Being a Pastor: A Perilous Profession, Part 2

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One needs to know the warning signs of burnout and look to ways to activate support and self-care and to discern a clearer alignment with God’s sustainable calling.

Yesterday, we talked a bit about the uniqueness of being a pastor and the stresses involved. We ended saying, “One needs to know the warning signs and look for ways to activate support and self-care and to discern a clearer alignment with God’s sustainable calling.” Today, we address those.

What are the warning signs?

  • Emotional numbness/reactivity. This might include pastors who have compassion fatigue and are quick to control or get angry. Questions to ask include: How are your staff and family responding to you? and Are they cautious and tentative? If the answer is yes, this might be a sign of emotional numbness and reactivity. How are your loved ones experiencing you? Do you have the reserves to meaningfully engage them?
  • Relational distance and escapes. Spending longer times at the office, in your study doing sermon prep, and not answering/returning your phone calls and emails are all signs of avoidance. Other more significant escapes are substance use, emotional/sexual affairs, and escaping into technology.
  • Physical symptoms. This can include sleep changes, unhealthy eating, digestive difficulties, headaches, and diffuse physical symptoms.

So what’s a pastor to do?

There are concrete things that pastors, and each of us, can do to counteract the stress that bombards us. A start would be focusing on the following five suggestions.

First, take good care of your physical health.

Take good care of your body. Prioritize visits to your physician and work to build in heathly exercise routines. There are significant benefits of a “daily constitutional” related to stress and emotional well-being. Create the space needed to take care of your physical body. This will require difficult decisions, trust …

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