I recently had the opportunity to speak with a group of teachers about burnout. They (and I suspect many people who follow me here) tend to be caretakers. Empaths. Those who are the doers of tasks and providers of support not only at home but at work as well.
Many of us (no matter how much we try not to) find quite a bit of our identity in how hard we work or how much we’ve given. Of course, done in a healthy way, this is how we honor the gifts and talents God has given us. But, as with anything, our greatest strengths can all too easily tip over into weakness, resulting in a slow-developing state of burnout.
One of the major contributors to modern burnout is the ever-increasing reduction in social or natural boundaries around work, paired with the difficulty of enforcing them. Depending on how far back we think, there used to be boundaries around work that were hard to avoid. Pre-social media, our only interaction with work could be an email or phone call. Pre-cell phones, we had to fire up our desktops or be near a landline. Pre-internet, our only interaction could be a phone call. Pre-phones, we couldn’t be contacted until we returned to work the next day. And, pre-electricity, we had to stop our frenzied pace once the sun went down.
Can you imagine what it would be like if life set a limit on work, instead of us having to do so? Because the sneaky truth is, the effort to enforce the boundary can be as exhausting as any other part of it.
My fellow empaths, givers, and service providers (who also tend to be people pleasers ) we have to figure out how and where to set boundaries around work. And, maybe even more importantly, we have to come to peace with doing so. There may be an initial tension when we set a boundary. But, over time, we will eventually begin to reap its rewards and come to the very freeing conclusion that our perpetual work and availability were not what allowed the world to continue spinning.
In short, you are both more and less important than you think. When we let the former exist with the latter, we will finally be able to set the boundaries around work that honors the natural rhythm meant for our humanity. Rest on.