stress and burnout

Yesterday I stumbled across the notes from John Sturt (a well-known counsellor here in NZ) about the difference between stress and burnout. Here they are...

Burnout is characterised by disengagement;
Stress is characterised by over-engagement.

With burnout emotions tend to be blunted;
with stress emotions tend to be over-active.

Burnout leads to a loss of motivation and drive;
Stress leads to a loss of physical energy.

With burnout there is a demoralisation;
with stress there is a dis-integration.

Burnout leads to a loss of ideals and hope;
Stress leads to a loss of energy.

With burnout there can be this sense of helplessness;
with stress there can be this sense of hyperactivity.

Burnout leads to depersonalisation and detachment;
Stress produces panic and anxiety disorders.

With burnout people will say 'it is not worth it';
with stress people will say 'there is not enough time.'

Burnout leads to emotional damage;
Stress leads to physical damage.

I wasn't in a good space at the time and had gone along to his seminar. This distinction which he made was revelatory for me. I (and others) assumed that I was stressed in my job as a Principal. The discovery I made that day was that actually I am rarely 'stressed' in the job - but I do have this propensity to live close to the clutches of burnout. Now I am sure they can't be just split apart so easily ... but I do wonder how many people make the wrong diagnosis of the problem and then tend to seek the solutions in the wrong place as a result?!

nice chatting



Mark Maffey said…
Burnout is an issue that the Church needs to start facing not only its paid staff, but its laity. In the ever increasingly busy environment that we work within often the expectations either placed on us or the ones we place on ourselves can become overwhelming.

There are some good resources out there - Alban Institute puts out a good title - "Who Ministers to Ministers?" Given the high drop out rate experienced particularly in youth pastorates there is definitely a place for greater emphasis on managing life work balance in our theological institutes and churches.

Some interesting links are below:;jsessionid=HK0LqyvkvHzHzfc5Nwb4zQTpmj21KdpCcngnxnZznzRNTphh9JBn!65375592!181195628!8091!-1

As has oft been said Churches are the only institutions that shoot their wounded. It is an issue that needs again to be raised. Other Authors who are worthy of exploration are Gordon MacDonald, "Ordering Your Private World, and Stephen Covey, "First Things First".
paroikos said…
interesting, i always thought that stress led to burnout and that burnout was the result of getting so stressed you shut down. reading the list, i think i have experienced burnout my self. ( i had self diagnosed that i had lost my passion and needed to take a break from ministry.)which is a revelation cos no one has ever accused me of being stressed- so i didn't think i could be burnt out! having said that, many of the things that were listed as burnout, disengagement, loss of hope, are surely just part of the struggle we face as believers in a world which denies the truth of Christ? In which case we cant really expect to be free of them (completely) in this life... or should we? So what did this chap say caused burnout? and how do we avoid it?
Anonymous said…
Paul this was a very timely post for me.... your post has opened my eyes.

I am a lay leader in a youth leadership position who also holds significant leadership positions outside the church and i am burnt out.

I have disengaged and this has been seen by some to be 'back sliding' but it is not. I just to need to re engage from another angle.

However last week I entered a deek dark hole and it was only through some really good church friends consistent phone calls, texts and emails that pulled me out of it.

This week is better... not great, but better... to quote a cliche.. its Friday but I can see Sunday coming.
Mark Maffey said…
It's so easy to beome immersed into DOING in Christian service. I remember in my 20's holding down a full-time job, studying extramurally, being out 7 nights a week 4 of which were Church related. I was rapidly moving towards burnout, feeling unappreciated, not sure of whether what I WAS DOING was having an impact and in the process losing sight of God.

The Psalmist captures it so well in Psalm 40 we slip into the pit, the miry clay..we need that hand to lift us out.

The word Accountability comes to my mind. New Zealand men in particular have an innate trait that tends to close down, to bottle up that which we are feeling.

Our churches need to foster relationships which emphasise accountability and provide safety and confidentiality which enables people to share their needs, concerns and provide encouragement. This can't be done by saying hello to someone once a week for a minute before or after a service.

We also need to put God back into the equation he alone can lift us up, put our feet upon a rock, and put a new song in our hearts.
Paul said…
hi anonymous... I am in melbourne at the moment but if you want to have a chat I'd be very happy to do so ... just contact me through Carey Baptist College in Auckland.

Stick with it ... as my electronic signature expresses it "(whatever the problem) the solution is found in walking with God". It is true!

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