Preventing Burnout For Pastors’ Wives. 7 signs of stress and how to prevent it.
“HELP WANTED: Pastor’s wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth groups, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minister to other wives, have ability to recite Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.” 6
Burnout is a very real issue in ministry. As a pastor’s wife, mother, and self-employed consultant I have struggled with trying to do too many things for too many people on my own strength for far too long. I recently took a course called “Facilitating Work-Life Balance” and a seminar about juggling life for the modern Christian woman with Shaunti Feldham. In this article you will find practical tips on recognizing burnout and steps to prevent and recover from it. There are also lots of additional resources for you to explore. Don’t forget to take a look at my Burnout for Pastors’ Wives Tip Sheet.
So lets start with what is burnout? Burnout is: “A state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion marked by physical depletion and chronic fatigue, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and by development of a negative self-concept and negative attitudes towards work, life and other people.” Christina Maslach1
Signs and Symptoms
Being the “Pastor’s Wife” may sound like a prestigious title but life in the fishbowl brings with it lots of pressure, unrelenting stress, and unrealistic expectations.2 Without a strategy to manage the physical, emotional, and spiritual demands of your role, you may crash. You may be on the road to burnout if you are feeling like:
Caring about your home, work, or church is a waste of energy
You’re always exhausted, tired, and feeling drained
You have frequent unexplained headaches, muscle aches and pains, or frequent illnesses
You don’t want to be around people and try to isolate yourself
Nothing you do is appreciated or makes a difference3
You’re helpless and alone and there is no way out
You’re cynical and negative towards life in general1
“The Pastor’s wife is the only woman I know who is asked to work full time without pay on her husband’s job, in a role no one has yet defined” Ruth White
Preventing burnout is a combination of self-care, setting priorities, and stress management. Some things you could do to prevent burnout are:
Spend time alone daily nurturing your relationship with God, journaling, reflecting on something inspirational, or time in prayer. In those moments you will find hope.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.
Set boundaries and learn to say “no” to overcommitment4.
Discover strategies to manage your stress and banish feelings of helplessness.
Slow Down – Take a break from commitments to reflect, rest, and heal.
Get Support – Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to someone you trust. There are a number of online resources especially for pastors’ wives.5
Reevaluate Life – Burnout is a sign that something needs to be fixed. Reflect on your purpose in life. Sort out your priorities, and figure out what is missing.
Preventing Burnout. (n.d.) Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm This website provides helpful information on the signs, symptoms, causes, and coping strategies for preventing burnout. It contains a significant amount of useful information tips, links and resources for dealing with burnout. This website would be useful for anyone who would like to prevent burnout, is approaching burnout, or is recovering from burnout.
Pastors’ Wives Thriving. (n.d.) Retrieved January 28, 2011 from http://www.pastorswives.org This website provides online support and encouragement for the wives of pastors, ministers, missionaries, and clergy through a members only forum. The forum is particularly useful for pastors’ wives who feel alone and that no one knows what they are going through in their role. This website is recommended for all pastors’ wives who are looking for support or would like to lend support to others through their forum.
This post first appeared at The Youth Pastor’s Wife blog written by Miranda Vande Kuyt. Miranda describes herself as a juggler; a master at managing multiple life roles. She is a youth pastor’s wife, a mother, and a self-employed consultant. She enjoys coaching those entering the ministry in career development and achieving work/life balance. For more tips for pastors’ wives please visit her blog at mirandavandekuyt.wordpress.com