The Counselor’s Burnout

We would think that the field of counseling would offer a lifetime of satisfaction and vocational fulfilment. But it is hard work that is emotionally draining and very stressful. Contributing to this are the feelings of futility, powerlessness, fatigue, cynicism, apathy, irritability and frustration. To help prevent burnout, we can utilize these ideas:

  1. Spiritual strength that comes from regular periods of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures.
  2. Support from a few others who accept us for who we are and not what we do. We all need a person to whom we can cry if we need to, a person who we can trust.
  3. Solitude: take time off from the demands of people. Jesus did.
  4. Share the load by training a few capable leaders to be sensitive lay counselors and burden bearers.

If you are burned out already, take the phone off the hook and get away for a time of re-evaluation. Consider your leisure activities. How can you lighten your load and add self-fulfillment and relaxation? We are beings who need both work and rest and play. Otherwise life will become boring and routine.

How to Avoid Burnout

I’ve been studying the life of Paul over the past couple of months and wanted to pass on this information, perhaps you can relate:

Life is so busy these days, family, work, church, and we try to schedule a little time for leisure activities. As in any church, there is a large group of people who do a tremendous amount of volunteering. While many serve with joy, we can easily move toward burnout and lose that joy, forgetting the purpose we serve in the first place. I have discovered from Paul that the best time to deal with burnout is before you burnout. Take a look at Second Corinthians chapter four where Paul tells us how to go the distance.

Remember God’s mercy and don’t lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1): God has given us our particular ministries. We don’t have to prove our worth through our ministry, and we don’t have to wallow in our mistakes. It is God who calls and gives us strength.

Be truthful and honest in all you do (2 Corinthians 4:2): Maintain our integrity because integrity produces power in life. Guilt zaps your energy. You need to finish with your character intact. Your integrity includes how you handle the Word of God. Don’t distort it or make it confusing. Don’t serve others out of guilt.

Be motivated to work for Jesus’ sake, not out of selfish desires (2 Corinthians 4:5): We need the right motivation to serve others. We have to start as servants and end as servants, not celebrities, like people can see all that we do for God. We need to learn to live our lives for an audience of one, and that one is Jesus Christ, our only motivation.

Realize that Christians are only human (2 Corinthians 4:7): We must accept our limitations. The quickest way to burn out is to try to be Superman. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses, and recognizing that we don’t need to do everything in order to be faithful. Pace yourself for the important things, not just the urgent things.

Develop a true love for others (2 Corinthians 4:15): Churches and believers thrive, grow, and survive when love is present. We must love the people we serve or we won’t last in the ministry God has for us. Love even covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Allow time for inward rejuvenation (2 Corinthians 4:16): Serving others can be hard and take a lot out of us, so it is important to allow the inner person to be renewed. Take time for reflection, solitude, reading and prayer.

Stay focused on the important things (2 Corinthians 4:17-18): Let’s keep our eyes on the goal, not the difficulties we might encounter. I’ve heard it said that only God who sees the invisible can achieve the impossible. To be a winner in this marathon of faithful service, we need trust God and press on even when things don’t make sense.

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