Professional burnout is diagnosed when three characteristics coincide:
- High levels of emotional exhaustion
- High levels of de-personalisation
- Low levels of personal accomplishment
Burnout is almost always preventable. It takes a significant time to recover from – six months to two years once remedial measures are in place. It is painful and disruptive to the sufferer and it impacts on family, friends and colleagues.
However, burnout is not always easy to recognise it can creep up slowly if you are under too much stress for too long. It is worthwhile doing something about it before becoming burnt out.
Personal impact of burnout
A report in the Church Times (2000) states that the number of clergy retiring before pensionable age on grounds of stress and ill-health has doubled in the last ten years1.
People suffering burnout:
- Find it impossible to concentrate
- Cannot enjoy what they usually enjoy
- Struggle to motivate themselves to do ordinary tasks
- Often feel they haven’t the energy to care about things & people they love
- Often have an impaired level of sexual drive & performance
- Experience loss of appetite
- Have poor sleep patterns
- Have repeated illnesses
- Experience low self esteem
- Are often depressed
- May use alcohol or other addictive behaviour to feel better
Do you have burnout?
The Mindtools Burnout Self-Test can help you check yourself for burnout. It helps you look at the way you feel about your job and your experiences at work, so that you can get a feel for whether you might be at risk of burnout. This tool is for information only and is not scientifically validated.
There are a range of actions you can take to prevent burnout
- Know your pressure points
- Manage your work load
- Improve your planning
- Keep a stress diary
- Complete a job analysis
- Say ‘NO’ more often
- Maintain your support network
- Avoid exhaustion
- Protect those aspects of work that bring enjoyment, satisfaction and meaning
- Recognise if you are at risk and take action immediately
- Church Times, 5 May 2000
- Ministry Burnout: Myth or Reality, Written by Leslie Francis, Professor of Practical Theology at University of Wales, Bangor, this research article presents evidence of the nature and causes of clergy stress it is written by an Anglican priest, chartered psychologist and fellow of the British Psychological Society.
- Just Managing Is Not Good Enough. Written by Sue Walrond-Skinner, this article is an open letter written after the author’s resignation from her diocesan role as Advisor for Pastoral Care and Counselling. It highlights positive actions that both individual clergy and diocesan staff can take in order to maintain high quality pastoral care for clergy and for those they care for. It also appeals for a change of ethos regarding caring for clergy.