Motivation and Joy for Midwinter Burnout

The frosty morning draws me out. I dread the cold and am reluctant to go, but casual observation from the window is not enough—I must feel the cold breeze that makes my eyes water and my nose run. As I leave the shelter of the porch, the morning sun makes its appearance on the horizon, and its rays transform the metal barn into a golden castle. A single, red rose with white-frosted petals begins to glisten in the sun as the frost begins to melt into large, glistening droplets. The smell of cedar trees mingles with the smell of smoke that wafts from the chimney, and my weary heart lifts with the moment. How can I do anything but praise my Creator, Who surrounds me with beauty and fills my heart with joy? I tune my eyes to see beauty, and suddenly it surrounds me, and every sense is filled with awe.

I do not always have the luxury of a morning walk, but over the years I have learned to conquer the reservations that make me hesitant, and I have developed the self-discipline to do some of those things that I know are good for my body and even better for my soul. I have learned to seize the moment, and I set aside regular times to walk, pray, and praise my Creator.

When my children were younger, morning walks were not a matter of choice. We walked straight to the barn every morning to take care of milking and other morning chores and then straight back to the house to start the day’s whirlwind of activities. Like many home school moms, my days started early and ended late, and there never seemed to be enough time to do all that I wished to accomplish in a day. Some things just do not change. My days still start early and end late, and there are still more tasks than time. However, when my children were younger and we were in the middle of our home schooling experience, I really struggled with unrealistic expectations as to what I perceived to be the “perfect home school family.”

Our school year would begin with a bang in September, with big expectations and lofty goals. Somehow we seemed to stay somewhat on task until the holidays arrived. Then schedules would have to be rearranged, and some regular projects set aside—the plan was to get right back on task as soon as the holidays were over, but January would find me drained, both physically and emotionally, and school days seemed to drag by while the list of unfinished tasks seemed to mount to unreachable heights.

However, as the years passed and my children grew, I also grew and began to develop a deeper understanding of myself and my children. I learned to manage my time a little better, and I tried to eliminate unreasonable expectations that I often put upon myself. I began to understand how the seasons affected our tasks and performance. I realized that burnout was really a lack of joy and motivation, and that physical and emotional exhaustion can sometimes be symptoms of seasonal depression. This realization helped me combat mid-year burnout.

When I began to understand this phenomenon, I became better equipped to deal with the source of the problem rather than the symptoms, but it was not until I understood that praise and a grateful heart produce joy that I learned the real secret to happiness. Praise, praise, and more praise—praise gets the focus off what is wrong and tunes the heart to all that is right. When I thank God for even the littlest of things such as hot water, good food, coffee—I then see abundance all around me. A grateful heart is a joyful heart, and a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

I also learned that to avoid seasonal depression I needed to get outside, even if it is cold. I do not like the cold, and short, chilly, winter days make it easy to stay cooped up inside all day or tempt me to hurry when errands demand that I leave the confines of the house. However, when I take a moment to breathe in the fresh air, look around, and enjoy the beauty of creation, I am amazed at how refreshed and energized I feel. I would encourage even those with young children to get some fresh air at least once a day. I began to combine my morning prayer time with a short walk outside when my oldest son was receiving hospice services, as I often felt I needed to stay close to the house, but even just a few minutes spent on the porch or a short walk around the house was enough to refresh and revive my spirit. This bit of time gave me the energy I needed to sprint my way through the day.

Music is also a quick remedy to uplift a drooping spirit. In the winter we often listen to music while we do mundane morning chores. My family enjoys all types of music, and sometimes an upbeat praise song is just what we need to get the blood pumping and raise our energy levels. Other times we find classical music calming and refreshing. I often find myself humming throughout the day, long after the music stops.

Recognizing my own limitations is still a struggle for me, and it is often necessary for me to reevaluate the expectations I have of myself, but I do try to balance necessary tasks and unrealistic goals. I also try to eat healthily and get plenty of rest. It just seems that shorter days lend themselves to more sleep, and I know that fatigue tends to intensify my feelings of burnout, so I try to fit in a little more sleep in the winter.

Today, as the morning sun rises higher and its rays begin to warm the earth, my grateful heart sings, and I acknowledge the magnitude of blessings which are mine. I feel energized, refreshed, and ready to face whatever the day may bring.