Burnout: Week 1 Discussion Guide

Week 1 Discussion Guide

In 2021, U.S. tennis star Naomi Osaka made headlines at the French Open not for her performance, but for what she did off the court.  At that time, Osaka was No. 2 in the world's tennis rankings and was one of the highest paid athletes.  It is safe to say that tennis was a passion for Osaka.  In a step that seemed to be out of nowhere, Osaka just started skipping obligated media interviews and it was surprising.  Tournament officials ultimately fined her $15,000 for this departure.  But instead of staying quiet, Osaka spoke openly about unfair expectations and the need to focus on personal mental health.  This action was not only met with mixed reviews by media commentators but it reignited discussions around burnouts and the reactions of organizations responding to people burning out.  

Now for the sake of our discussions, health care providers describe burnout as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.  You can see in retrospect, Osaka felt the pressure of performance mixed with the obligations of interviews that impacted her and likely many other professional athletes over the course of their careers.  But, burnout impacts all of us. It can be the sneaky result of the common adage of "working hard" combined with all sorts of factors that can lead to absolute exhaustion no matter how much you enjoy the work.

Based on the description of burnout above, has there been a time in your life when you have felt this heavy burden?  What were the factors that led you to that point?  You may feel comfortable enough to share your experience with the group, but it is also absolutely fine to reflect on those thoughts as we continue on with this week's Bible verses.  

Let's open this time with prayer.

Opening Prayer

Lord, Thank you for bringing us together today.  We are grateful for this time to study your word and to feel your presence.  Please bless this discussion and guide us towards deeper understanding.  In your name we pray, amen.

This reading is taken from the Old Testament book of Exodus.  It describes a time in the life of Moses that he experienced burnout.  Now just for context, the Irsaelites had escaped Egypt and were wandering the desert.  These people had witnessed miraculous events and saw God communicate regularly with Moses. So naturally, they looked to Moses for advice and wise counsel.  


Exodus 18: 13-18

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.  
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."

  • In the Old Testament, judges were leaders.  They resolved conflicts and provided wisdom in general.  What made the Israelites look toward Moses as a judge? 

  • This reading indicates that Moses had groups of people surrounding him day and night.  The Bible implies in the selection of verses before this reading that these people were elders.  Why do you think Moses took on the sole responsibility of a judge when there were so many experienced people available?  What parts of this role as a judge do you think Moses enjoyed?  Which part do you think he found challenging? 

  • Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, provides wise advice.  He sees the path that Moses is taking and guides him with grace and experience.  Immediately following verse 18, the Bible tells us that Jethro recommends a structure where Moses names a network of trustworthy elders as judges to allow Moses to focus his attention on more important things.  Why was it important for Jethro to guide Moses in this way?  How do you think Moses felt about getting advice from Jethro?  How do you typically react when a friend or family member confronts you about a life choice you're making?


Why might it be difficult to see the trajectory of burnout within ourselves if we are doing something we generally enjoy?

How might burnouts separate us from God?

Read these four verses.  Genesis 1:31 through Genesis 2:3.  In the Biblical account of creation, we learn that God created the heavens and earth and all things.  We also know that God enjoyed the process of creating and the result of creation pleased God.  However, what did God do as the final step in creation?  Why do you think that was something important to tell us about?  


There is an article titled "The 3 "Rs" - Relax, Reflect, and Regroup: Avoiding Burnout During a Cardiology Fellowship" written by Dr. Oral A Waldo that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in September 2015.  In summary, the article prescribes a method to treat yourself before the exhaustion of a burnout occurs by focussing on the 3 Rs in the title.

Relax - something vital to health, relaxation requires a focused effort tailored to meet the tranquility needs of each individual.  

Reflect - a necessary checkpoint that allows individuals to dissect the past, consider what went wrong, and determine how concerns can be prevented or changed.

Regroup - to form a new strategy and possibly new habits to help minimize stress like exercise.

It may be worth the effort to practice the 3 Rs in your own life this week.  In what ways might you implement them in your personal routines?  Maybe think and pray on how you might benefit from a 3 R strategy.

Closing Prayer

Hey God, you bless us in so many ways.  Thank you for giving us a world filled with possibility and for blessing us with talents to share.  Please help us to stay balanced on your path.  Help us to find ways to contribute without feeling the overwhelming burden of a burnout.  In your name we pray Lord, Amen. 

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