Woman laying down on a couch.
Faith and Health

Chronic Illness Burnout: What It Is and 7 Ways to Heal 

“What’s the point?” I sighed as I stared out the window.  

The dark grey skies matched the stormy conditions of my heart.  

Recently I had been prescribed a new medication, which had been helpful for other people who had the same health condition as me.  

I thought this new medicine would be the answer. To help me walk and stand without feeling dizzy. To help give me more energy.  

But after trying it for a few weeks I developed side effects.  

Side effects that made it not worth it.  

All my hopes were dashed to the ground like giant drops of rain pouring down.   

When you live with a chronic illness, it feels like you are constantly taking one step forward. And then two steps back.   

It’s disheartening when your health dictates what you can and cannot do. It’s frustrating when there’s a new normal you’re being forced to adapt to.  

And it’s in this place, when the stress of it all becomes too much . . . where we are at risk for something called chronic illness burnout.

What is Chronic Illness Burnout? 

Chronic illness burnout or medical burnout is the outcome of depleting our energy resources due to health and life stresses over a prolonged period of time.  

It happens when we keep exerting ourselves. Over and over again. With no tangible results.   

Despite all our efforts, there doesn’t seem to be any relief from our problems. Or an end to our suffering in sight.  

This makes us feel like giving up.  

Because we lose hope that our health conditions will ever improve.  

Burnout can also cause: 

  • a lack of motivation 
  • difficulty concentrating or focusing 
  • cynicism towards doctors or medical professionals 
  • apathy towards seeking medical care (procrastinating on making appointments or missing them altogether) 
  • further diminished health due to lack of care and the fact that burnout can lead to headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, weight loss or gain, and other health issues
  • feeling helpless, hopeless, or sometimes not feeling any emotions at all
  • struggling with bitterness, anger, and resentment (Even towards God.) 
  • withdrawal and isolation from others 
  • bouts of fear and anxiety 
  • depression 
  • And so much more . . .  

But the most common symptoms of medical burnout are emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive weariness. 

Think of burnout as more than just feeling tired. Sleeping or getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t improve it.   

Burnout is a pervasive feeling of being weighed down or completely sapped of all our strength.  

It’s emotional, physical, social, and spiritual exhaustion. . . that feels like it will never end.  

Woman looking up at the sky.

The Impact of Chronic Illness on Quality of Life   

People suffering from health issues put in a lot of work every day just to manage their health and symptoms. This is why chronic illness can cause burnout. 

There are doctor appointments, physical therapy, infusions, and counseling sessions to attend.  

There are medications we have to remember to take.  

Exercises and stretches we need to do.   

And we have to manage all these things while also juggling our families, homes, jobs, and all the other stresses of everyday life.  

People with health issues have a lot on their plate . . . on top of not feeling well.  

Which can be a recipe for disaster.  

How does chronic illness affect our mental health? 

Dealing with health issues doesn’t exactly elicit a sense of happiness and joy.  

It can be a rather heavy burden to bear.  

This is why so many of us dealing with chronic illnesses or other health issues suffer from depression and burnout.  

We are simply trying to do too much.  

We keep trying to feel better . . . while dealing with a body that refuses to get better.  

After a while, this takes a toll on our mental health.  

Which makes it easy to give in to feelings of sadness and despair.  

But even in this hard place of feeling burnt out and worn down . . . there is hope for healing.

Woman laying in bed while placing her hand on her head in exhaustion.

How do you feel better with a chronic illness? 

So, how do you feel better while living with health issues? How do you prevent medical burnout? 

And if you realize you’re already suffering from chronic illness burnout, how can you heal and restore your mental health? 

Well, the God who loves us has given us a few key strategies in His Word to help us deal with our health issues while also caring for our mental health.  

Please don’t feel overwhelmed as you read these things. Just pick one or two that you think would help you. Once you start feeling better, you can add more of these things as you see the need. 

1) Focus on Your Spirituality. 

The first step to recovering from medical burnout is to focus on your spiritual health. This naturally leads to feeling better emotionally, mentally, and physically.  

Spending time in worship, prayer, and reading Scripture revitalizes your soul. And helps your faith grow.  

As you spend more time with Jesus, you will find your rest in Him.     

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

2) Trust Your Heavenly King. 

Burnout is often the result of trying to do it all yourself.  

But you can find rest when you examine your heart, give up your idols of self-reliance, and surrender to God’s will for your life.  

Remember, God cares more about your relationship WITH Him than what you DO for Him.  

It’s NOT all up to you.  

You can’t and shouldn’t try to do it all.  

No matter what happens.  

Trust God.

He is still on His throne. And He is still in control.  

So, trust Him to provide for all your needs. Because he can handle anything and everything.  

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

-Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Open notebooks and books with a pair of glasses and leaves around them.

3) Remember Eternity. 

This won’t last forever.  

Because of Jesus, you have an eternal home in Heaven. Where there will be no more suffering or pain. (Rev. 21:4) 

Allow God to renew your perspective.  

Yes, this is hard.  

But everything you are going through is preparing you . . . for this life. And the one to come. 

Let the hope that it won’t always be this way, be the hope that gets you through every day.  

Woman in a dress standing in the ocean.

4) Every day make time for recovery. 

Self-care is crucial for helping you maintain your sanity while dealing with any health issue or disease.  

God values you.  

So much so that He created you. Died to save you. And He continually pours out His love for you. 

You need to value yourself enough to care for yourself. And be more intentional about making time for self-care. 

Every week make it a priority to observe the Sabbath. It’s essential to take one day a week to just rest and recharge.  

But each and every day you can also engage in restorative activities that bring you happiness and joy.  

Doing life-giving things can help ease your stress so you can recover from or prevent burnout.  

  • Take a relaxing bath. 
  • Spend 10 minutes in meditation and prayer.  
  • Go for a walk. 
  • Play with your kids. 
  • Read a good book. 
  • Paint a picture. 
  • Sit outside and marvel at God’s creation. 
  • Take a nap and have a snack.  

***Elijah, one of the most famous prophets, found himself in a place of despair after he had over-extended himself. And God made him rest and eat so he could regain his strength. This shows there is spiritual power in a nap and a snack! (1 Kings 18)*** 

Pier stretching out into the water.

5) Set Boundaries. 

Because of your health issues, you simply don’t have as much energy as the average person.  

And you have a lot more on your plate.  

You need to: 

  • Be okay with taking things slow.  
  • Learn to say, “No.”  
  • Delegate tasks to others when you can. 
  • Take a break from social media so you aren’t tempted to compare yourself to others or set unrealistic standards.  

Moses found he couldn’t do it all and needed to delegate tasks to others so he wouldn’t burn himself out. (Exodus 18:14-23)  

Jesus made sure the disciples took a break from their busy schedules to rest. (Matthew 6:31)   

And even Jesus himself often withdrew to quiet places to pray. (Luke 5:16) 

Boundaries are biblical.  

So, set boundaries on what you will or won’t do. And stick to them.  

*** Anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries doesn’t truly care about you or your health. So, it may be best to put up more boundaries and stay away from toxic people like that. *** 

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

-Mark 6:31 NIV

6) Find a community. 

When dealing with poor health, you need people who understand what you are going through.  

Not just people who sympathize and empathize. (Although that is nice!) 

But people who actually get it.  

Because they are going through the same things.  

Do whatever you can to find a support group, either in person or online, so you can connect with others just like you. (Hebrews 10:24-25) 

Woman laying in a hospital bed.

7) Seek counseling and therapy.  

There may be a time when you realize you need a little more help. 

There is nothing wrong with seeking counseling and therapy to help you manage the mental toll your health conditions are taking on you.  

In fact, it is the wisest thing you can do.  

The best way to care for your physical body is to take care of your mental health.  

After all, your body is the temple of God. So, you need to take care of His temple.  

Every part of it.  

Body, heart, soul, and mind. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) 

*** Please note, that burnout and depression are not the same things, but burnout can sometimes lead to and even mask depression. If you think you are feeling more than just burnt out, please seek professional help! *** 

Woman laying down on a couch. Chronic Illness Burnout What it is and 7 ways to heal.

The Ultimate Solution for Chronic Illness Burnout 

The ultimate solution for chronic illness burnout is Jesus.  

  • We can recover from burnout as we rest in Him.  
  • We can prevent burnout by listening to Him and following His plan for our life.  
  • We can triumph over burnout when we cling to the hope we have in Jesus that no one can take away.  

Chronic illness burnout is a real thing.  

But so is eternity.  

Where all will be made new by our Heavenly King.  

When we remember this truth, we will be okay.  

No matter what comes our way.  

Because while our bodies may be falling apart . . . the God who loves us is holding our hearts. 

If you found this encouraging, then please share!

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