“I just need a break.” Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. “I’m just tired. I’ve been so busy. I’ve got a lot going on right now. I just need a few weeks to ease off, refresh, and then I’ll come back.” Or so I say.
But as I write this, I’ve only managed to make it to a few Sunday meetings in the past several months. This prompted my concerned Relief Society president to come over for a visit, and during that talk, she offered this insight: it’s easy to justify one week away, but then one becomes two, and two becomes three and before you know it, years have gone by.
That’s not what I want. Because I still have a testimony that living gospel precepts brings the most happiness in this life. I still believe that the Church is true. I’ve never doubted its truth since I first prayed about the Book of Mormon as a 16-year-old girl after reading it from cover to cover. I still remember feeling the spirit so strongly that I literally said, “If this is the only witness I get for the rest of my life, this is enough.”
So it isn’t questions or doubts that make me debate each Sunday morning if I should or shouldn’t go to church. Between callings, visiting teaching, other church assignments, FHE, temple attendance, daily scripture study and prayer, and all the other things a good Mormon does, it’s just that I’m… tired.
What should you do when your faith is fine, and you’re just fatigued? Here’s what I’ve found has worked for me (along with a few suggestions from conference talks and LDS experts):
Talk about it.
When I’m stressed out, identifying why helps me start to take control. It’s the same with burnout. Diagnosing what is causing my feelings allows me to understand what’s wrong and then take steps to start changing that.
Talk about what you think is bothering you. If you’re still feeling close enough to Heavenly Father to pray, He is the best person to talk to. If you aren’t, try a close friend of family member you feel comfortable confiding in. Or even try writing it out in your journal. Processing might take a while, so just say what you’re feeling, even if it doesn’t make sense yet.
I was born and raised in the Church. I’ve been active since I was a kid. And I didn’t realize how much church stuff I did until I started slipping on doing it all. Now, getting back up to 100% activity feels like I’m standing in front of a mountain that I need to climb—without a trail to follow.
The truth is, there are a lot of things we as members of the Church should be doing. And the thought of going from 0 to 60 all at once made me want to quit before I started.
Instead of letting myself get overwhelmed, I made small goals. “This Sunday, I’ll go to all three hours of church.” “This week I’ll read scriptures for five minutes each day.” “Next month, I’ll drop off a note at the sisters I visit teach.”
In a 2010 conference address, President Uchtdorf reminded, “It is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.”
Learn to say “an inspired no.”
It’s easy to get burned out when we overcommit ourselves and our time. In her new book, The Burnout Cure, clinical counselor Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks shares this insight: “When righteous desires begin to feel like a heavy obligation, it can be hard to feel the energy or inspiration required to serve others.” She says, “A dishonest ‘yes’ breeds resentment.”
To avoid burnout and spiritual fatigue, she says, “You have to pick and choose where to invest your time, energy, and other resources; exercising prayer, you can learn to do this in an inspired way.”
One of Hanks’s workshop patients shared a great way to think about saying no: “When I say ‘no’ I’m saying ‘yes’ to something more important.”
This is probably the hardest thing. When my Relief Society president wanted to set up a meeting with me, I hesitated because I didn’t want to involve her in my troubles. Thankfully, we were able to meet, and she’s offered to do several things to help make my church experience better.
Similarly, Hanks shared, “Not asking for help or accepting help leads you into that overwhelmed, exhausted place!” She adds, “The beauty of belonging to the Church with its wonderful organization of women in Relief Society is that we do help bear on another’s burdens. That is at the core of the Relief Society—bring relief to others.”
Even though my small experience with inactivity was not caused by doubt, I would do well to remember gospel teachings about Christ. As President Uchtdorf reminded in a 2007 conference talk, “There will be days and nights when you feel overwhelmed, when your hearts are heavy and your heads hang down. Then, please remember, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, is the Head of this Church. It is His gospel. He wants you to succeed. He gave His life for just this purpose. He is the Son of the living God. He has promised: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).”
If the demands of the day-to-day leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted, you may be suffering from an all-too-common malady prevalent among Mormon women: emotional burnout. From work in and out of the home to service in wards and communities, the variety of worthy undertakings can seem endless. But despite perceived cultural pressure to “do it all,” a woman can balance the desire to serve others with caring for her own personal needs.