There are a few times a year when I hit a ministry slump: January / February and then again in August.
In both cases, exhaustion contributes to my slump. I enter January exhausted from the holidays only to then go full-throttle into two of my busiest months of the year. In August, I’m exhausted – emotionally and physically – from our summer trips. Yet, I know I can’t slow down because the start of fall programming looms before me.
These slumps are seasons when I’m ripe for burnout, when I feel overwhelmed and unable to meet the constant demands of ministry. These slumps are times when I often question why I‘m in ministry. They’re times when I might even consider handing my boss my resignation letter.
Despite the fact that these slumps happen every year, it usually takes me a while before I figure out what’s going on. It’s only after I’ve been in a slump for a while – and identified several of the signs of impending burnout – that I’m like, “Oh – this again.”
The good news is that once you‘ve identified what’s going on, it’s much easier to combat ministry slumps and prevent burnout, something we’ll talk more about next week.
Knowing that, here are 11 signs you might be hovering dangerously close to burnout:
- Even though you’re exhausted, you find it difficult to sleep. You lay awake at night rehashing your day. You obsess over your failures and find it hard to identify anything you did well during the day. You worry about things – some of which you can control, but most of which you can’t.
- The mere thought of work overwhelms you. You find no joy, even in the parts of your job that used to bring you joy.
- You have difficulty focusing during the day. Rather than doing productive work, you find yourself surfing the internet or watching YouTube videos.
- Your boundaries get blurred. Because you find it so hard to focus during the day, your work bleeds into your evenings and days off. Before you know it, you feel like you’re working 24-7 and yet the hole still feels so deep that you’re unsure you’ll ever be able to climb out of it.
- You’re unusually irritable. You find yourself snapping at people, running towards conflict, and getting frustrated by things that didn’t used to bother you. You lash out at people because doing so makes you feel better… At least temporarily.
- You eat your weight in junk food. Your good intentions for eating well die a slow and painful death and instead you find yourself taking solace in a bag of Doritos or Sour Patch Kids.
- You stop taking care of yourself. You have so little energy that the only thing you want to do is watch TV. You stop walking, biking, going to the gym, or hanging out with your friends and family.
- You gain weight – which somehow still catches you off guard, despite the fact that you’re not sleeping well or working out and that you’re eating like crap.
- You worry someone might call the health department regarding the state of your house. The sink hasn’t been emptied in weeks; The laundry is so deep it seems easier to buy new clothes than wash the dirty ones; And you’d rather use the bathroom at work than at home because you can’t remember the last time you cleaned it.
- You stop taking time for the things you love. You haven’t read a novel in weeks… Or gone to a movie… Or gone out on date… Or built something… Or gone hiking. You know you’ll feel better if you can just summon up enough energy to do even one of these things but that seems SO HARD… So you don’t.
- You neglect God. Gone is your desire to delve into Scripture, pray, or do anything that might help you connect with God. Rather than spend time with God, you become acutely aware of how absent he‘s recently felt from your life. Despite noticing his absence, you have no real desire – and certainly no real energy – to rectify it.
What other signs of burnout have you experienced?