Here at Ministry Best Practices, we talk a lot about the dangers of pastoral and ministry burnout. Yet what are the identifiable signs and stages along the way to full blown burnout? The burnout process has been divided into 12 phases by psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North. In a Scientific American Mind article, the stages are outlined as such:
- The Compulsion to Prove Oneself; demonstrating worth obsessively; tends to hit the best employees, those with enthusiasm who accept responsibility readily.
- Working Harder; an inability to switch off.
- Neglecting Their Needs; erratic sleeping, eating disrupted, lack of social interaction.
- Displacement of Conflicts; problems are dismissed, we may feel threatened, panicky and jittery.
- Revision of Values; values are skewed, friends and family dismissed, hobbies seen as irrelevant, work is only focus.
- Denial of Emerging Problems; intolerance, perceiving collaborators as stupid, lazy, demanding, or undisciplined, social contacts harder; cynicism, aggression; problems are viewed as caused by time pressure and work, not because of life changes.
- Withdrawal; social life small or non-existent, need to feel relief from stress, alcohol/drugs/porn.
- Odd Behavioral Changes; changes in behavior obvious, friends and family concerned.
- Depersonalization; seeing neither self nor others as valuable, and no longer perceive own needs.
- Inner Emptiness; feeling empty inside and to overcome this, look for activity such as overeating, sex, alcohol, porn or drugs; activities are often exaggerated.
- Depression; feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark.
- Burnout Syndrome; can include total mental and physical collapse; time for full medical attention.
Where stage are you or someone you know in today?