If you have not already heard, Pastor Pete Wilson of Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tn resigned just a little over a week ago. What made this resignation so unique was why he resigned. It was not due to an addiction, moral, or ethic failure. It was something that most people ministry are familiar with but rarely talk about, burnout.
Nine days after his public announcement, I have personally talked with six different ministers who have been rocked to the core by what Pete did. The reason why is simple but staggering, because they are in the same boat too. Pete has thrown the curtain back on something that has become an epidemic among leaders today. We know how to lead churches and businesses well but have no idea how to lead ourselves. Our churches and businesses are growing and thriving while we are slowly dying and wondering if the pain will ever stop. I applaud Pete’s willingness to confront such an issue. I believe God is using this difficult moment to reveal the hearts of so many who are hurting and desperately need help.
The purpose of this blog is to be a sort of online mentor for anyone wishing to grow in their lives. Because of this, I talk about various random topics that I hope will cause you to think, be encouraged, inspired, and maybe even grow in your pursuit of excellence. That being said, many people are on the brink or have already fallen overboard into the sea of burnout. You know it. It is time to come clean.
Here are some of the signs that you may be experiencing burnout or emotional exhaustion:
- Chronic fatigue. In the early stages, you may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day.
- Insomnia. In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. In the latter stages, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal; as exhausted as you are, you can’t sleep.
- Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.
- Physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
- Increased illness. Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.
- Loss of appetite. In the early stages, you may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals. In the latter stages, you may lose your appetite all together and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
- Anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
- Depression. In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped, severely depressed, and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
- Anger. At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in theworkplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.)
Signs of Cynicism and Detachment
- Loss of enjoyment. At first, loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work all together.
- Pessimism. At first, this may present itself as negative self-talk and/or moving from a glass half-full to a glass half-empty attitude. At its worst, this may move beyond how you feel about yourself and extend to trust issues with coworkers and family members and a feeling that you can’t count on anyone.
- Isolation. In the early stages, this may seem like mild resistance to socializing (i.e., not wanting to go out to lunch; closing your door occasionally to keep others out). In the latter stages, you may become angry when someone speaks to you, or you may come in early or leave late to avoid interactions.
- Detachment. Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment. It can take the form of the isolative behaviors described above, and result in removing yourself emotionally and physically from your job and other responsibilities. You may call in sick often, stop returning calls and emails, or regularly come in late.
Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment
- Feelings of apathy and hopelessness. This is similar to what is described in the depression and pessimism sections of this article. It presents as a general sense that nothing is going right or nothing matters. As the symptoms worsen, these feelings may become immobilizing, making it seems like “what’s the point?”
- Increased irritability. Irritability often stems from feeling ineffective, unimportant, useless, and an increasing sense that you’re not able to do things as efficiently or effectively as you once did. In the early stages, this can interfere in personal and professional relationships. At its worst, it can destroy relationships and careers.
- Lack of productivity and poor performance. Despite long hours, chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and an ever-growing to-do list. At times, it seems that as hard as you try, you can’t climb out from under the pile.
1. Take an inventory. Make a list of all the situations that cause you to feel stressed, anxious, worried, frustrated, and helpless. Don’t rush through it. It’s not a race; it’s a process. Also, you cannot move forward until you know where you are.
2. Locate. After taking an inventory, locate the highest stress options and eliminate.
3. Just say “no.” While you’re “recovering,” avoid taking on any new commitments or responsibilities.
4. Delegate as many things as possible, even if the person you’re delegating to may not do them as quickly or as well as you would.
5. Control your devices. Gadgets, such as iPads, computers, and smart phones, can consume large amounts of your time and energy. Turn them off as much as possible.
6. Socialize outside your professional group. This can provide fresh perspectives, stimulate new ideas, and help you discover previously undiscovered resources.
7. Resist the urge to take work home. Enough said.
8. Get a better view of counseling. Gone are the days of misguided views on counseling. Have a professional counselor in your life is a very healthy thing to do.
9. Rediscover your passion. How long has it been since you did something purely for the joy of it?
10. Rest. It took you a long time to get this way. I will not get better overnight. Embrace the process and rest, rest, rest. The world will keep spinning, I promise.
So, where do you stand with all this?