Schedule a 27-minute call

Episode 54: When You’re Beyond Burnout

overwhelm podcast Jan 03, 2023

"What do I do when the workload is more than what I can do and everybody on my team is in the same place. I've always been able to just work harder to get through, but that doesn't work anymore and there just isn't anybody to delegate to without adding to the overwhelming workload they already have."

We’ve all gone through seasons in our work that are overwhelming. Often our approach is just to “get through it” and we push toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

That is one strategy we can use, but probably not the only one. Especially when that overwhelm becomes chronic and you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Rachel Uthmann, Director of Training for International Association for Refugees speaks to this question of overwhelm through this lens of deeply caring for the people we serve and those chronic spaces when secondary trauma contributes to our own overwhelm as leaders. Check out the highlights from this episode:

  • When the needs are truly overwhelming from a human perspective, it’s easy to keep pushing harder and harder until you break.
  • It’s important to step back and ask, what is my role? My place? What is it that I've been called to do, my motivation, the fuel that drives me. 
  • I encounter people with burnout working with refugees or in other kinds of social service areas to where their motivation is coming from wanting to achieve something.
  • Some tangible outcome (no child goes hungry; everyone has a home) usually requires change and or cooperation from other people or systems beyond yourself. 
  • Whenever that becomes your motivation, you’re destined for burnout. 
  • Steve Cuss in his book Managing Leadership Anxiety talks about how we're perfectly human sized. And that's actually all we were called to be. And what a gift. 
  • I can't solve the world's pain at the moment. I can be that fabulous friend to the person in front of me. I can honor the story of the one who's sitting across from me.
  • These questions help me when I get overwhelmed with the need or the chaos:
    • What is it that is mine to do? 
    • What is it that is actually within my capacity? 
    • What is it that you've called me to in terms of my responsibility? 
    • What am I unable to do? 
    • What is it that belongs to someone else today? 
    • What is it that belongs to God alone? 
  • And before you ask those questions, when you feel that anxiety building of the impossible is being asked of you. Go take a walk. Get a snack. Take a nap.
  • People can get to that place of compassion fatigue, or secondary trauma – sometimes called vicarious trauma or the concept that trauma is contagious.
  • Caregiver experiences, to a lesser degree, have the same symptoms the person experienced; dreaming about it at night; hypervigilant because of someone else’s story.
  • Some people can be more vulnerable to secondary trauma, like having your own experience of trauma, being a survivor of trauma, and being high in empathy. 
  • When I listen to someone’s story it’s like they hand me a stone, a precious gift. I’d stick it in my pocket and then the next person, the next stone until my pockets were full of rocks. I had to learn to take the rocks back out of my pocket and put them somewhere important to me. Like finding ways to express what I have heard and seen. 

 Links to Check Out:

Stay Connected

Get resources, motivation, and leadership support 
delivered straight to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.