3 Physical Signs You Might Be Burned Out

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Job burnout is more prevalent than ever, and we’ve seen proof of it in the church over the past couple of years with several prominent church leaders publicly stepping away from ministry to rest after a season of burnout.

I’m convinced that ministry is the loneliest vocation. In ministry, your social, spiritual, and professional communities are one in the same, and as a church leader, there is a lot of external and internal pressure to “have it all together.” This pressure and lack of external emotional support can lead pastors and church leaders into a downward spiral of burnout and mistakes

If you’re experiencing job burnout, you’re not alone. According to a 2014 survey, 64% of North American employees reported high levels of stress. 41% of those said that their workload was the #1 reason for stress.

So how can we as pastors and church leaders identify burnout and help overcome it before it gets harder to overcome and we make mistakes? I’m not a doctor or counselor, but here are a few physical manifestations I’ve witnessed in burned out leaders.

1. Anxiety Attacks 

Many people experience anxiety attacks in private and never tell friends or family. They might just say, “I’m just stressed,” and brush it off, failing to recognize that it’s a big deal and needs to be addressed. Symptoms of anxiety attacks might include shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, excessive sweating, or a sense of choking. Any or all of these symptoms can be accompanied with a sense of fear or panic.

If you are a church leader, pay attention to your church staff members’ behaviors and check in with them regularly if you sense they might be displaying symptoms of an anxiety attack. And if you’re a governing lay leader at your church, make sure someone is regularly checking in with the Senior Pastor about how they are feeling about workload and stress management.

2. Social Withdrawal

If you’re experiencing unusual patterns of withdrawing from social events or time with close friends or family, this might be a sign of burnout or depression. It’s the opposite of what we need in a season of burnout, so be intentional about seeking help if you find yourself closing off from close friends and family. 

If you’re in a season of burnout, make a list of “5am friends” that you know you can call no matter what at anytime. Fill them in on what you’re feeling, and ask them if they’ll be intentional about texting or calling you over the next several weeks to spend time together.

3. Fatigue

Fatigue can look like a lot of different things. If you find yourself fatigued at work but energized outside of work, this might be a sign that you’re in role that’s not the right fit. If you wake up tired, dreading going to work every day, you might be burnout in your current role. If you feel overly fatigued all the time, it might be a sign of pretty deep burnout.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms consistently, please see a doctor, counselor, and or coach who can help you work through this time. I’ve seen way too many high capacity leaders burnout and make mistakes that impact their family and church for years to come. No one is perfect, and it’s important that we as pastors and church leaders set up healthy systems and relationships in our lives to ensure that we can follow Christ and guide His church for as long as He desires.

How are you combating burnout along your ministry path?

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