Saturday, October 12, 2013

Can We Talk About Burnout?

Photo credit: Joan C. Webb
Am I the only one who ever feels like she’s about to lose her mind on this crazy rollercoaster life of being a cross-cultural servant mother? Sometimes if feels like I’m too wearing too many hats: wife, mother, cook, house cleaner, friend, church planter, discipler, seed sower, and team leader’s wife.

In the Middle East daily life and ministry stress can be compounded by discouragement over hard soil and slow fruit.  In our country over half of the foreign workers leave after only three years. I’m sure that you face different challenges, but being a missionary mom is demanding no matter where you are on the globe.  

After a few intense years working on a new church plant while home schooling, I think more than ever about how to avoid burnout. In fact, more than just avoiding burnout, I want grow in effectiveness and continue thriving.

Here is my brainstorm list for thriving long-term on the field:
(Please add your ideas in the comment box because I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

1.  Quiet Time.
Spending half an hour daily reading the Bible and listening for God’s voice gives me a fresh perspective on life every morning.

2.  Invest in your Spiritual Growth.
Read Christian books, listen to podcasts, seek out a mentor or attend conferences when possible. One of my favorite on-line resources is the daily devotional, Word for Today.

3.  Make sure your goals are realistic.
My husband and I struggled over the slow progress of our new outreach effort until we realized that part of our discouragement stemmed from unrealistic expectations.  We’ve also seen fellow workers with unrealistic goals for language learning: too much too fast.

4.  Invest in your marriage.
My husband and I have a weekly date time to counteract the stress of cross-cultural living. We started this after watching the Alpha MarriageCourse DVD’s six years ago.

5.  Make time for fun with your family.
We have movie nights and play games while listening to vintage rock.  (Only my family knows that I can belt out “Like a Rolling Stone” along with Bob Dylan!)

6.  Make sure your kids know the language and have local friends. 
We home school, but our kids participate in at least one community extra-curricular activity each year. Other friends put their kids in local schools for a year or two. Bottom line: Kids struggle more to be happy if they don’t know the language.

7.  Cultivate true friendships where you can be yourself and share your struggles, both with nationals and other foreigners.

8.  Continue learning new things.
In recent years I joined a Turkish folk dancing class for several months, learned some elementary Latin with my kids, and learned how to can tomatoes.  All fun! 

9.  Enjoy a hobby. 
A friend of mine takes time every Wednesday afternoon for scrapbooking.

10. Reach out to others when you are lonely.

11.  Keep in contact with family and friends back home.

12.  Read for pleasure. 

13.  Get involved in your community.

14.  Make time for regular exercise.

What about you? Do you ever feel burned out? Do you have any suggestions for staying spiritually fresh?


  1. Great Post. Very timely reminder!

  2. seems kind of obvious, but another important one is getting enough rest - as in sleep - and eating healthy. when i feel better physically, i feel better emotionally and spiritually as well.

  3. Oh Richelle! That IS obvious, but we so often overlook it! At least I do! Notice how that wasn't even on my list? Thanks for a great point. So true.