a little bit of confusion about what it is, but now that we kind of all sat here and listened to the quick conversation that I had with her, you know, burnout is something that we all experience. Have you guys had that happen to you before?

Gretchen: Yeah, I’d say so, especially when you take so much on. Where it’s like, yes! I can do it! You want to make sure that you’re able to attend to your needs and everyone else’s needs, and then it kind of blows up in your face of, oh, that I take on too much or I missed something. So yes, I’ve definitely felt it.

Shannon: What about you, McGill?

McGill: As for me, after listening to what Dr. Sydney had to say, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced burnout. 

Shannon: Oh, wow! That’s impressive! 

McGill: I don’t know, is it impressive? [Laughs] 

Gretchen: Elite! 

McGill: I don’t know. I mean, you know, I do have my job and I have duties in the Church and, you know, my personal, like, obligations and different things that I do. You know, I just keep going the day to day, but I’ve never really experienced, like, overworking myself and, like, stopping myself from doing things that I like to do and stuff like that. So, I mean, this is all new to me, actually. I’m not exposed to this kind of whatever burnout really is. I don’t know if it’s like a condition or an experience that some people face from time to time. So, yeah, this is completely new to me. I don’t I don’t really know what burnout is. So yeah, [I] have not experienced it.

Shannon: I know that we have two different hosts here with me today, Gretchen and I, who have experienced burnout, and McGill, who has yet to experience it. If not, he might never?! Which is amazing! And it’s a really great perspective to have, right? Because it might be just whether you’re able to manage all of your responsibilities or you just know how to take care of yourself and be more mindful about the situation. And I think for me, when it comes to burnout, I tend to experience it a lot more when I take on responsibilities without realizing that I already have a lot to take on. That might happen to you in the future, it might have already happened to whoever’s listening, but I know that I did talk to Dr. Sydney about the signs of burnout. 

[Phone conversation with Dr. Sydney continues] 

Shannon: You know, you’re, you’re kind of burnt out or is burnout like you’re burnt out like full extreme?

Dr. Sydney: I would say so. From what we’ve been seeing is that there can be a spectrum of burnout where people kind of get in trouble is when we start to really see three specific things, which includes the first thing, which is exhaustion.

Shannon: Right. 

Dr. Sydney: So just feeling, you know, physically tired at the end of the day or even throughout the workday or even after a full night’s rest. And you can do, you know, you do multiple naps throughout the day and not really feeling fully rested. You know, that when you’re feeling tired, it affects your concentration, your focus, your mood. So, that’s one piece. The other pieces are feeling cynical or just this kind of just negative outlook on your work or just life in general.

So for instance, like if you’re already kind of behind at work and it just keeps continuing to pile up and even if you make some sort of dent, it still kind of feels like you’re sinking in the work that you do. And then just feeling numb at work. We see burnout a lot with our health care workers. You know, usually they go into that job, you know, wanting to help others, you know, being in the helping field. But when they’re starting to experience burnout, it’s a little bit harder to access that compassionate side of themselves or, you know, trying to be emotionally distant, not caring anymore.

Shannon: Oh wow.

Dr. Sydney: Yeah, yeah, it almost feels like you are kind of a different person, or sounds like it. And then the last one is a decrease in performance. So like I mentioned before, just having a hard time concentrating. Or if you are in a field where you have to do a lot of problem solving, you are just having a hard time being creative and problem solving or doing your admin work. And then like I mentioned before it can affect different parts of your life. So with family life, with your personal, interpersonal like being with your friends. So those parts start to get affected when we feel burnt out.

[Phone conversation with Dr. Sydney fades] 

Shannon: Yeah. So, I mean, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Sydney and really kind of understanding where burnout comes from and that the spectrum that it has to each and every single one of us. Brother Richie, I wanted to talk to you and really understand if we can resolve burnout. If there is a way where we can really take care of ourselves or I guess the question that I wanted to ask or clarify is, does the Bible have any verses regarding burnout or being more mindful about taking care of yourself?

Brother Richie Juatco: Well, for sure, the Bible always has guidance when it comes to how we live. Right? Because the one that created us is our Almighty God. And His words are written in the Bible, which shows us the proper way to live or the way that He intended us to live. So, it is interesting that we are kind of discussing this subject of burnout or mental exhaustion. You know, something that is a little bit more than just being tired because in the clip that you played, Dr. Sydney said it’s something that people aren’t able to bounce back from. Right? So when it comes to how we should be in taking care of ourselves, the Bible does have some guidance for us and we can go ahead and read that. We’ll read from what’s written in 1 Thessalonians, 5 is the chapter, and we’ll read from verse 23. It says: 

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

[1 Thessalonians 5:23 New Revised Standard Version] 

Brother Richie: So, the Bible does tell us that “May…God—”  (the One who created us) the “God of peace…” May He be the One to keep us safe, sanctify us entirely. Now, when the Bible says entirely, what are the parts that make up our entire beings? Well, the Bible actually clarified, it said, “may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound…” 

So, we should keep our entirety sound. If we read other translations or what sound is intact, you know, preserved, free from fault. So, it is something that we do need to take seriously. We need to make sure that we look after ourselves, our entire being. We should take care of ourselves. But since the Bible is mentioning, may that happen to you, may that be your situation–it’s teaching us this because these things do happen. There are times we do get tired. There are times we do lose our strength. 

So, what guidance does the Bible give us when that happens? You know, again, we go back to what’s happening to a lot of people around the world, what’s happening, I mean, even professionals, like Dr. Sydney, [are] noticing it. So, we can see by ourselves, you know, as human beings, there’s only so much that we can do. So, what guidance does the Bible give us to help keep ourselves sound and intact? We’ll read again from what is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Now we’ll read from Isaiah 40:28 to 31. So it says this:

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The LORD is the everlasting God; he created all the world. He never grows tired or weary. No one understands his thoughts. He strengthens those who are weak and tired. Even those who are young grow weak; young people can fall exhausted. But those who trust in the LORD for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.

[Isaiah 40:28-31 Good News Translation] 

Brother Richie: There is a biblical instruction [on] how to always have the strength that we need so we won’t get burnt out. We won’t get so exhausted. In fact, the Bible does say that men do fall to exhaustion. It does happen. So how can we get the strength that we need? The Bible says God is the one who strengthens the weak and those that are tired. 

So, many people might say, “Well, wait a second, I’m tired. How come I didn’t get the strength that God gives?” Well, there’s an actual qualifier, right? There’s actually a condition that God is waiting for, so that He can give that strength. What is that? We read earlier, it says, “those who trust in the Lord will find their strength renewed.” 

So, that’s what we need to do. We need to show that we trust in God and that is why those inside the Church Of Christ, this is what we rely on. We really rely on God’s words. We really rely on God to give us the strength that we need. And that’s why, no matter what the situation might be, if we hold on to this, if we follow these instructions, we’ll always get that renewed strength that we need. I hope that helps.

Shannon: Definitely! Brother Richie, I know that, you know, you mentioned it earlier, that we are meant to feel exhaustion. Is that correct?

Brother Richie: Well, it’s just that it does happen.

Shannon: Right. And we can’t prevent it sometimes. Is that right?

Brother Richie: Well, there are ways to… because the Bible does say may our entire being be sound. 

Shannon: Right. 

Brother Richie: So there are ways that the Bible does kind of give us guidance to make sure that we get that strength. We said that we trust in God. So, one of the ways that we trust God is we follow His instructions.

Shannon: Well, I just wanted to clarify that because, you know, there are several podcasts and even things that we see online where burnout is what we experience today because of this intense feeling of placing so much meaning into work or the work that we have for us. And I am just thinking biblically that, you know, if we place our trust in God, you know, we can prevent those things. 

Brother Richie: For sure! For sure. And, you know, you mentioned right, there are many people that feel that. But even just us here because we’re actually just a few number of people. We see that there is actually a split. There are some that have experienced it, and… McGill, who’s with us, who said that he hasn’t yet! [Laughs] So, we can see that there are some that they… it might be in really just the way to handle the situation. The situations will come, [but] how do we handle it? What is it that we can do?

Shannon: Well, I you know, I guess one of the things that I wanted to ask the hosts is that, you know, how do you go about recognizing burnout or whether you’re burnt out, whether you’ve been overworked? Is that something that happens to you guys? With, you know, there must have been a time, even if you’ve never experienced burnout, McGill, where you were like, I need a rest! This is a definite rest day. Those could be, like, minor signs of burnout.

McGill: Hmm. Yeah, I… while we were all talking and thinking, I was like have I ever experienced this? Well, usually, like, when I have free time in my hands, I would always think to myself, should I go to the gym? Because if I have free time, that’s free time to go like work. And so, when I have a moment like that, but I literally can’t like move, go to my car and drive there to the gym, then I tell myself, if my body is telling me I cannot move anymore from a hard day’s work, or now that I am done [with] my work, I have free time, should I go to the gym, but I cannot move? Then I’ll tell myself, okay, now you can rest. Use this time to rest, and then you can get back to work once you have energy. That’s what I tell myself. And so I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the point where it’s like, Oh, man, I can’t do it. I had multiple naps in one day and like, I still feel exhausted. I don’t think that has ever happened to me, but I do take rests here and there, of course. Who doesn’t rest? But yeah, that’s kind of like where my mind’s at. Maybe I’m looking at this at a different angle, with different lenses, a different perspective on how… I don’t know? There’s a lot of different things that I’m, like learning throughout this entire conversation, so hopefully you guys can enlighten me and stuff like that. 

Shannon: It’s really nice to have this blind reaction with you. Maybe at the end of this you’ll be able to see what it is, how to feel burn out in its different spectrums. But you, I mean, I know that I spoke with you, Gretchen. We’ve had our fair share of personal talks and heartful moments. I guess, for you, how do you start recognizing that you’re burnt out or that you need rest?

Gretchen: I think it’s the quality that I put into the things that are important to me. So it’s more of when I see that, oh, I just have to get it done. But it lacks the quality that I feel like I could give more of, but because I’m so exhausted and I have 500 other things that I need to do, it’s just like another check off the list versus actually taking that time to be like, okay, if there… if the expectation is for it to have this quality of work, is it just a checkmark or is it just… or do I should I like communicate like, hey, I think I need a bit more time on this, but here’s what I have so far. So, I think it’s noticing that there is, like, a lack of quality because if I can’t give it to myself, what more of the things that I put my time in? So it’s like that’s where you have to step back and be like, okay, do I just want to give whatever? Or do I want to give quality work?

Shannon: I mean, I feel like burnout might be because we are lacking balance in life and balance is a difficult thing to have too, especially when we have multiple things on our plate. Brother Richie, is there anything in the Bible that might help us understand how important it is to have balance in our life? To have the right priorities set so that these things don’t get overtaken by us?

Brother Richie: For sure! For sure. You know, the first verse that we read, it gave us some insight, right? It said spirit, soul, body. So, we have some understanding of how to get the strength that God is providing with the instructions that He has. So, what does the Bible teach us regarding getting that strength that God can provide? Let’s now turn to what’s recorded in 1 Timothy, we’ll read from 4:8, and again, we will follow the instructions that the Bible gives. Here, it says: 

Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. 

[1 Timothy 4:8 Today’s English Version] 

Brother Richie: So what instruction does the Bible give us? Because we said it gave us some insight with the different parts that make up our entire being. Here, when it comes to the body, it says, “physical exercise has some value.” So, when we look at our physical body, if we know how to get it stronger, right, then we will know even the other parts like what to do. I’ll even ask… I’ll ask those here. If you want your body to be physically strong, let me ask you, what would you do? How would you go about to get stronger?

Shannon: I would work out.

Gretchen: Yeah.

McGill: You workout. Yeah. 

Brother Richie: Right. You work out. 

Shannon: Add some weights? I don’t know. 

Brother Richie: There you go.

McGill: You add some iron.

Brother Richie: You lift weights, right?

Shannon: Yes. 

Brother Richie: The saying, pump iron, right? You’re actually putting stress on yourself. But notice. Notice. It’s a controlled stress, right? You’re actually putting stress on yourself, but you could overdo it. So, you put stress on yourself, and then you give yourself time to recover. Then you… Okay. So, let me ask this: If you lift a certain amount of weight, right, and it is hard in the beginning, after a while it doesn’t it’s not so hard because what happened? Your body adjusted, right? Now, I ask you this: If you want to get even stronger, then what do you do? 

McGill: You keep on going consistently over and over until you gradually get there? 

Gretchen: You train. 

Shannon: I’m not sure of the question. 

Brother Richie: Okay. So, you guys are right!  

Gretchen: We’re trying! 

Brother Richie: You’re almost there! 

Shannon: I want to make sure you tell us the right answer. I think we’re all lost here! 

Brother Richie: If you lift a particular weight, right? So, you put a particular weight on. It’s hard in the beginning and then it becomes easy. If you want to get stronger, what do you do? Do you keep lifting that weight?

McGill: Oh, you go, you do it a little less. 

Gretchen: No, you add more. 

Shannon: No, you add more weight. 

Brother Richie: You actually add more stress to yourself. 

Shannon: I thought that was a trick question

Brother Richie: No, it’s not a trick question. So, we can see right with the physical body, that is how it grows. And even, you know, mentally, that actually kind of helps us as well. Sometimes it gives us a break when we exercise physically, right? But even mentally, sometimes we give ourselves some exercises to get stronger. But notice – I don’t want to leave the verse yet – if it comes to the different aspects of our life, what is it that the Bible instructs us? We read earlier, spiritual exercise – what is that? It says, “it is valuable in every way.” Why in every way? It says, “because it promises life both for the present and for the future.” 

Notice in the verses we read, right? Spiritual exercise, physical exercise. Spirit, mind, body, emotional, mental, physical. There’s only one part of there that you can see. Everything else you cannot see. You cannot see someone’s spirituality. You cannot see their mentality. You can’t see that. But you can see their physical state. That’s why we always encourage… if you learn your body, if you learn how to strengthen it, if you learn how to exercise, you just learn how it works… then you will know how everything else works, right? You will actually know how to use that to lateral over to the different parts. We’re not saying if you’re not physically strong, if you’re not physically fit, then you’re not spiritually strong or spiritually fit. We’re not saying that. But what we can say is if you know how to strengthen yourself physically, all you have to do is use those techniques to the other aspects of your life. Right? Because you will actually get to see if it’s working. You will see, oh my, he got stronger. Or wow, she actually… her endurance is up! Like, she can run longer. You can actually see that’s what happened. So, all you have to do is take those techniques and move them over to the mental aspect, to the emotional aspect, to the spiritual aspect.

Shannon: I want to ask because, you know, you’re saying like… Okay, if we know how to physically get strong, right? And we use those tips to put it into being emotionally and spiritually strong, would you say that our whole being is, like… intertwined, I guess? 

Because if you can use those tips to be physically strong, then you can use those tips to be emotionally strong. When I think of that, I think of, okay, if they’re… if they can get physically strong, in the process of them being physically strong, they’re also learning how to be mentally strong at the same time. Because, you know, you’re physically fighting through a weight, but there’s, like, mental struggles to go through that, too. Would you say that it’s like all… 

Brother Richie: For sure. 

Shannon: I guess I wanted to clarify that part… 

Brother Richie: Are you talking about [how] different people are intertwined? Or those aspects of an individual’s life is inter… 

Shannon: Of ourselves. Yeah. 

Brother Richie: For sure! For sure! 

Shannon: And that’s biblical?

Brother Richie: Yeah. Because that’s what makes us a human-being: the spirit, the soul and the body. And you have to be conscious about it, right? Because there are people… there are people that are physically strong, but they’re not strong in their faith. There are people that are, you know, they might be mentally tough, but physically they’re not tough. Like, you have to consciously use it in every aspect.

Brother Richie: So in the balance that you mentioned earlier, Shannon, these are the ways that we can balance our life, right? We can make sure that we are strong physically. We said lifting weights, go running, you know, stretch, do what we can so that we don’t get that, maybe, that mental burnout. But the spirituality, we also want to exercise that. And again, that’s the reason why the members of the Church Of Christ, how we are taught, is that we never forsake the worship service, we don’t miss the worship service. We participate in all of the various Church activities. There’s a lot of campaigns that the Church has. We make sure that we have participation because the promise is it’s really not just for this life, but for the future. What’s the future? That’s the eternal life. That’s what we really are after.

Shannon: You know, Brother Richie, looking back and talking about burnout with you guys has been a lot more reflective of why we have them. Maybe it’s so that I can lessen the amount of burnouts in the future. And if I haven’t experienced it yet, or maybe, like McGill hasn’t experienced it, I wanted to ask you, you know, if you haven’t experienced it yet, how can we help someone who is experiencing it? Maybe that’s a thought that I want to put in your guys’ minds, because feeling burnout might not happen to you, but it does definitely happen to people around you. McGill, have you ever helped someone who was experiencing extreme exhaustion or who wanted to feel like giving up?


Shannon: So that was part 1 of our episode on burnout. We hope everyone joining us today was able to learn a little bit more about burnout and how to recognize being burnt out. Stay tuned for the part 2 [on] our next episode which will tackle how to deal with burnout and be guided once again by the words of God.