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Five strategies for preventing burnout

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I’ve had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of pastors across Canada and globally through coaching, mentoring and presenting workshops. Overall, leaders are experiencing stress and burnout at levels not seen before.

What does burnout look like?

While burnout can exhibit differently in various people, common characteristics are present according to a vast body of research.

  • Overwhelming stress and exhaustion.
  • Isolation and withdrawal.
  • Relationship conflicts and tensions.
  • Negativity and decreased effectiveness.
  • Mental, physical and emotional health challenges.
  • Shame and guilt.

What can leaders do to avoid burnout?

1. Daily communion with God.

Spend focussed time with God in Scripture, prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit. If possible, start your day with God, letting him set the goals and pace. Invite His leadership. At the end of the day, the Church is his, and you are his deeply beloved.

2. Take care of yourself.

Most pastors and ministry leaders are passionate about their mission. While this is a good thing, in the presence of persistent pressures and a never-ending to-do list, care for oneself often falls to the wayside. You have the same human limitations as everyone else. Make eating well, exercising and connecting with those you love a priority.

3. Disconnect from tech.

Cell phones, smartwatches, tablets and computers are meant to be tools that help us stay connected, up to date, and productive. But, unfortunately, they have become an addiction for many ministry leaders.

Do you feel a constant pull to check your social media, glancing at your phone every spare minute? Do notifications interrupt you day and night? These habits may feel necessary and even beneficial on the surface, but over time create a harmful dependence.

Turn notifications to silent and schedule times to check email, texts and Messenger.

When engaging with social media, set a 15-minute timer and stop scrolling when the buzzer sounds. If you feel energized and engaged, give yourself a few extra minutes. But if you feel stressed or negative, stop. Be aware of your emotions and how media affects your state of mind. Avoiding interruptions will boost your effectiveness and ability to enter a state of flow.

4. Embrace apps as helpers.

Consistently, pastors share their frustrations with falling behind on their work and having too many repetitive tasks. As a result, much time is spent on duties and meetings that look productive but are ineffectual.

There are thousands of cost-effective apps to handle repetitive tasks and free up your time. If you›re not sure what would help, talk to a business owner in your congregation for recommendations.

5. Take time off.

It can feel impossible or even selfish to wind down and relax when pressures abound. Yet, regular rhythms of rest are necessary to maintain physical and mental health.

Schedule times of rest daily, weekly, monthly and annually. You›ll be kinder, hopeful, and more creative when refreshed.

These are challenging times, but with the right supports, leaders can thrive.

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