It’s time to fight burnout

REBECCA WILLEN

Things had been getting worse all spring. I snapped at my boyfriend almost every time we were together, blaming hunger or fatigue for my attitude, and wondered if the constant irritation was a sign we shouldn’t be together. One night in June, I called my best friend in a panic. I told her I wasn’t sure if I loved my boyfriend anymore.

Then she spoke the words that changed my life. “Do you feel anything at all right now?” My body felt frozen, my mind swirled wildly, and I realized: I didn’t. I had no emotions left. I was numb.

This, my friends, is what we call burnout.

Let me give you some context. I was in a serious long-distance relationship, so my weekends were spent with my boyfriend in one town or another, and I crammed the rest of my life into five days a week. I got up at 5 a.m. to put in an hour of freelancing before getting ready for work. Evenings were filled with more work, young adult groups, baking or “unwinding” with Netflix, and I usually crawled into bed around 11. Oh, and did I mention I was praying the Magnificat three times a day, plus Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer from the Divine Office, plus half an hour of lectio divina? Not to mention participating in WeightWatchers, exercising twice a week and walking 10,000 steps a day. (We won’t mention how often my day fell short of this ideal I’d set.)

I was living the American Catholic dream. Man, I was proud of my life — right up until I realized just how deep in trouble I was.

I’d been slowly realizing that something was wrong. After reading and identifying with an article on burnout, I knew I was overcommitted and under-maintained, and a couple of anxiety spirals had terrified me. But until I heard my friend’s words, I hadn’t admitted I was sick.

When you come down with a bad cold, you have two options: push through with the help of cold medicine and a couple extra boxes of Kleenex; or stay home, eat chicken noodle soup and watch cheesy rom-coms until you feel better. Those of us who are most likely to end up in burnout probably fall into the first category. And that tends to be how we treat burnout, too — if I just push through, if I make it through this week’s obligations, I’ll be fine. I’ll slow down after the holidays. I’ll feel better when this project is done.

There’s a problem with that. A cold will run its course in a few days, one way or the other. Burnout is a long-term diagnosis. It will not get better without treatment. I’m not sure what the next stage after burnout is, but given the experience of the friend whose wisdom pulled me out, there’s a decent likelihood of some level of breakdown.

Since I can’t be your personal burnout recovery coach, here are some tips I’ve learned along my own journey:

  1. Decide that the next month is Burnout Recovery Month. Start today. You are sick and need to heal.
  2. Make sleep a priority. Get eight hours of sleep per night, and keep to a routine. Schedule half an hour before bedtime to wind down, putter around and shut off all electronics. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. (Bonus tip: I found that syncing my body with the sun helped a lot — I would turn down the lights as evening fell, and use candles or dim lights for the last couple hours after bed.)
  3. Assess your current outside-of-work activities. What are you in charge of/have responsibility for? Ask someone to take over that for the next month. Don’t ever feel the need to explain that you are in burnout. You are sick. That is your reason. If you can, don’t even show up at anything for a month. And above all, don’t let yourself feel guilty about it. You’ll be back to full strength soon enough.
  4. Evaluate your prayer life. Are you sacrificing quality for quantity? Check with your spiritual director or a friend and make sure you keep the essentials, but cut out all the extra devotions that are not bringing you life. Mass, Rosary, 20-30 minutes of daily lectio divina. That’s it. Add weekly adoration only when you feel like you can manage it, or go to adoration but don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders or your eyes close. A half hour of loving meditation will draw you closer to God than will extra devotions prayed with an empty heart and a tangled mind.
  5. What do you have in your schedule that you are “supposed to be doing” but can’t and then feel guilty about? For me, it was trying to lose weight. I needed to relieve myself of that internal sense of obligation, and just unsubscribing to WeightWatchers felt like a weight lifted. Maybe you feel like you must cook all your meals. If so, switch to frozen food just for the next few weeks. Look at your hobbies. What have you been doing under a time crunch or for someone else? Set them aside for now. If you truly enjoy them, you’ll be able to get back into them later with no trouble.
  6. One last note: Burnout is a roller coaster. Be gentle with yourself. This is a process of detoxing and building new healthy habits. You’ll likely slip back close to burnout again, but when you do, just remember “sleep and prayer.” This is your new mantra. You feel overwhelmed, reason clouded by emotions you don’t understand? Time for another week of having absolutely no priorities besides getting eight hours of sleep and making time for half an hour of really focused prayer.

If this sounds like you, spend January — and maybe February and I highly recommend March, too — detoxing from burnout. You’ll discover that you’ll think more clearly, love more joyfully, give more generously. You’ll find hidden strength within yourself. You’ll come out on the other side of Easter in possession of yourself and maybe even a new you, in the best way.

It’s time to fight burnout

Living beyond extremes: A holistic approach to health

By ANNA LAUDIERO

We live in a world of extremes that idolizes our culture of eating healthy and feeling attractive, but what for? The way I see it, we are the daughters of a king, and because of that we are called to be our best both inside and out. Our spiritual, mental and physical health are all involved in attaining this holistic lifestyle. Listed below are some of the ways I am approaching this, and I hope they help you do the same.

SPIRITUAL

Our relationship with the most important person in our life, God, should be our number one priority. The world offers us temporal pleasures, but those aren’t our goals; our goal is to spend eternity with God in heaven. Therefore, our lives should be focused on growing closer to him in everything we do.

Some ways for us to spiritually strive could be starting the day with a simple morning offering, making small sacrifices daily for special intentions, meditating on a few bible verses or reading a spiritual book, attending daily mass (20-30 minutes) or stopping by a chapel for a visit. These will help us be better apostles and grow closer to our heavenly Father, the source of our strength.

MENTAL

Whether it’s working overtime or just meeting our daily obligations, we are all busy and need to make ourselves say no more often. Once we say no, we open up time to fully rest, which is a necessary good. Sometimes, forcing ourselves to relax can be harder than it sounds, but overall this will benefit us spiritually, physically and mentally. Our time of leisure can even be offered up to God.

Ideas for downtime could be getting off social media and using the time to journal, taking a short nap, reading, catching up with a friend over the phone, going to a museum or on a hike, thrifting, cooking a delicious meal or getting a manicure. Whether our relaxing is something active or as simple as sitting on your porch, we should focus on being intentional with this time. If we are obsessed with being busy, we will eventually experience burnout. It’s better to develop habits of relaxation or over exhaustion will happen. Time is a gift from God and we are expected to use it wisely, so be intentional and make room for downtime in your life. You won’t regret it.

PHYSICAL

When I hear people say, “My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” I want to tell them “So, treat your body that way.” Our bodies are a gift and, therefore, should be respected and treated as such.

In a world full of workout classes, running groups, parks, at-home videos, sports leagues, etc., we have no excuse not to schedule at least one hour a week for some type of physical activity. It can be as simple as walking while praying the Rosary, running with a friend or joining a sports league. I work out in the mornings because I am exhausted after work and will not be motivated as much. Although our lives are busy, prioritizing exercise time will not only benefit us when we’re older, but it will also improve our mental and spiritual lives, leading to an overall healthier version of ourselves.

RECAP

Hopefully, you’ve gathered how this holistic lifestyle is worth investing in for your own benefit. But there is one more bonus: It will make you healthier for others. We are all in different stages of our lives, which means we can’t necessarily prioritize everything mentioned above. But if you make the effort to take care of your own health, you will be a better friend, sister, daughter, wife or mother to the people in your life who deserve it. We’ve all been given talents and will be expected to give an accounting of what we did with them, so as St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Now get started; your life is worth living.

Don’t forget your girlfriends

EMILY WILSON HUSSEM

Relationships are exciting, especially in the very beginning.

I will not soon forget the excitement I felt on a day-to-day basis when I was first dating my husband. Every time he texted me something sweet and every time he called me on the phone, I felt a burst of excitement in my heart. It is easy to get carried away in the newness and excitement of a budding romance, and very easy to begin to spend most of the little free time you may get with a busy schedule with your boyfriend. And in the midst of all the excitement and butterflies, it is easy to put your friends on the back burner.

I have seen this happen more times than I can count, and I have walked away from friendships over this. It is a difficult facet of being a woman — the reality of trying to balance your relationship with your boyfriend while not forgetting your friends — or trying to wave your arms wildly (and figuratively) so that your friend with the boyfriend remembers that you exist. I believe that managing the balance of a romantic relationship and your friendships takes three important ingredients: intentionality, care and communication.

The most important thing to remember in the midst of trying to balance your friendships with your romantic relationship is that most romantic relationships do not last forever. I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy, but that is reality — most romantic relationships will end in a breakup! Some people marry from their first relationship, but many people have a few relationships before finding “the one.” This is so very important to keep in mind as you date because perhaps, like me, you have watched this unfortunate scenario play out countless times: a woman gets into a relationship and slowly stops putting time into her friendships. Her friends feel forgotten and as though she doesn’t care about them, so they begin to let go of the friendship, too. Sooner or later heartbreak hits and her boyfriend breaks up with her, and she is left with no one to turn to because she made her boyfriend her entire world. She spent every moment with him and just forgot her friends — imagine losing your boyfriend and realizing you have no friends who want to support you in your heartbreak — that is a recipe for serious sadness! Thankfully, this can be avoided!

Another important thing to remember is that both you and your friends must be realistic about what is reasonable in striking this balance between maintaining your relationship and your friendships. Your friends cannot expect that things will be the same as they were before you got into the relationship, because it simply can’t be! You also need to be realistic in the sense that yes, if you spend three weekends in a row only spending time with your boyfriend and not your friends, they will feel forgotten and set aside.

The core of all of this, in finding the balance in friendship and romance, lies in communication. Friendship is a mutual relationship where two people should have the ability and the courage to be open and honest with one another — in joys and in struggles, in fights and in working through obstacles together. Communicate your feelings. Let your friends know that you want them to communicate their feelings to you so you can learn and grow together as you navigate your relationship. If you are hurt, say so. If your friend is hurt, encourage her to say so. And if either of you are being over-sensitive and holding unrealistic expectations, you can go back to the conversation about what is realistic to expect of one another in the friendship and overcome that obstacle together.

Intentionality, care and communication. When you maintain these three ingredients in your friendships as you balance everyone you love and everyone who loves you, many misunderstandings and miscommunications will be avoided, and you will be able to journey happily together with both your boyfriend and your friends in harmony.

Emily Wilson Hussem travels the world speaking to women of all ages about their identity in Jesus Christ. She has dedicated her life to encouraging, equipping and empowering women to live in the freedom and joy they were made for. She lives in Southern California with her Dutch husband, Daniël, and son, Zion.

Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff

JOANNE HUESTIS-DALRYMPLE

Did you know understanding your personal, unique style can help you determine “how” to organize your things and your home? Lisa Lawmaster Hess guides us through a step-by-step process on the ins and outs of how to finally get organized and stay organized in her book: “Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff.” This unique approach not only gives invaluable material advice, but each chapter starts with a Bible verse and ends in a beautiful prayer!

WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR WRITING THIS BOOK?

There used to be a show on HGTV called “Mission: Organization” where a professional organizer came in and helped an individual or family turn a disorganized space into an organized one. There were several professional organizers on the show, and my favorites were the ones who worked with the families instead of just imposing what I call Type A Solutions on them.

Around this same time, or maybe a little after, I was changing offices at work, and I was less than thrilled about it, so I decided it was a lemons-to-lemonade opportunity. If I had to move (and I did), I figured I might as well make the new office a well-organized space (the old one definitely was NOT). I started reading about organization, but most of what I found stopped short of actually coming up with creative solutions, instead coming up with a lot of “here’s what you should do.” I thought back to “Mission: Organization” and started playing with creative ways to organize, and I started to get really excited. At some point, I decided to turn this into lessons for my students (at that time I was a school counselor in an elementary school building that housed grades 2-5)—after all, why should they have to wait until they were 40-something to discover this stuff? I came up with kid-friendly names for the styles and started running small groups and teaching lessons. After I retired, I brought the lessons to community education groups. So far, kids from 8 to 85 have played around with personal and organizational styles!
This book incorporates a lot of traditional organizing principles, but its focus is on building both organizational skills and personal confidence. So many people who struggle with organization feel beaten down—I saw this even in 10-year-olds! I want them to understand that they aren’t hopeless or broken. They just need to find the right organizational fit.

THE ACRONYM STYLE IS GENIUS! HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS/WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

I’ve used acronyms as a mnemonic since I was trying to learn history in high school, and I’ve seen them quite often in self-help books. When I was conceptualizing this idea, a publishing professional I spoke with suggested that the addition of an acronym would be a good idea, and STYLE was born! It stands for:

S – Start with successes
T – Take small steps
Y – Yes, it has a home
L – Let it go
E – Easy upkeep

I wanted to make organization approachable for people who’d lost confidence in their ability to organize, so things like Start with Successes and Take Small Steps were really important. So often, people who’ve struggled to get organized have also lost faith in themselves, and re-building confidence is the first step to believing we can get organized when we’ve spent a lifetime believing we can’t. Confidence also sparks motivation and creativity.

HAVE YOU FOUND THERE IS ONE PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL STYLE THAT IS MORE DOMINANT THAN THE OTHERS? IF SO, WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS?

That’s a really good question! I honestly don’t know. I’m not aware of a front-runner, although the “cram and jam” organizational style was common in my elementary school students, as was the “I love stuff” personal style. Both of these styles share a too-much-stuff-not-enough-space struggle.

WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE MOST BENEFICIAL THING ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION PROCESS; AND CONVERSELY, THE MOST DIFFICULT?

The biggest challenge is the fact that organization is an ongoing process. Life isn’t static; we need to constantly adjust to the flow of things in and out of our homes, and that means that perfection isn’t really possible. The most beneficial thing to me personally about organizing by STYLE is the sense of empowerment (and confidence) I felt when I stopped thinking I had to organize like everyone else. It was incredibly liberating to realize that tools (like binders and file cabinets) should work in our service and not vice versa. If something doesn’t work for me, that’s okay. I just need to find a styles-based tool that does work.

IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR READER ONLY ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BE THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THE BOOK?

Organization is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. When you work within your styles instead of trying to copy what works for someone else, you can create a system that works for you.

Find her book now at OSVCatholicBookstore.com

Joanne Huestis-Dalrymple is a freelance writer residing just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. She is expecting her 8th child this summer. Joanne runs a Catholic book club for middle school girls and is the head coach for the St. Thomas More Academy swim team. Joanne enjoys reading, writing and going on adventures with her family.

“Contemplative Dating

Relationships have never been easy, but dating in the 21st century provides its own struggles, especially for people of faith. While the culture’s narrative may be enticing, there are resources available that share how to have a deep relationship without compromising your values.

Radiant spoke about this topic with Dr. Michael DiPaolo, a clinical psychologist and certified Imago Relationship Therapist. He lives in Los Angeles with Jennie, his wife of 19 years, and their three children, along with a hyperactive dog. Dr. DiPaolo works with individuals and couples in his private practice, and he has counseled over 1,000 couples in marriage preparation through-out the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Dr. DiPaolo is a speaker, workshop presenter and retreat leader who has presented for several years at parish and archdiocesan gatherings. He is also the author of “The Impact of Multiple Childhood Trauma on Homeless Runaway Adolescents.” In this interview with Radiant, he shares some of the methods he uses with couples, such as Contemplative Dating.

Radiant: Dr. DiPaolo, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your dating strategy, Contemplative Dating. Can you tell our readers what that is?

Dr. Michael DiPaolo

Dr. Michael DiPaolo: Contemplative Dating is intentionally seeking out intimate partnership and being faithful to your core self. It’s all about maintaining your values and boundaries amidst the hook-up culture, which dominates the dating landscape.

Radiant: You share some striking statistics on your website regarding that for the first time in history, over 50% of the population is single, as well as the statistic that both men and women who have viewed pornography in the past month is now at the alarming rate of 75% or higher. Why do you think this is?

Dr. DiPaolo: Marriage has gone from being a beginning to a culmination. Thirty years ago, people graduated from college, got a job, got married and started their life. Now they graduate from college not ready to commit — to a career or a partner. They spend their 20’s “adulting,” with marriage off the radar for many.

A great challenge here is that a whole generation is not learning how to authentically communicate or connect. Social media apps have become the medium for connecting. The ironic result is increased loneliness and anxiety for which the digital world provides a ready escape. And porn — fantasied connection — is the perfect escape.

Radiant: Tell us about the Tiger-Turtle analogy and how that corresponds to dating. It’s a great way to see the benefits of people’s unique and complementary personalities or temperaments.

Dr. DiPaolo: The Tiger-Turtle analogy is a fun way to look at our own reactivity in relationships. When we experience tension, does our energy go outward or inward? Tigers express their energy with great emotion. Turtles withdraw into their shell, constricting their energy. It’s important to remember that neither way is right or wrong — they’re just different. And yes, we tend to be attracted to someone with the opposite energy. Perhaps not surprisingly, women are the tigers in roughly 75% of relationships.

Radiant: What inspired you to become a clinical psychologist in the first place?

Dr. DiPaolo: Believe it or not, I entered Notre Dame as a physics major. It lasted one semester. The joke I like to tell is that I just flipped to the next page in the course catalog and found psychology. The more likely reason is that my mission to help people create great relationships stems from growing up in a family of divorce. Combine that with my faith-filled desire to be of service, and here I am.

Radiant: Radiant is for young women who want to embrace the unique woman that God created them to be and wholeheartedly accept the vocation that God is asking of them. According to your experience in your field, what is the greatest need you see for young women today to be aware of?

Dr. DiPaolo: Losing themselves. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fast-paced, high pressured demands of today’s world — and I think it is harder for young women as their roles are changing. The challenge is to embrace the contemplative stance. This means going inward, stripping away the ego and getting to those places of vulnerability. This is where they will find that unique woman that God created them to be.

Radiant: Can you share one of your favorite love stories you have been able to witness?

Dr. DiPaolo: Of course, my favorite love story is my marriage! But let me give you another one. It is such a privilege to prepare couples for marriage. They witness the joy and enthusiasm that a loving relationship is all about. Yet the ones that really stick out in my mind are those who have grown stronger working through their differences.

One young couple, let’s call them Joe and Christina, were a perfect example. Both highly successful and independent, they started off as a power couple — values aligned and visioning an amazing future together. As they grew closer, however, they struggled with losing their independence. Christina began to feel abandoned by Joe’s long hours, fearing his job was more important than her. Joe began to feel smothered by what he perceived as Christina’s neediness. They locked horns in a power struggle every time the issue arose.

So I taught them the Imago Dialogue — a tool to safely explore their concerns and facilitate connection. It basically teaches people to mirror what one person says, validate and empathize with what they are experiencing. This enabled each person to step back from their position. Joe learned how Christina’s father whose distance and infidelity ruptured her family. Christina learned how Joe’s work ethic was modeled after his father who drilled into him messages that failure was unacceptable.

That’s when the magic happened. Joe began checking in with Christina during his work day. Christina began expressing more support for his career. Joe would leave work on time on designated evenings when they had plans. Each was willing to stretch in order to meet the other’s needs. They grew stronger than ever. They have since started a family and still use the dialogue when differences arise.

More information about Dr. DiPaolo can be found online at www.DrMichaelD.com.

Sheryl Tirol works in film marketing and PR in Los Angeles. As a native of Chicago, she is a lifelong Cubs fan and lover of deep dish pizza.