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Focus…only one thing is needed!

Heal Your Inner Martha Part 4 of 5: Focus

Exhausted, Foggy, and Unfocused: Burned Out

Being scatterbrained is both the cause and the effect of physiological and psychological burnout.  

When you’re trying to do too many things at once, it triggers a physiological stress response.

Over time, being chronically stressed will lead to dysfunction in your stress response system.  Eventually the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis can no longer appropriately respond to stress.  

The result is physiological chaos, burnout, exhaustion, mental fog, and worse.  It can also lead to issues like hormone imbalance, damage to the mucosal barrier (the lining of your gut), nutrient deficiency, immune insufficiency, and a sluggish detoxification system.  

Focusing on too many things at once can cause exhaustion and burnout.

But focusing on too many things, and the inability to give one thing your full attention, can also be the effect of exhaustion and burnout.

Once your HPA axis begins to dysfunction, your body goes into a state of chaos.  The body is a system of systems.  When one system is out of balance, it throws the whole body out of balance.  

This physiological chaos affects your brain, making it harder to focus, making you feel more foggy, forgetful, and scattered. 

Beat Burnout and Heal Your Inner Martha Concept 4: Focus

Focusing on one thing at a time reduces stress, increases productivity, increases dopamine, and improves overall sense of well-bring.  

Giving your attention to one thing at a time will help prevent burnout.  

If you are experiencing burnout, though it may feel challenging, focusing on one thing at a time can accelerate your healing.

Focusing on One Thing - the Example of Mary and Martha

There’s a well-known Bible story in which two sisters are contrasted.  

One sister, Martha, needs a Health Detective.  Martha’s patterns of behavior and expressed emotions indicate that she is on her way to burnout, if she isn’t there already.  

Martha is trying to give her attention to too many things at once.  She’s scatterbrained, anxious, worried, and stressed out.  

This story shows us five elements with important lessons for beating burnout:

1 – Anger & resentment

2 – Ownership & responsibility

3 – Distraction

4 – Focus

5 – Decision & permission

Let’s take a look at the story of Mary and Martha:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  

She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. 

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:38-42

The Difference for this “Martha”

My client Julie struggles with “should,” and it’s keeping her from overcoming burnout.  

(Curious what I mean by “should” in this context? Check out the first article in this series, “Don’t You Care?”.  Martha is driven by what she believes she “should” be doing, and it has kept her from focusing on the right thing.)

Julie is experiencing physiological exhaustion.  Her adrenals are fried, her hormones are imbalanced, and she has multiple gut health issues – all from chronic stress.  

Julie has WAY too much on her plate.  She’s the co-owner of a very successful, multiple-location business.  She takes care of all of the administration – the billing, bookkeeping, and staff training.  She’s also a Mom of multiple children.  She’s the manager of the household, and the more involved parent.  

She describes that she feels scattered and mentally crazy.  With so many things to do, her mind never feels settled.  There are so many pulls on her attention, she feels like she can never focus on just one thing.  

With all of that on her plate, she just doesn’t have the bandwidth to follow the customized plan that I’ve prescribed for her.  It’s a plan that would heal her physiological burnout, balance her hormones, and heal her gut.  …if only she would follow it.  

Julie won’t get help with some of the administrative tasks at work.  And she won’t get help with some of the household chores at home.  

Why?  Because she feels like she “should” be doing all of the things that she’s doing.  

Julie and I are focused on creating an environment in which she feels comfortable getting the help that she needs.  

We’re focused on identifying the tasks that are in her zone of genius and the tasks that drain her energy.  She’ll delegate the to-dos that drain her energy, that aren’t using her super powers.  She’ll protect the time she has for the things that are aligned with her sense of purpose and aren’t exhausting.  

And she’ll do so without feeling ashamed and like she’s doing something wrong.  

She’ll learn a system for focusing on one thing at a time, and how to choose what one thing needs her focus in the moment.  She’ll learn how to let go of “should” so that she can choose what is better.  

It will take time, coaching, and practice, but she’ll overcome “should,” and it will make all the difference for her.  

Heal Your Inner Martha: Help for Focusing on One Thing

Here are three resources and recommendations for helping you heal from burnout and focus on one thing at a time.

1 – I love a physical, write-by-hand planner, and this one is my new favorite: The Full Focus Planner.  This planner helps you to break down the tasks associated with accomplishing your goals and then plan when you are going to accomplish them with monthly, weekly, and daily priorities.  If you are looking for a planner that will help you to set goals, prioritize to-dos, and give your focus to the most important tasks that day, week, month, and quarter, I highly recommend this one.  

2 – I highly recommend these two books: 

  • John Townsend and Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries
  • Gary Keller’s book, The One Thing.  

For high-performing women who are burned out and exhausted, these are essential reads for healing, focusing, and energizing.

3 – Take care of your health.  Healthy habits help you recover from burnout and live a focused, energized life.  Eat the foods that are right for your unique nutritional needs.  Rest when you need to; rest before you need to.  Get consistent, healthy sleep.  Exercise regularly.  Reduce the stress in your life that is chronic and dysfunctional.  Drink plenty of water.  These seem so basic and yet so few of us actually do them. 

The One Thing

As a Christian writing this during the Lenten season of preparation for Easter, I am reminded of my one thing: Jesus.  

My business is named Strength & Shield Coaching not only because I’m a strength athlete and Army veteran, but primarily because the Lord is my strength and my shield.  (Psalm 28:7, Psalm 18)  

As someone who has recovered from burnout (and in some ways is still recovering), I am reminded that I am not the source of my strength or my security.  I am not the source of my giftings and talents.  I am not the source of my inspiration or influence.  No, I am not the source.  My Creator is the source.  

Many high-performing women burnout because we put too much emphasis on what we can create ourselves.  

When you believe that your strength is that which will create the outcome, that will cause you to lean too heavily on your own strength.  

We over-obligate, over-commit, bustle, worry, stress, and don’t let ourselves rest when we lose sight of the true source of the results we are seeking to create.  

The very name of my enterprise reminds me who the source is.  I don’t have to over-obligate or over-commit.  I don’t have to bustle, worry, hurry, and stress.  I can rest and experience peace that surpasses understanding.  I can focus entirely on using my gifts to serve others.  

The real source of overwhelm is spending too much time in the world and not enough time with God.  The real root cause of burnout is relying too much on our own strength and not enough on the ultimate source of strength.  

This is what Jesus is telling Martha: that he is the one thing she requires.  

Jesus isn’t approaching Martha from a personal-development perspective, giving her tips on how to be more productive by focusing on one thing.

No, he is reminding her that which is the ultimate source of healing from burnout: right-setting her perspective about what is required.

Questions for reflection, beating burnout, and healing your inner Martha:

Do you try to do too many things at one time?  How does this make you feel?  Describe your emotions as well as the physical sensations you experience.  

What are some things you can do to help you focus?  Things like, putting your phone away while you’re working on a task, identifying the day’s must-do items and prioritizing your other tasks, or working in dedicated time blocks?  

How are you doing with healthy habits like eating what your body uniquely needs, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, getting regular exercise?  What is one thing you can change this week to help improve your health?  

In what ways have you put too much pressure on yourself?  In what ways are you relying on your own strength instead of trusting the source?  What can you do today to surrender control, focus on what is truly important, and experience peace?

Can you relate? Join us for a group program!

Join me for a group program that will help you heal your inner busy over-obligator so that you can be fully present for what is truly important.  

Register today for this group program and heal your inner Martha!

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