Burnout Cannot Be Defeated! Or Can It?
Several years ago I came across the feeling that burnout cannot be defeated. In 1999, I decided to go back to school and begin work on a doctoral degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Before I started my task at Southern, I had an idea where I wanted to focus.
The subject was “burnout!” I had experienced “burnout” to some degree and saw several of my ministry colleagues decide that they had enough. As I think back on of those I went to college and seminary with, the percentage of those no longer in the ministry is high.
There are some who will make adamant judgments about those who have dropped out of ministry and mission work. I am not one of those. I am a third generation pastor, and I have seen some situations in my lifetime that I do not blame someone for leaving.
In my fifty years of life, I have seen burnout affect many people in various occupations. I even witnessed one of our family’s physicians decide that he had experienced more than he cared for in his occupation. He walked away and became an investment broker. That is hard to imagine, but this type of behavior happens more often than many of us realize.
- A stress related syndrome caused by fatigue.
- An evolving process. It is not a one-time event.
- An issue that affects mental welfare.
- An issue that affects physical welfare.
- An issue that affects spiritual welfare.
- A stressor that strongly affects those who are in human service organizations.
- A mental behavior that has subtle patterns of symptoms that can be unique for each person it affects.
- Not like the common cold, it can be very complex.
Knowing the causes of burnout is one thing but knowing how to deal with it is another. To be able to confront this type of mental behavior calls for an understanding of what burnout does.
- Increases the withdrawal behavior of a person.
- Causes dissatisfaction.
- Creates low productivity in a job or ministry.
- Intensifies the possibility of conflict and crisis.
- Decreases the ability to communicate.
- Increases stress.
- Increases the tendency to withdraw and avoid spending time with other people.
- Decreases the ability to think clearly.
- Reduces the ability to be well organized in most efforts.
- Reduces communication abilities.
- Increases conflicts between those leading and those being led.
- Causes withdrawal to take place by the one suffering from burnout.
To be able to deal with burnout calls for an understanding of its causes and to work on a few basic steps:
1. Admit that you’re burned out. This action of admittance is where recovery begins.
2. Identify what has caused the burnout.
3. Change what you can, let go of what you cannot change.
4. Work on a healthy lifestyle. Eat well. Exercise. Sleep well. (Note: You will sleep better if you exercise. Try walking before bedtime.)
5. Develop strong social friendships and family time. Let others support you! Find a friend and share some time with good company.
Burnout cannot be cured if one is not honest with themselves. Burnout can be cured. It is just a matter of recognizing it and being kind to yourself. Take the advice of what Polonius gave to his son, Laertes, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” (Shakespear, Hamlet Act 1)