“No matter how hard I work, I never seem to catch up”.
The life in ministry is difficult.
And sometimes there is nowhere to turn.
You may believe the statements above. And you may even be a part of the statistics.
In a Westlean Clergy wellbeing support of over 1,300 clergy members, mental health issues such as depression, loneliness, isolation were noted as the recurring theme. < click here for full report>
Burnout is real.
And it affects you physically and emotionally.
If you feel low job satisfaction combined with powerlessness and overwhelm at work as a result of excessive and prolonged stress, you are most likely experiencing burnout.
It’s easy to hear the stats and think of other people, but when it comes to our own lives we often have a blind spot.
“I am called to ministry, I should be able to keep up with the demands.”
Ha! Ever been there?
Now add this: no sabbatical, no help with counseling, no clear picture of what’s expected.
It can be overwhelming to be up to the task to oversee and balance the multiple demands of ministry.
All of the above combined can be a recipe for disaster.
Few people are aware of the growing levels of burnout they experience. And those that don’t continue working in conditions that are harmful to their wellbeing.
Burnout creeps up.
And it gets worse over time.
Yet, ministry life does not come without chronic exposure to stressors and isolation.
5 signs that you might be overwhelmed
“When I get home in the evenings all I want to do is stay at home.”
Take Peter for example. He sat in my office and told me that he was once a fun-loving guy. In his early years, he loved to be social and have a good time. Now, he wants to stay home and can’t remember the last time he genuinely laughed.
When we are overwhelmed with people issues there is a craving to quiet. If each time we go out to a gathering we are pulled to the side to “just talk for a minute” there is a natural tendency to withdraw and isolate.
There is nothing wrong with balancing quiet time and social time. In fact, it’s good for us and Jesus encouraged it in Mark 6:31. However, shifts in your overall disposition, isolation and avoiding situations that you once enjoyed can be the first signs of overwhelm.
Avoidance to work
Rebecca sat in her car in the parking lot dreading the thought of going to work. Opening her emails meant hearing more problems, more tragedies and more struggle. She just wanted to enjoy her work again.
Being in ministry doesn’t mean you LOVE each part. Just like any other career there are bound to be parts that you don’t like. However, clear areas that you avoid, procrastinate or dread can indicate a sign that you are feeling overwhelmed.
“I’ve had this headache for weeks now… I just can’t seem to shake it.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat. Food is just not agreeing with me lately”
Our bodies are communicating with us all the time. But are we listening?
When we are stressed and overwhelmed our bodies are telling us that something is not right. Here are the most common physical signs of burnout.
- Generalized aches
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Difficulty sleeping and/or a disrupted sleep cycle
- Increased susceptibility to colds and flu
- Muscle tension
Dropping into bed completely exhausted, only to toss and turn thinking about work.
This is so common and oh so frustrating.
We can all have the days or even a week of extra busy work or family demands that keep us up at night. But when difficulty sleeping becomes a regular occurrence it’s time to self-evaluate.
Recognizing and identifying emotions can be difficult to do on the best of days.
Now imagine doing it when we are balancing deadlines, people’s expectations, family and budgets.
Just not on the radar.
Check out this blog on identifying and naming emotions.
A marked and prolonged change in our mood, personality or presentation is a warning sign of overwhelm.
And yes, oftentimes it’s our family or those closest to us that see the changes before we do.
If your spouse has said any of these phrases, you may be approaching burnout.
“You seem more worried lately, just relax!”
“You don’t want to do anything fun anymore.”
“You are so forgetful lately.”
“You’re always on edge these days.”
“You’re always talking about work, can’t we talk about anything else?”
“You work too much.”
We have created a quiz to self-evaluate your level of burnout. Click here to take it now.