Life Cycles Of Work And Rest Evade Burnout
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28)
I am just concluding a two week vacation tomorrow and I feel refreshed! Taking a vacation is not just sitting around doing nothing, but it does involve changing your normal routines and cutting new paths for your life. Someone said that rest is not ceasing activity but changing activity.
So I went to the beach with my family for a week, and then I’ve just spent time with Susan; spent time reading, cycling, doing things around the house that I don’t normally have the time to do; and just generally hanging out. On purpose I’ve spent very little mental time (other than prayer and personal Bible reading) on “church stuff.”
A pastor’s life has the potential for constant high stress. And if I want to keep at this call lifelong, I must make sure that I get appropriate rest daily, a day of rest weekly, and then periodic times away from normal routine. Creativity is the results of tranquility.
If you avoid adequate daily and weekly rest, and if you avoid vacation times away from normal affairs, you’re setting yourself up for burnout. Burnout is an irritable, caustic I don’t care attitude than slowly creeps in and steals initiative and motive.
In 1991, I was in a travelling ministry and had also started a business. Susan was working the midnight shift at a hospital and we had three small children. I was up many nights after midnight dealing with the details of my new business after caring for my three children (feeding them, bathing them, and reading to them and praying with them before they went to sleep). Then I was up early the next day to spend some time with the Lord before working at my business all day.
Eventually, burnout knocked at my door. It was hard to overcome, and I made a promise to myself to never go there again. I’ve come close a few times and it’s always due to lack of periodic activity change. During this burnout time in my life, I found the book, How to Beat Burnout by Frank Minirth. The principles in the book helped me to overcome burnout, and to stay rested.
I’m ready to go back to work now, and am excited to minister next week! I want to leave you with an excerpt from the book I just mentioned. It’s a burnout inventory. If you agree with most of the following 24 statements, I encourage you need to make some changes soon, or personal calamity will be a part of your future! Take your breaks, daily, weekly, and periodically take your vacations!
1. More and more, I find that I can hardly wait for quitting time to come so I
can leave work.
2. I feel like I’m not doing any good at work these days.
3. I am more irritable than I used to be.
4. I’m thinking more about changing jobs.
5. Lately I’ve become more cynical and negative.
6. I have more headaches (or backaches, or other physical symptoms) than usual.
7. Often I feel hopeless, like “who cares?”
8. I drink more now or take tranquilizers just to cope with everyday stress.
9. My energy level is not what it used to be. I’m tired all the time.
10. I feel a lot of pressure and responsibility at work these days.
11. My memory is not as good as it used to be.
12. I don’t seem to concentrate or pay attention like I did in the past.
13. I don’t sleep as well.
14. My appetite is decrease these days (or, I can’t seem to stop eating).
15. I am unfulfilled and disillusioned.
16. I’m not as enthusiastic about work as I was a year or two ago.
17. I feel like a failure at work. All the work I’ve done isn’t worth it.
18. I can’t seem to make decisions as easily as I once did.
19. I find that I’m doing fewer things at work that I like or that I do well.
20. I often tell myself, Why bother? It really doesn’t matter anyhow.
21. I don’t feel adequately rewarded or noticed for all the work I’ve done.
22. I feel helpless, as if I can’t find a way out of my problems.
23. People have told me that I’m too idealistic about my job.
24. I think my career has just about come to a dead end.
If you agree with most of these statements, you’re likely to be in the burnout mode and I encourage you to make some life changes!
From How to Beat Burnout, Minirth, Frank B (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1986) p. 37-38