the stages of burnout

by Pastor Mark Jordan


“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)
This week we are exploring the nature of burnout. Yesterday I shared the three components of burnout: exhaustion (extreme fatigue, not relieved by regular rest), cynicism (developing feelings that no matter what you try or do, it won’t help), and loss of self esteem (feeling like you are not good, worthy, valuable, or effective). Are you experiencing one of those three components? It’s very difficult, isn’t it?
If you’re experiencing burnout, you’re probably wondering how you got there. Let’s face it, when you’re there, you experience all three of the components listed above, wondering what in the world happened. These are the five stages of burnout identified that take you from feeling like you can conquer the world to feeling conquered by the world…
  1. Enthusiasm: a prevailing feeling of optimism after setting high goals and investing a great deal of energy toward achieving them
  2. Stagnation: your life becomes limited to maintenance, and your personal priorities suffer. Trying harder does not lead to success, but disappointment.
  3. Frustration: you experience failure and a sense of powerlessness when your efforts don’t pay off. This is exacerbated when you do not receive acknowledgement, affirmation, and encouragement for your work, leading you to feel inadequate and incompetent.
  4. Apathy: despair and disillusionment occur. You don’t see a way out, so you become resigned and indifferent.
  5. Intervention: a feeling of helplessness prompts you to actively look for, and accept, help.
 Please take note that these stages are not necessarily linear. You can experience one or more without the other(s). The important thing is for you to understand the components of burnout, and knowing where you are in the stages of burnout. Once you know where you are, and can discern how you got there, and take the necessary steps relight your fire so you can do the work God calls you to do.
Tomorrow, we will look at some powerful spiritual advice to help begin a recovery from burnout. In the meantime, if you think you are suffering burnout, take this test to assess your risk for burnout:
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to stand firm in you, strong in your strength, knowing that everything I do can have purpose and meaning. I recognize, though, that things happen in life that can lead me to feeling as though all I am and do is in vain. Forgive me, and help me to see that I can begin again with you in enthusiasm, believe that my life matters, and serve you owing that I belong to your forever family. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.