Are YOU In Burnout? (Pt.1)



When we hear of people who have (or are) experiencing BURNOUT and we often think of individuals being unable to go forward, physically spent, and not being able to function at the job or with life’s demands. In reality, many of us may have already entered into an early stages of BURNOUT, and not even know it.

This BLOG begins a 4-Part series related to issues of remaining alive to God and the work He has called us to do while still learning how to manage the incredible demands placed on all of us with living life today.


You can only live and minister our of duty and responsibility for so long. No matter if you are a CEO, store manager, pastor, Starbucks worker, stay-at-home Mom, or you work on the Assembly line. If you do not pay attention to you and your soul, and if you do not give expression to who God has created your to be, you will burnout.

Yes, we all need to eat. Yes, there are things that all of us just have to get done. And, yes, there are things in life that you cannot shirk,  and must be addressed, whether they are “fun” or not. But the point still stands. Living life only to care for the responsibilities, duties and demands of others and the organizations in which we serve is a recipe for trouble. Who God has shaped you to be can only go so long without the chances to express itself.

You have been “fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).” You are a creative act of God, birthed to express life, very similar to art, designed and shaped to display God’s grace-filled expression (Eph. 2:10) to others. Your greatest act of worship is more than just attending a service. Real worship is lives lived to full expression. It is a man and woman who is fully alive (St. Irenaeus).  To be who you really are, and how God has shaped your life helps to counteract the demands of others and life. You are a trophy of grace sitting on the mantle of the universe.

After reading much of the literature related to BURNOUT, coaching driven leaders down through the years, and then after personally recovering from a BURNOUT period in my own life, I have arrived at a “summation grid” I use now in my coaching to help leaders evaluate where they are as it relates to what I call “The FOUR STAGES of BURNOUT.”

Where are you right now?

STAGE 1: EXHAUSTION… the physical demands of life, your job, the duties and responsibilities of every day begin to crowd out the things that bring you life. This inability to get to those things that give you life begin to take a toll on your energy and capacities. You begin to feel the effect of having very little space in your life. You feel spent. And you begin to recognize that your depletion has begun to play itself in your attitude toward life and others. You have begun to say things like, “why do I always feel tired?”

STAGE 2: FATIGUE... the prolonged state of exhaustion now moves into a state of fatigue and weariness. A good night sleep is hard to come by. In fact, it is often hard to sleep. You go to bed thinking about problems, you wake-up worrying about what’s ahead, and in the morning you feel tired before the day even begins. You have come to recognize that during most days that you are spent. When called upon, you often “hit the adrenaline” button to get that extra shot of needed energy, but even that begins to see its limits. You turn to various stimulants to “stay up’ and focused, while wondering how soon til quitting time.

STAGE 3: DEPRESSED… the emotional impact from prolonged exhaustion, and persistent sense of being fatigue has now produced a belief that there is little hope for things changing or getting better. Whether acknowledged or not, you are now is a “depressed state” and it begins to show itself physically. More prone to colds, unable to call forth any reserves in energy. Even the basic things like outside activity, and going out, becomes a chore. Your day consists of just trying to make it through. You fear that someone will ask you to take on “just one more thing.” After hours consists of just crashing, hoping that tomorrow does not come too quickly, yet it does.

STAGE 4: SHUT DOWN… the compounding of exhaustion, physical fatigue and the struggle to just make it through a day begins to lead to an actual physical shut down of physical function. You sleep in. You question of whether you can get up, make it through the day, or handle one more challenge. In fact, you begin to miss work, and/or  become convinced that you cannot continue on. Appointments are missed. You are absent in meetings, though physically present. And then one morning comes, and you don’t get up.

People are often surprised to find themselves in Stages 1 or Stage 2 of BURNOUT.  Some even begin to realize they are heading into Stage 3. They have done life so long with this approach that they have equated it with normal. What can be done? What could God be doing and saying?

NEXT BLOG:  BURNOUT, PART 2 – Self-Leadership

© Terry Walling / 2013


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