“A study released in April of 500 IT administrators from various firms by Opinion Matters revealed that 72% of respondents were stressed, 67% considered switching careers, 85% said their job intruded on their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work. Can burnout be far behind?” Fortune Magazine April 2012.
That 2012 Fortune Magazine article marked the beginning of a trend that has escalated to an astounding 40% of Americans today, reportedly experiencing symptoms of burnout. Many of us sacrifice a lot in our chase for cheese in the rat race. Not least on the “corporate altar” is our health and wellness. The Christian church has not been immune to this, with three of five pastors leaving the ministry for reasons associated with burnout.
As a pastor, wife and mom, my experience with burnout came on the heels of the birth of my micro-preemie twins. At 4 a.m. on April 16, my water broke. I screamed and argued with the nurses because it was 14 weeks too soon. It’s hard to put into words the absolute fear and the depth of guilt that goes through a mother who experiences this. In my book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed I share my journey but more importantly, I share the lessons I learned about coping with feeling stretched beyond your limits.
“When you find yourself in that position; you have to reach within yourself for something that you never thought you had. When you are stretched beyond your ability to hold on, where do you find the faith, the strength and courage to face one more day?”
It was a difficult road, and after spending three months in the neo-natal intensive care unit, my husband Tim and I were finally able to bring our children home. Until the twins were eight months old, I would spend my nights sleeping on the floor between their cribs because they still had major issues that sometimes required giving them infant CPR to save their lives.
Coming out of our experience, my husband nominated her to be honoured as a Super Mom on the Steve Harvey Show. In an interview with CBS 6 of Richmond, I emphasized that all moms of premature babies are Super Moms “because what else are you going to do when your child needs you?” More than that, the complexities of our 21st century world makes every one of us feel we need super human strength to cope sometimes.
Two things I learned from my experience with feeling Under Qualified and Overwhelmed are:
1. We all need a village to help us cope with times of extreme stress. Stress in and of itself won’t kill us. It is our inability to recover from stress that kills us. Surrounding ourselves with a supportive community will give us opportunities to recover. Supportive friends and family can ensure we don’t neglect self care like eating, sleeping and exercising. They can even step in to help create opportunities to do that. For me, that came in the form of having someone come over to watch the twins so I could have a few hours to sleep. No matter how strong and resourceful you are, facing stress without support is a certain path to burnout.
2. An attitude of gratitude makes a world of difference. When you’re frustrated and worn out, it is easy to complain. The problem with complaining is it keeps us focused on the problem. It becomes easy to overthink the negative and make a bad situation worse. By being deliberate about finding reasons to be thankful, we change our perspective and in turn create the positive energies that lead to problem solving. (check out this post on Breaking Free)
Taneshia Kerr is an Adventist Pastor, Wife, Christian Counselor and NICU Mom. The title of her book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed, reflects the feelings she had navigating her experience with the high stress life of being a NICU Mom. The growing needs of the twins have recently pulled her away from full-time ministry. She now dedicates her time to being a mom, writing and occasional speaking. For more information on the book, visit http://www.underqualifiedandoverwhelmed.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find it at Amazon.