I love to read. It’s always been my go-to for a break from reality. I go through fiction books like other people drink coffee, but a non-fiction I tend to read one at a time, and get through one a month or so.
Strangely, the adrenaline of fiction has been too much for me in this season of burnout, and instead I find myself drawn to the pensiveness of non-fiction, the slower pace of books that teach instead of entertain and the truth-telling I’ve found in some of these pages.
I’ve literally gone through dozens of these books, but if I had to choose, here’s four I would highly recommend for anyone going through burnout, or for any weary soul in need of a breath of fresh air or direction for the journey.
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by Ann Voskamp
Ann is a poet. If you’ve never had a taste of her writing, head on over to her blog for a glimpse of who she is: her voice is the same whether a little blog post, hearing her speak in public or reading her full-length novel. She loves Jesus and her family and struggles to keep her eyes lifted up when life gets overwhelming. She’s no stranger to tragedy and there’s hints of struggles with depression, but each day she chooses joy. She chooses gratitude. She chooses to look for the gifts. And as she invites you into this gift-discovery journey, you cant help but start to notice them all around you as well. There’s a thousand gifts, even in the worst of times, if you just look up.
What it’s got to do with burnout:
I read somewhere that people in pain become selfish, and I see the truth in that. Burnout is painful. That selfishness can be a healthy introspection as you look inside to see where you went off track, but it can also be a very dark, consuming place if you stay too long. Burnout can quickly morph into anxiety, depression and a host of other mental illnesses, depending on its severity, the help available and the work you put in towards recovery. Ann’s book is a gentle invitation to look beyond yourself and see the beauty in everyday: a perfect, small step towards hope.
by Rebekah Lyons
If you need a truth teller, Rebekah is perfect. She started her writing journey after going through a severe and lengthy struggle with anxiety, so she gets mental illness. But she’s also someone who clings to God’s truth and strives to live it out. So when God says “you are free” he doesn’t mean you will be free or you could be free or you might one day be free… you are. Right now. In Jesus. As she walks out her journey towards freedom I couldn’t help but relate, celebrate and be convicted at times, knowing this freedom Jesus has called her to is the same freedom I’m invited to walk in.
What it’s got to do with burnout
Freedom, when you’re stuck at the bottom of the pile of life, feels… out of reach. Unattainable. For other people. Freedom denotes smiling, happiness, running with abandon through the sand and you really can’t get out of bed just yet. But because of Rebekah’s honesty surrounding her mental illness, you know she’s not just one of those happy-go-lucky, everything’s-great personality. She gets this. And she got through this. It’s almost a relief to let her lead the way, and her conversational style always feels like going for coffee with a friend instead of any heavy-handed preaching. And if she can get up again – more than that, live a joyful life of freedom, there’s a sense that so can I.
This is one of those classics. In fact, I’d heard so much about the concept, and read enough of Cloud’s work, that I honestly thought I had read it already! Only… when I picked this one up, I was shocked. Both at the unfamiliarity of the texts (is it possible I’d never actually read it before?) and by the absolute familiarity of the characters he was introducing – characters whose lives were falling apart because of lack of boundaries.
Okay, listen – I am awesome at boundaries (or so I thought). I’m the gal who was asleep before midnight throughout the college years, even as my peers were pulling all-nighters. I’m the one who schedules 24 hours off every week no matter what for my “Sabbath.” I’m great at saying no. I guard my time and energy jealously and feel little obligation to do things “just because.” I do NOT have boundary issues.
So why were all the characters in this book sounding suspiciously like me?
Full confession: I had walls, not boundaries. And those are different things. Walls end up hurting yourself and those around you. They keep everyone out, and also keep everything in. I had some unhealthy beliefs that needed to go, and I really needed to begin letting people in. I LOVE the way Isaiah puts it:
No longer will violence be heard in your land,
nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
and your gates Praise. (Isaiah 60:18)
Healthy boundaries have walls and gates – walls “called salvation” – which protect – and gates “called praise” – which let appropriate people/things in and inappropriate stuff out. You need both.
What it has to to do with burnout
Nobody goes through burnout because they’re living a healthy, satisfying life. You get there for a reason, and it usually has something to do with boundaries: some you need to put in place to protect and some that need rethinking. This is a great resource to help identify problem areas in your life and is incredibly empowering. While you may feel like some relationships/careers/situations are impossible to change, Cloud & Townsend are positive that nothing is impossible, and their hope-filled real-life examples make you believe you can affect meaningful change, too.
So. This book makes my list because it’s awesome. It’s super readable, relatable, practical and has stuff you can implement right away. And it really will change your life.
Honestly, Brene Brown needs to be the go-to for anyone struggling with burnout. If you want just a taste, here’s a little article she wrote after an interview with Oprah. She’s a researcher into things like vulnerability, shame and resilience and puts her findings into approachable, story-based books that gently and persuasively invite us to live a wholehearted life of authenticity. She’s also hilarious, very real, hopeful and her unique research-based approach gives a different kind of credibility to her words. I chose Daring Greatly as my recommendation because it’s the first of hers I read, and I love it. But I’m in the midst of Rising Strong and have put The Gifts of Imperfection on hold at the library right now, so really, just pick up something of hers! You won’t be disappointed!
What it has to to do with burnout
Daring Greatly is about showing up; authenticity and vulnerability. I confess, these didn’t seem like values I really wanted to pursue – in our success-oriented world, putting a smile on your face and pushing through seems more valuable. But that’s where her research comes in and slowly, but surely, she invites you into finding success where you least expected it.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity,” she says… and while I may not want to be vulnerable, I sure crave the love, belonging, joy and all the rest! And the surprising thing is, when you begin to dare greatly enough to be vulnerable… you begin to find she’s absolutely right. She allows you to be broken, and in fact finds surprising results for those who dare to admit it. She lays the groundwork for the kind of wholehearted living you just can’t wait to sign up for, and it has little to do with success as you may have defined it before.
The Day Jesus Didn’t Show
by Kirsten Sandland Kroeker
Of course, I have to add my own e-book to the list. It’s a short read, journeying with Lazarus’ family as they face the disappointment of Jesus’ absence. It asks the question, where was God when I needed him? and leans into this little family’s story as they face God with honest sorrow and hard questions. Plus, it’s free for subscribers! Grab your copy here!
What it has to do with burnout
I think anyone who hits the bottom is faced with answering the questions is God good, can He be trusted and why didn’t He prevent this? Lazarus’ story is one where God chose not to prevent his death – even though he could have – and I found so much healing in John chapter 11 as I dug into how they wrestled with God in their brokenness.
PS – For another great list of books to help you on your spiritual journey, this Relevant Magazine article is pretty exhaustive, and I got a mention for my recommendation of “You are Free”! (Scroll down to Type 3). I feel famous 😛