Exhausted. Worn down. Fatigued. Unmotivated. These are all descriptions of burnout. Merriam-Webster defines burnout as ‘exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.’
Many pastors and leaders deal with burnout. It’s common. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, that something is wrong with you, or that you’ve heard God wrong. It usually just means that you’re doing too much.
There are some obvious signs that your workload is too heavy. Everyday becomes harder and harder. The days you have off (days which you mean to relax) keep you frustrated, constantly concerned about your ministry. You see no point in ministry anymore. You feel unappreciated. You’re constantly overwhelmed. It can feel like you’re trying to push a car uphill, by yourself.
People who are experiencing burnout often get depressed. The load of everyday tasks start to take a toll on an one’s health and it can leak into many different areas of their life. Their social life, personal life, work life, and family life can become affected and begin to create dysfunctions in each area. It can be like a virus, spreading and weaving itself into every aspect of life. It needs to be stopped before it becomes worse and causes serious, irreversible damage.
But there are ways burnout can be avoided. I suggest seeking help form others, taking some time off, and refocusing your vision. Realize that you are more important than your ministry and believe that God thinks so too. He didn’t create the world just for you to do ministry. He created it for your enjoyment. Remind yourself of the things you enjoy and start reintegrating back into your daily life.
When I sense the onset of burnout creeping towards me, I feel like running. But, the opposite is often what I need. I should stop running, sit down, read a book, and take some time in God’s presence. We should rest in God to refuel us. God created things inside of us to enjoy, things that are specific each of us. For me, reading is one of them. When I turn the corner and see burnout waiting to jump on my back and wear me down, I grab a fiction book and take time to enjoy it. I read it slowly, not making it just another task in my schedule. I say to myself, “This is for me and my enjoyment. I’m not going to let other things ruin this for me. This time is for me.”
Find those things that wind you down and refuel you. Spend time with God, spend time with yourself, and spend time with others. Remind yourself that you are important and ministry comes second.