Avoiding burnout without copout

Ministry burnout was a hot topic a few years ago, especially around the time Peter Brain’s book Going the Distance was published in 2004. I believe there is a link between neonomianism and burnout. Uncertain of God’s acceptance, the neonomian drives himself hard morally and practically to win God’s approval and in doing so burns out.

By enjoying the love and acceptance of God though faith in Christ the pressure to perform for God is off. There is a danger, however, of swinging too far the other way and copping out. There is a balance to be struck between self-sacrifice and self-love. This balance is different for each person according to the way God has put them together. I get mentally tired quite easily and so need to be reminded to watch out for symptoms of burnout without copout. Here’s a list of symptoms of burnout and some checks and balances:

  1. Exhaustion and easy tiring
  2. Disenchantment with work
  3. Feeling isolated–socially, psychologically, and/or physically
  4. A growing apathy towards colleagues, customers, clients, family
  5. Unprofessional feelings, attitudes or behaviour at work
  6. Increase in cynical attitudes
  7. An unhealthy increase in alcohol or food consumption or changing healthy behaviors for unhealthy ones
  8. Lacking interest in client outcomes
  9. Having persistent, recurring thoughts about whether you are in the right profession or about changing jobs
  10. Missing work
  11. Developing health problems
  12. Being slow to return clients’ phone calls or to reschedule canceled meetings.
  13. Showing pessimism about outcomes
  14. Displaying less enthusiasm and intensity toward client
  15. Feeling unappreciated
  16. Loss of the ability to laugh or to see the “light side”
  17. Dreading going to work
  18. Having trouble sleeping

The best way to avoid problems due to fatigue, overwork, and burnout is to prevent it. The following are some guidelines of guarding against burnout:

  1. Arrange working and environmental conditions so that fatigue and burnout are not likely to occur
  2. Schedule short “breathing spaces” during the day
  3. Always take a lunch break
  4. Develop a support system with other colleagues
  5. Consult frequently with your supervisor
  6. Arrange your office or work space in a pleasing manner
  7. When not working, learn to engage in relaxing activities
  8. Don’t bring your work home with you
  9. Don’t dwell on what happened at work during leisure time
  10. Let off steam about your feelings to an empathic listener
  11. Change the size or type of load you carry
  12. Take some time off from work (quiet days)
  13. Do something each day that in some way is pleasing to you and meets your needs
  14. Avoid being taken in by co-workers wanting to abdicate their responsibilities
  15. Keep meetings brief and to the point. Have an agenda
  16. Exercise selectivity in responding to emergency calls
  17. Remind yourself you cannot control other people’s behavior
  18. Realize that progress includes setbacks
  19. Maintain your sense of humor
  20. Avoid alcohol or drug abuse
  21. Get adequate rest
  22. Watch your physical health and nutrition
  23. Get plenty of exercise
  24. Keep abreast of current advances in your profession
  25. Organize priorities in your work to maintain physical stamina
  26. Learn to delegate authority
  27. Learn to admit the need for help in the job
  28. Limit the number of hours you work

(HT Carroll)

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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