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Burnout: Burn Beast Burn

 
Burnout
 

Burnout: Burn Beast Burn

By: Rev. Dr. Debbie Daley-Salinger
 
Douglas Queen and Keith Harding’s article, “Societal Pandemic Burnout: A COVID Legacy,” candidly states, “With billions of the world’s populations
Debbie Daley-Salinger
 Rev. Dr. Debbie Daley-Salinger
now in lockdown as COVID‐19 sweeps the globe, burnout is still very much around—but it looks a little different right now. Coping with a pandemic can feel overwhelming and exhausting and leave you feeling drained or anxious or perhaps even both.”
 
I have a condition called Ménière’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that may cause severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing loss. The vertigo comes and goes. However, the tinnitus stays with me 100% of the time at a varying pitch and with that, a certain degree of hearing loss. One of the triggers that determines the loudness of the ringing is stress. Lately, the ringing shakes my inner ear like an earthquake, loud like thunder. I can feel the vibration of the outer sound rushing in like the wind, slowly burning its way to my membrane. Through it all, I can hear the gentle whisper, “Burnout. Burnout. Burnout. Debbie, what are you doing here?”
 
That’s right, you heard me—burnout! I wonder how many of you are feeling like you are at the brink of burnout. I do. One of the first courses I took at Asbury was PC501: Pastor Care. My shortsighted, yet hopeful self, wrote these words in Fall 2014:
 
“Although I am not yet a pastor –a call to help others, I have spent many years in a profession where I helped others to achieve their goals and meet seemingly unrealistic commitments. As such, I can certainly relate to the symptoms of burnout: feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion, feeling of reduced personal accomplishment, sleeplessness, and headaches, to name a few. Until now, I had never thought of how important it is to first take care of oneself before even thinking of taking care of others/others’ needs or the importance of having “Jethros” in my life. 
Here we are in Fall 2020 (the time of writing this), feeling I can’t go on much longer. I need a break from all this noise. But when? When is the best time to retreat (echoing one of my “Jethro” sisters.)? Friends, these are gentle whispers, or not so gentle cries of burnout.
 
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Prolonged or repeated stress – a state we often were in even before the pandemic. Queen and Harding noted that “the response to COVID‐19 is a marathon, not a sprint.” This saying is true for medical personnel and first responders but it’s also true for ministry leaders.
 
Can you relate to any of these symptoms: feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion; feeling of reduced personal accomplishment; sleeplessness and headaches; lack of motivation? If so, you are burned out.
 
How about frequent feelings of cynicism, anger, or irritability? You are burned out.
 
Virtual preaching, Switcher Studio, Facebook and Instagram algorithms, video angles, lighting? What do I do Lord?
I was not prepared for this!
And to add to all that, Ms. Smith just lost her only sister in New York to COVID, and not to mention my uncle in Utah…all died alone with only strangers at their sides.
Do you remember Joe? he sat in the fifth row. Well, he and his wife both lost their jobs.
There is more. 
 
The church secretary texted you, “Pastor, don’t forget Church Council meeting tonight.” The tinnitus ringing is getting louder. The wind is thundering, “Stress. Stress. Stress. Debbie, what are you doing here?”
 

What is the difference between burnout and stress?

Let’s just agree that burnout is an extended period of stress that makes one feel as though it cannot get better. However, if stress is short-lived, it is most likely not harmful (unless there is a health risk). If stress is long-term, however, it feels never-ending and comes with feelings of emptiness.
 
The hand of God was on the Prophet Elijah. He ran fifteen miles at lightning speed because the hand of the Lord was upon him. He destroyed 400 of Baal’s prophets because the hand of the Lord was upon him. He is the prophet on steroids. He’s got it going!
 
In less than 24 hours, Elijah’s world changed. He went from the mountaintop to a valley of despair. In other words, burnout. Since you and I who were called by God for such a time as this, have the hand of the Lord upon us, allow me to share some good news on burnout, borrowed from Queen and Harding’s article:
 
We must first be aware that we are becoming burned out as this can creep up on an individual. One way to reduce the potential for burnout is to reach out to others rather than withdraw. Here are some tips regarding its identification and mitigation:
  • It is important that we have a strong social network to call on and people to talk to when we are going through difficult times. While you must socially distance, there are many virtual methods to connect.
  • Connect with family, friends, and work colleagues. Working from home and socially distancing does not mean being alone.
  • While working from home, it is important to try to socialize with co‐workers, so you do not feel isolated. Those “water cooler moments” at work are more important than you might think.
  • Exercise is also important to boost energy and mood. Doing some cardio, walking, or even weight training or other exercise activities can help to lighten the mood.
  • Try to find something in the work you do that you feel is interesting and helps you gain more of a purpose and value. This can be quite helpful in giving people hope and helping them to become more engaged at work.
  • Eating healthy is also an important way to stay healthy, mentally, and physically, and can prevent burnout. A balanced diet, eating more fruits and veggies, minimizing sugars, and reducing foods that can negatively affect your mood such as alcohol and caffeine, particularly if consumed in excess, can help minimize the effects of burnout.
  • It is also important to note that, if it has progressed into a mental disorder such as a mood or anxiety disorder, it is important to seek professional help.
We all experience stress during crises. When stress builds up, it can lead to feelings of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed, also known as burnout. It would be remiss of me not to add one more to Queen and Harding’s suggestions: "Connect with God. Make sure you find time in your day to center and connect with your Creator. Allow God to order your steps and give you strength for the day."
 
Dr. Mucherera reminded me recently that people who are burned out are better served by focusing on each day, so they are not overwhelmed by tomorrow. These times beckon me to sing often:
One day at a time sweet Jesus,
That's all I'm asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do every day what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus,
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way,
One day at a time.
 
For one of the last assignments for my Pastoral Counseling studies, I wrote these words, “In ministry, it is crucial to care for oneself to be more effective in caring for others. I have learned to do this through, and by, various means, including mind, body, spiritual discipline, and trusted relationships.”
 
My dear siblings, the Elijahs of the Florida Conference, the Jezebel, aka burnout, is about to burn for the hand of the Lord is upon us!