Last week during our Urban Youth Ministry intensives, I had the opportunity to listen in on a session with Dr. Cynthia Eriksson and Dr. Jude Tiersma Watson on stress and burnout in ministry. Cynthia emphasized a few things about burnout that I wanted to pass on this week:
- The term burnout was actually developed to describe work-related stress in jobs that focus on the needs of people. In other words, burnout is connected to the question, What does it mean to care for people?
- Burnout is interconnected with our experiences of traumatic events and the ways we absorb the traumatic experiences of others (often called vicarious trauma). As we learned in the Risk and Resilience study, urban youth workers often experience vicarious trauma.
- Burnout is marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (feeling calloused towards people you care about), and a lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. When all three of these are happening to us at the same time, were experiencing a season of burnout.
- Feeling burnout often involves feeling shameshame that were not strong enough to do it on our own or not successful enough to do what we thought we could do.
Cynthia encouraged us to think about burnout as a message, certainly a message from our bodies and hearts, but also perhaps a message from God to think about this season of life and what might need to change. We may need to begin to ask ourselves questions like: What kinds of support do I need? Do I need a break? Am I talking with someone else about what Im feeling? Rather than shaming ourselves over what we cant push through on our own, perhaps we need to set the self-shame aside and ask someone for help.
If thats you this week, take this as permission-giving to call up a trusted friend or mentor and ask them to help you make some next steps toward responding to the message burnout (and perhaps God) might be sending you.
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