Burnout Prevention: 4 Steps To Keeping Stress Away

Dec 16, 2010, Written by Sue Miley

I wrote to you about the warning signs of burnout and want to follow-up with some suggestions on how to prevent burnout to begin with.  If you saw yourself in any of the warning signs listed, hopefully you can get off this runaway train.

I wasn’t a Christian when all of this started, so for me the first step was to surrender to God.  Without a foundation in Christ I honestly don’t know where I would be today.

I became a Christian though and still didn’t jump off the gerbil wheel immediately.  Plus, all of my clients are Christians in business and I think many would agree that they struggle with some of these warning signs.  I know we strive to be more like Jesus, but we are still human and easily fall in to traps that can lead to burnout.

Burnout Prevention

Remember, I now have the wonderful benefit of hindsight.  Everything is always so much clearer in the rear-view mirror.  Knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently??  Here are four ways to ensure burnout prevention:

1.  Pray Without Ceasing

The bible tells us to, but how many of us really do it.  God wants to be a part of all of our lives including our business.  If we are in constant prayer we will:

  • lift up our time and priorities to God.
  • stay focused on relationships; Jesus says we are to love others as we love ourselves.
  • not feel all alone, like we are doing it by ourselves.
  • give him some of our stress and ask him to help us carry it.

I remember clearly the time I was driving home from New Orleans and my jaw was killing me.  It was getting tighter and tighter and was in a position of total discomfort and pain.  I started to panic that it was going to lock right it this position.

I started praying.  Okay, I was probably crying a little too and calling out to God to please help me.  As I prayed (and cried) the stress seemed to physically dissipate.  I could feel it starting to leave me.

This was a huge faith builder because I was a very new Christian and I felt God answering my cry for help.

Now I lift up my work in prayer in advance.  I ask God for direction.  I ask Him to work through me.  I invite Him into my work each day.  It makes an enormous difference.  On days that I forget to pray before I see clients, I can feel the difference.  It’s like I am in God’s way.  He wants to work through me, but I am all about controlling the sessions.

Things usually go poorly at this point, and because I am blessed with Christian clients, sometimes I will actually stop and pray with them.

Please Lord, help us get back on track….

2.  Let Your Yes be Yes and Your No be No.

The book of James speaks to me about integrity and character.  If our faith is strong, our words and our deeds will be pure.  A verse that has always spoken to me is:

James 5:12
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Just say what you mean and be true to your word consistently and you will have much less stress.  When our words and actions are in alignment we build trust.  When you have trust in the workplace everything runs smoother, less documentation is required, and things get done.

In 2 Corinthians Paul also explains that we need to be definitive about our words:

2 Corinthians 1:17
Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?

Being definitive.  Being clear.  Being purposeful.  All of these reduce negativity in the workplace eliminating wasted time, misunderstanding and chaos.

3.  Put First Things First

I think this is Covey’s Habit #2 in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When I worked for a corporation I never finished my To Do list.  It was an unlimited flow of work, priorities and deadlines.  Owning your own business can feel the same way.  There is always something that needs to get done and at the end of the day, it’s your business.  If it didn’t get done it falls on you.

That’s why this principle is so important.  Would your rather have ten A priorities on your list and inch them all forward by the end of the week or month, or would your business be in better shape if the top 5 or 6 were actually complete and off the list.

If it is possible to get them all done, then focusing in a priority order will still make it happen.  If it isn’t possible, then it is absolutely better to have the MOST important priorities complete than all partially done.

This is also where you put into your priorities personal things.  If you promise your daughter you are coming to her Christmas play, you put it in your calendar and schedule around it.  Don’t commit if you can’t keep the commitment!

I used to make the huge mistake of telling everyone I would try.  I will try to make that meeting.  I think I will be home in time to help with that project.  One half hearted promise after another ensured disappointment, loss of trust, and much stress.

4.  Just Say No!

You may be thinking “Who do I say no to?  It’s my business after all!”

Yes, say no to yourself.

We have a sickness.  Admit it.  The entrepreneurial spirit has the sickness of “idea – itis”.  Whether it is a new process, a new product, a new service or a complete new business idea.  It is in our genes.  We can’t help it.

Maybe we can’t help the flood of creative, innovative, cutting edge ideas that flow one after the other, but we can control whether or not we implement them.

Just say no!

Go back and review your mission and your annual plan.  Is it a strategic fit?

Is now the time?  Are you where you need to be in your current plans?

You have a business.  You have a mission.  Stay the course.

Too many directions at once are a sure ticket to the burnout depot.

The Combined Effect of Busyness, Worry, and Firefighting

To ensure burnout prevention we need to reduce and eliminate the negative stress that comes with too much to get done, too much to worry about, and too many fires for much too long.

Each of these can have an impact in preventing burnout.  Together, the combined effect is very powerful.  They intertwine with each other.

Think about it.

We are putting God first and lifting up everything we do to Him to make sure it is part of His master plan for us.  We are moving forward on a foundation of integrity and priority in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness in all that we do.

The combined effect will enhance prioritization, reduce worry, and hopefully make fires the exception, not the norm.

If you feel like you have past the point of prevention, all is not lost.  I am pretty sure I was in full blown burnout a decade ago.  In the next post, we can talk about some ways to recover from burnout!


This is the second post in a series on burnout.  I think it is a really important issue with small business owners.  I hope you will also check out the rest of the series:

Warning: Burnout Ahead

Burnout:  A Personal Journey to Recovery

New Life:  This Side of Burnout

Hopefully, you can start here, and catch burn-out before it begins!

Reader Interactions


  1. Janice says

    Hey Sue, Thanks for the good tips. I have to say the whole Christmas thing has been pretty stress free for me this year. Praise God! I LOVED being with ya’ll last night. Filled me up – goes back to one of your tips – focus on relationships! Have a good weekend. Hope to go Sunday morning. Will call Saturday evening to let you know. Love you Friend!

  2. Marcus Goodyear says

    Saying no is one my constant goals. I try to temper my enthusiasm with realism about what we can actually accomplish. It’s hard! There are so many good things to chase, you know?

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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