Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Christians and Job Burnout

 Yeah...so I think I'm officially suffering from job burnout.

A couple months ago I started taking some of those quizzes that seem to be everywhere online, and I tested moderate risk for burnout. I just took another one and I'm up to high risk. It's a little hard for me to believe because I've always associated the condition with working excessive hours (which I haven't been lately)...sure, that's one of the factors that contributes, but there are quite a few others (feeling like you make a difference, interest, feeling like you're part of a team working toward the same goal) that have been weighing on me lately.

Quizzes aside, I'm just tired of doing things. Not sleepy or physically tired...but my will is shot. I used to come home and immediately start my evening workout. I’d cook dinner then move on to some language studies. Next came my nightly 15 minutes of cleaning and that was my evening. I enjoyed it, it kept me energized, and I could watch Spanish news. My life wasn’t perfect, but the setup I had was nice.

Fast forward to today, more than a year after I finished business school. I fully expected to spend my days rested and ready to enjoy life like I did before I added school on top of a full time work schedule. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I’m still careful to make sure I spend my free time doing things I enjoy…linguistic studies, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cooking classes...but…it’s hard now. I find myself blanking out while sparring. I don’t want to practice my pronunciation. I find myself shying away from recipes that take too much work.

My first fear was that I was slipping back into the situational depression I believe I experienced in my first job out of undergrad, but that's not it either...I don't have even the slightest taste of the hollow hopelessness that came with that trip.

I thought that maybe I wasn’t sleeping enough. I never do honestly, but I decided to make sure I was getting at least 8 hrs a night. Strangely, I was still waking up tired, while on weekends, I felt fine after only six hours of sleep.

My next solution was a vacation. I took a week and a half around the holidays, hoping it would help from the traumatic introduction I had to my current assignment, but it was horrible. I spent the entire time short of breath, chest tight, checking to make sure my inhaler was close by.

So I ran to the internet to find some inspiration…some other Christians who’d struggled with the same issue. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t find much. It's kind of sad how little advice there is for Christians suffering from job burnout. Most of what I've seen mimics what you find on secular sites, replacing "your family and friends" with "your faith and relationship with God." Sometimes you find advice to find a new job, make your current work environment better or to determine what you need out of life.

I’m not going to complain too much though, because even looking back on job issues I've overcome only through faith and divine intervention, I can't find much advice to give others but the trite, and somewhat dismissive "pray about it" and "listen to God". A friend of mine currently going through cancer treatments said something to me recently...he mentioned how painful it was to hear people simplify what he needs to do to get through his struggles, even if they'd been through similar situations themselves.

I've decided to turn my struggles into something more, so if you suffer through the same issues, check out my newest blog-venture that will hopefully help you out some.

I'm guessing a lot of authors out there are trying to avoid that. 


  1. Megan - All I can think of to say is, "it's complicated." What helped me through a time of burnout may not be the same thing that helps you. It may be the job, the let down from your own expectations, some unfulfilled need in you, who knows. But at least you are being real and honest and raw, which to me is the best place to start. Follow that with lots of talk with others who might be able to support you through it. No easy answers here. I wish you could come to the "Leadership & Spirituality" event in Prinecton I am going to be at this weekend...we talk openly about some of this stuff around career and fulfillment and purpose and joy.

    PS One of the best things that worked for me was identifying what gave me joy. Even at work. I spent two weeks writing down anything I did that brought me joy, and discovered that there were plenty of things that I had been overlooking. When you discover what brings you joy, you will bring joy to others.

  2. Megan, your situation sounds really tough. I understand some of what you're going through.

    I agree, trite, simplistic answers just don't cut all the time.

    I'm not going to presume I know the answer to your situation, but I will say do everything you can to drawn nearer to God. Sometimes it's the pain that God uses to get us to draw closer to Him.

    Remember, He told us to come to Him when we are weary and heavy laden.

    I agree, it's sad that there aren't more Christian sites out there that deal with this. That's something I'm going to look into myself.

    Thanks for your honesty and openness in posting about this. Surely there are many more of us dealing with this issue.

    In Christ,
    Joe Chavez

  3. I think I understand why you would be exasperated with advice (but maybe not). Nobody really feels what another person is going through – our situations, and thus our pain, are unique. What people think is helpful advice can come across simplistic given the complexities and personal pain of the situation, which the advice-giver can’t fathom on the same level as the one going through it.

    But with kindness, I’d like to suggest that there’s a danger of oversimplifying from the other side as well. The kind of advice that people offer to others in tough situations may – not always, but sometimes – come from their own place of hurt, pain, and anguish. I admit that someone receiving such advice may not think that it holds validity for them personally, but to dismiss those words as simplistic is to disparage the experience of the advice-giver; their hurt, their pain, their anguish. And even more, it dismisses how they got through it.

    If truth really is timeless, or at least valid for all time, then it shouldn’t surprise us if it occasionally comes across as simplistic or trite. Of course it does – we’ve heard it before. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, or that it won’t work for you.

    Hope you feel better. –dkm

  4. @DK and Joe

    Thanks so much for reading. I really can't complain about advice I've received as I haven't received much. Because I have a job during tough economic times that pays decently, I've found that if I express even small problems, I'm usually met with "well, be thankful you have one."

    I've honestly shut down from talking too much about job issues with most people. Over the years I've spoken almost exclusively with my pastor and my best friend, so I haven't even really gotten to the point where I COULD get frustrated with trite advice. I'm left with more a feeling of loneliness than frustration in that respect.

    I do know God putme in this job for a reason and I have grown in some very weak areas in my life...but...job burnout has some side effects that I'd like to keep from taking too high a toll (on me or the people around me) while I do walk through this challenge.

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. A really interesting read on something that affects so many people

    I have fought this my whole life, because I never say no. I'm not a shirker and thrive under pressure. Unfortunately, sometimes that pressure boils over

  6. Thanks for reading David. One of my biggest issues is that I DON'T thrive under pressure. I'm a planner, I do things ahead of time and pressure causes some nasty physical symptoms for me.

    I don't think that makes much of a difference though...being over your limit is being over your limit, regardless of where that line is.

  7. Hello, Megan--
    After 20+ years as a Marriage & Family counselor, I definitely was burned out about 5 years ago, and made the difficult decision to close my practice, as the things that frustrated me were not within my control to change. I made a shift into business consulting, and now work with companies to help them identify the right talent for the job.
    Part of this process is understanding that we are all different--we have different behavioral styles, different motivators in work. Some are highly driven by money and what it is useful for--not a bad thing, but if a person is a high Social value (desire to alleviate pain & suffering, to help others develop), working in a job that requires a high Utilitarian value (drive for money), then there is going to be a good bit of disconnect, and dissatisfaction in the job. It doesn't take long for this to translate into "burnout", because what you are spending the majority of your time doing is simply not fulfilling.
    Many people go into professions because of feedback from others, rather than really knowing their own strengths and desires, and pursuing a career accordingly. Psalms 37:3-5 is 1 of my favorite passages--God desires to fulfill the desires of our heart. What are the desires of YOUR heart??
    If you are interested, I would be happy to send you a link for an assessment & debrief it for you--my gift as a Christian sister.

  8. I am in job burnout myself, so I came here to see if anyone gave you some advice that I can use. Leaning on God and drawing closer to God is always, always, always good advice, but there isn't much "how" in those words sometimes.

    How, do I draw nearer to God? That, I believe, is a very personal question, and our relationship with God is very individualized, personal and unique.

    I have found that the things that destress me - that cause me to relax and forget - that help me put work back at work - that leave me feeling content are quite different from what someone else might find to do.

    I draw close to God when I hear certain music, lay my head back in my chair, close my eyes, and picture the most relaxing place I can think of and imagine all the people whom I love, being there with me. Celebrating life and love.

    I hope you find your answers.

    May you find God today and the peace that passes all understanding.


  9. Judy,

    I've found that I have to be vigilant about doing things I genuinely enjoy and staying connected to people that genuinely care about me...as well as staying on point in my prayer life.

    The hard part for me is energy balance. Like curlyag said, we're all different. I'm a low-energy, contemplative person, so cramming too much in my life wears me down...but I like accomplishing things, so I tend to take on too much.

    I'll be praying that we both find resolution and some sort of benefit from the situation.

  10. Hi Megan

    I read your post earlier this week and it really got me. I get not having an answer, I get hanging in there with God when it feels like you have nothing left.

    On one day this week I attended the funereal of a 46 year old father of three boys, got my kids sorted, did a phone job interview, my father (a whole other issue) called, then we spoke to my husband’s terminally ill mum. What kind of day is that??

    So today I cleaned the house, and it felt good just to clean the house.

    And then I wrote a post for you, who have been on my heart, and for me. Here it is:


    The Lord give you peace my friend and it's one day at a time. Strength for that day from Him.


  11. Hi Megan,

    I pray that God answers your prayers for your journey is surely a difficult one. Not everyone's experience is the same nor will the solutions be the same, but sometimes another's person's journey may light a spark for answers to your own pain. I wanted to write my story of healing for you right here, but find the text is too long.

    I have therefore posted it as a blog on the High Calling website at: http://www.thehighcalling.org/blogs/daphinas/my-journey-god-through-burnout

    I pray that you find healing.

    God Bless you.

  12. So Megan, it's been a year since I read your post and commented.

    I was actually playing around with GoogleBlog search and the settings for this when the link to my comment popped up. It's no accident, really, because I'm going through what you were going through a year ago.

    A year later and I know I'm suffering from burnout. I can't focus, I can't concentrate. I have no will to really work at my tent-making trade anymore. I have a ton of work that was recently dumped on me due to my boss quitting. I already had too much to do months before that. I'm crying all the time (thank God I would from home). I can't sleep, waking up all the time worrying about all the things that are behind and I'm failing to do. It's a vicious cycle. The only thing I look forward to, week-to-week, is my video ministry on Sundays at church. At my job, I feel like an utter failure. Never have things gotten this bad for me.

    All that said, how are things with you? Are you still suffering from burnout? I pray you are not.

    A podcast that I just listened to yesterday was a real answer to prayer. Skip Heitzig--of Calvary Albuquerque--was preaching through Genesis 31 and the story of Jacob and his lousy father-in-law. It was if God Himself was speaking to me that when circumstances get bad, after He has put something in your heart to do, that's usually when He moves. It's what I'm hanging on to.

    Let me know how you are doing.


  13. Joe,

    Your situation sounds so much like mine. Getting to the point of tears...there's something painful about just being there...about getting to a point where tears actually flow.

    I...am doing ok, thought I can't say it's because of job improvement. My job situation is honestly, exponentially worse. Bad at levels I never could have imagined...but my saving grace has been something God put on my heart (a lot like what you were saying). He wanted me to take a risk in life and I've done it. My life hasn't changed much at all, but my outlook on it has. I'm back to studying languages and I'm back to enjoying cooking again.

    If I hadn't stayed connected to God through all this, I have no idea where I'd be right now.

  14. This is exactly what I feel right now… And it's not easy to know what to do at times. I've been praying about this and God gave me an great idea to start my own business and I'm now on my way to start it.
    At the same time I can't afford to just quit my job and it's painful to feel like you're stuck to do something you don't want to do. I'm just praying for direction right now.

  15. Hi Jessica,

    I'm in the middle of that right now. I've started a business and it's been years in the making. Just the hope of escape of my jobs has been profoundly motivating, but at the same time, I've needed much help and prayer to continue to stick it out...mostly because I expected a miracle business instead of a reasonable, sustainable, slow-growing, well thought out one. I wanted and expected God to magically deliver me, but then I've learned that the challege of a bad job is deeper than that.

    Keep praying for direction, and don't hesitate to do something scary.