Women in Ministry: When Burnout and Stress Become Issues

Part One of Three

Today’s women wear many hats. On any given day, a woman who centers her work around the family can put 100 miles on her car simply running errands and getting her kids to activities. A woman who works outside the home will attend meetings all day, drive through rush hour, and still have to make dinner, give the kids baths, and help with homework. In ministry, trying to balance work, home life, and sometimes school and another job becomes tricky. Single women are not immune to the pressures either. Even though they may not have to factor in marriage responsibilities or children, many report being asked to do more by church leadership and other members because people assume that they have the time to donate to others.

Women have a tendency to take on a lot anyway. In their roles as family caretakers, many are socialized to believe that the cooking, the cleaning, the nurturing, and the organizing falls to them. Add to that the breadwinning role and a role in ministry leadership and the already-full plate begins to overflow. As the caretakers and the ones notorious for their ability to multitask, it is hard for women to admit that they are feeling stressed, disengaged, or even depressed because of the full lives they appear to lead.

“Being able to recognize that we all have our limitations is the first step in understanding how to acknowledge and address our stress or burnout in daily life and in ministry work,” says Krista Kerin, Ministry Development Consultant at The Church Online. She adds that she is glad to see churches and women’s groups alike addressing this issue directly.

Experts will tell us that simply understanding the stages that we might go through in the throes of our most stressful seasons in life is paramount to identifying what causes us stress, taking steps to stop the behaviors and patterns, and eventually, overcoming the issues. We have to learn to recognize our Stress Symptoms, Our Stress Compensation Behaviors, and our Stress Breaking Point.

Many times, our Stress Symptoms are simply issues that we live with every day like headaches, stomach issues, or insomnia that we tell ourselves are normal everyday issues. We need to realize that these minor problems are our bodies telling us to slow down and decompress. When we reach the level of Stress Compensation Behaviors, we are truly trying to make the best of a bad situation by scrambling to make deadlines we know we can’t keep or putting others’ needs before our own. Ultimately, when we reach our Stress Breaking Point and experience the depression and hopelessness that comes from fatigue and the constant sense that we are overscheduled and not good enough, we are ready to make changes, but the patterns are in place.

Start to break the pattern by first understanding your Stress Symptoms. Next, seek help when you find the urge to get into your Stress Compensation Behaviors. Finally, know that when you reach your Stress Breaking Point, you can rebound from it and make changes in life that will help you stop the cycle of over-extending yourself in life and in ministry.

Stay tuned for next week's post: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives in Ministry and Beyond

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