The videos in this playlist serve as an introduction to The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout. Originally, I posted these on social media. They were part of my book promotion. So many people thought the content was helpful that I decided to make them available in a single playlist here. Individual videos and their transcripts are listed below. Each video is 2 to 4 minutes long.
Full Burnout Playlist
Individual Video on Burnout and Transcripts
Video 1 – What is Burnout?
Hi, I’m Sean Nemecek, author of The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout. The term burnout has become a common way of saying, I’m really tired or I don’t want to do this anymore. We might say something like, I just spent an hour in the line at the grocery store, I’m so burned out. Or I’m kind of burned out on pizza. Let’s do something else for dinner. However, when we use the word burnout, in a more clinical sense, we mean something deeper. When you burn out at work, you’re not just a little tired. A nap, or a few days off won’t fix the problem. In fact, in many cases, several weeks off won’t help, it may be necessary to find a different job or to change your whole approach to work. The World Health Organization says that burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. This definition highlights that burnout has to do with both our work culture, and our internal response to that culture. Burnout starts with a highly stressful work culture that generates anxiety and shame. However, how we respond to that toxic culture will determine if we stay in burnout, or if we bounce back. For pastors and Christian leaders. I believe burnout is what happens when our inner life with God is no longer able to sustain our outer work for God, a misalignment between our inner life and our outer work that leads to a hollowing of the soul. As we expend more emotional and spiritual energy than we take in. Spiritual author Henry now and in describing his own burnout said the term was a psychological translation were another name for spiritual death. Burnout is the condition of having your personal identity, overwhelmed by the anxiety of life. It’s a total depletion of self. When I coach pastors through burnout, I’m reintroducing them to themselves. I’m helping them develop the tools, skills, and habits that will enable them to be resilient in the face of a stressful work culture. In the weary Leaders Guide to burnout, I help you identify the cause of your burnout. Find a stronger identity in Christ and learn to build the resilience you need to thrive. Burnout doesn’t have to be the end of your story or career. With the right work, and a little help, burnout can become the start of a new, more sustainable way of approaching your work. Join me on the journey from exhaustion to wholeness with the weary Leaders Guide to burnout.
Video 2 – Am I in Burnout?
How can I know if I’m in burnout? I think I may be burned out. Can you tell me if I’m in burnout? Hi, I’m Sean Nemecek, the author of weary Leaders Guide to burnout. And I want to share some symptoms of burnout and so you can answer these questions for yourself. You don’t have to have all these symptoms to be in burnout, and there are more symptoms than I can list. But if you have many of these symptoms, you may be in burnout.
Let’s start with internal symptoms. You may be feeling depressed, angry or anxious or on edge. You could have difficulty concentrating or feel mentally tired. Your view of self is probably negative, or you are emotionally numb, or have bottled up your emotions. You’re feeling preoccupied, apathetic or sad. You no longer find pleasure in your favorite activities. You here’s some of the physical symptoms you may be feeling in your body, lethargy, trouble sleeping, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, like indigestion or acid reflux, low immunity, back or neck pain, headaches, high blood pressure or weight fluctuations.
There are also relational symptoms of burnout. These
include withdrawal or isolation from others, excessive or irrational blaming defensiveness or shame, complaining about administrative duties, receiving an unusual number of complaints from others. Just being negative, pessimistic or self absorbed.
Burnout also has some behavioral symptoms that the people around you might notice. Poor self care like lack of hygiene, poor appearance in insomnia, overwork compulsive behaviors like overspending over eating, gambling and other addictions. You may
have legal problems, debt, difficulty doing normal activities.
Did I list too many symptoms? Are you confused? Allow me to simplify the issue. Here are four diagnostic questions that you can ask to see if you are in burnout:
- Do you feel emotionally and physically fatigued? The kind of fatigue that you feel deep in your bones? And then a little nap or a little time off will not cure?
- Do you have a diminished sense of accomplishment? Are you working harder but producing less?
- Have you lost your sense of self? Does the person in the mirror if you’d like a stranger to you? Have you forgotten what brings you joy? Or why you do what you do?
- Do you feel hopeless? Or have you lost your optimism? Do you feel stuck? Or do you feel like you can’t go on?
If your answer to all four questions is yes, then you are probably in burnout. Here’s the good news. There is a way out and with some direction support a little hard work. Burnout can become a catalyst to better, healthier leadership. The Weary Leaders Guide to Burnout is designed to help you make that journey from exhaustion to wholeness. I did it and I’ve coached dozens of others out of burnout to join us on the journey to becoming a healthy, hopeful leader.
Video 3 – Types of Leaders Likely to Burnout
In working with burnout leaders, I’ve discovered several profiles that make them more likely to burn out. I’ve broken these profiles into three larger categories, one work, dysfunction, to relational challenges and three, self-sabotage. Let me be clear, burnout happens when one does not have enough positive work experiences. To counteract the effects of a negative workplace. Having one of the following problems makes that negative workplace all the more damaging. When I was in burnout, I fit several of these profiles. Listen to each one and ask where do you find yourself.
The first category is work dysfunction. This includes leaders who are overworked, under-working, under-utilized, misaligned or under-appreciated are likely to experience the stress, anxiety or shame that leads to burnout. Leaders who are overworked are doing too much of the wrong things, usually because they lack clarity on what’s most important. Under working leaders are not fulfilling the responsibilities of their job because of shame, which often paralyzes them or seriously hinders their productivity. Underutilized leaders have more to offer than they are allowed to give. Misaligned leaders have great talent, but they are in a job that doesn’t match those gifts. And under-appreciated leaders are not getting the recognition that we all need to perform our best.
Leaders with relational challenges like isolation, conflict, trauma or family problems have stress outside their work that makes them less resilient. Isolated leaders don’t have any friends to help them process stress, anxiety, and shame. Leaders in conflict are experiencing an overload of stress that is more than they can sustain. Traumatized leaders have difficulty separating their work from their trauma. And leaders with family problems are working under a constant weight that’s hard to escape.
The third category is self-sabotage. These leaders are idealistic dreamers, visionary, disorganized or divided negative traits that lead to discouragement, disillusions and disillusionment, which in turn feed the anxiety and shame that lead to burnout. Idealistic leaders are attempting the impossible and will always become discouraged or cynical. Dreamers are so future oriented that they have trouble staying focused on their present work. Visionary leaders can become so caught up in their vision that they become rigid or fail to strategize. Disorganized leaders are causing too much stress for themselves because they lack clarity of an organized mind in life. And divided leaders are trying to live multiple lives that lack integrity, which causes stress and shame.
Which of these profiles describes you? You can find more details on each one in the weary Leaders Guide to burnout. I’ll help you address these problems and build resilience so you can thrive wherever you are.
Video 4 – Stress and Burnout
Stress, we all experience it. In fact, the Yerkes Dodson law tells us we need a certain amount of stress to challenge us to perform our best. There are good stresses in our lives. A deadline can provide motivation to do work in a timely manner. friendly competition can push us to grow. weight bearing exercise will help us to get stronger. Each of these stresses is good within limits. However, when we exceed those limits, we suffer physical, emotional, or spiritual injury. Stress becomes a problem when it’s when it is too great, or it lasts too long. Like the materials tested by engineers, we reach our breaking point. Knowing this limit is helpful, but continually pushing that limit is dangerous. Burnout becomes more likely the longer we live near our breaking point.
Do you know your limits? Where are your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual breaking points allow me to share six engineering terms for stress that serve as metaphors for ministry or leadership stress:
Compression, force pressing down or in, which causes us to feel squeezed or trapped by work or ministry. It can come from having too many bosses, unrealistic expectations, or too much pressure to perform, we feel smaller, and eventually we are crushed or buckle under the pressure. People pleasers often suffer from this kind of stress, tension, the stress of being pulled in two or more directions so that it feels like there’s not enough of us to go around. We may feel like we need more hours or more energy or more compassion than we have available.
Tension will make us feel stretched out and unable to bounce back. This type of stress can come from not saying no. It’s a sign that we lack healthy margin in our lives.
Shear, a single high stress event that leaves one broken and unable to move on. Depending on the nature of this event post-traumatic stress may become a reality. The trauma of shearing stress can linger for years if we don’t get professional help.
Bending stress that pushes us beyond our normal tolerance levels and leaves us feeling permanently weakened, we will likely require additional support to recover from this stress. Chronic overworking toxic work cultures and people pleasing are among the many sources of bending stress.
Torsion stress that twists us around and around. Deep misunderstanding or a sudden awareness of a leadership blind spot causes us to become disoriented. And to feel like we need a new understanding, understanding of the situation or even the world in order to move on.
And fatigue, prolonged stress that slowly wears us down until we break. Usually in a catastrophic way. This allostatic load or continual weight becomes too much for too long. Even a lightweight can become too heavy over time. This type of stress comes from a lack of healthy boundaries and restorative rest.
Which of these stresses are you experiencing right now? Burnout happens when one or more of them exceed our capacity. The problem isn’t in our weakness, but in our trying to have more strength than God has supplied. When we push beyond the threshold God has said, we burn out. The weary Leaders Guide to burnout will help you learn to find freedom by living within your limits.
Video 5 – Anxiety and Shame
Many people assume that burnout is caused by working too hard. More than one pastor I’ve coached has said something like, I’m not sure how much longer I can last. I haven’t had a Sunday off in five years. At first glance, you might think this burnout was caused by overworking and a lack of rest. However, if we are brave enough to dig down to the root cause of our burnout, it’s rarely overwork.
When we begin to do the hard work of getting to the cause of our burnout, it can be a bit like peeling an onion. At first, we think over-work is the cause. But if we dig deeper with the help of a friend, coach or counselor, we will begin to see something behind our overwork. Maybe it’s driven by people pleasing, or by wanting to avoid trouble at home. Whatever the root cause, there is always a deeper issue behind overwork. As I explored the cause of my own burnout, I found layers of people pleasing, unrealistic expectations, and a need for praise that went back to my childhood, chronic anxiety and shame, lots of shame. I didn’t know these were factors until I peeled back the layers.
Chronic anxiety is the common thread in most cases of burnout. Anxiety tells us the lie that we are missing something. When we embrace that lie, it leads to desperation or despair. Anxiety and shame are usually inseparable—they feed off each other. When we feel anxious our personal identity and unique way of showing up in the world are threatened, we can be tempted to withdraw, to put on a mask or become aggressive, which are always we lose our confidence, brave, healthy self. Anxiety contributes to our shame, or loss of self.
Kurt Thompson, author of the soul of shame, says “Researchers have described shame as a feeling that is deeply associated with a person’s sense of self, apart from any interactions with others. Guilt on the other hand emerges as a result of something I have done that negatively affects someone else. Guilt is something I feel because I have done something bad. Shame is something I feel because I am bad. Shame is a rejection of self that leads to isolation from others, for fear that they will see how bad we are. We imagine that others will hate, judge, or reject us. Usually despite evidence to the contrary.”
Sometimes anxiety and shame are hard to see because they are masked behind anger. Anger is a secondary emotion. It’s usually there to hide a tender or wounded part of us. If you find yourself experiencing a generalized anger, that is anger for which you can’t pinpoint a source or cause it’s probably hiding something like anxiety or shame. If you’re fighting burnout, anxiety and shame probably play a large role. In the weary Leaders Guide to Burnout, I discuss how anxiety and shame contribute to burnout in so many ways, and the practical steps that you can take to get out of the anxiety shame cycle.
Video 6 – Isolation and Community
Many leaders make the mistake of thinking they can work their way out of burnout. They tell themselves, I got myself into this mess and I can get myself out. They try harder, schedule more, and look for new strategies, but none of it works. And then they hit the wall. That point when we reach the end of ourselves and have nothing left to give, we wonder if we should quit. Quit trying, quit working, quit life. The desperation of this moment is terrifying. Leaders can make drastic mistakes or tragic choices when they realize they have nothing left to give.
The biggest mistake leaders make when they are in burnout is trying to get through it alone. Please hear me. You cannot fully recover from burnout without help. You may be able to get back on your feet for a while by taking a vacation or making some changes. But eventually you will burn out again. To truly recover. You need at least one objective person to help you uncover the ways that you have lied to yourself. You need someone in your corner helping you face reality with brutal honesty, and courage.
Leaders who are in burnout usually have a deep sense of isolation. When I asked the pastors I coach through burnout, do you have some people who can provide a safe relationship where you can be seen, known, and heard? Do you have any friends? Most of them say No, I don’t have anyone like that. That’s a problem.
When I was in burnout, I was isolated too. I needed to build a team of people around me to help me recover. I found friends, talked to my doctor, found a mentor, and hired a ministry coach, a counselor and a spiritual director. It took a whole team of people to help me recover.
We need friendship and professional help to process the stress, anxiety, and shame of burnout. We simply can’t do it alone. In the Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout, I help you develop some strategies for finding the help you need. I’ll help you identify the relationships you need and teach you what a safe person looks like. This helps to reduce the fear of asking for help and frees you to be a human being once again, you don’t have to walk this path alone. Like me and every pastor I’ve coached through burnout. If you’re going to make the journey from exhaustion to wholeness, you will need faithful guides and traveling companions along the way.
Video 7 – Security in Christ for Burnout Recovery
A major factor in my burnout was fearing what people could do to me. I was afraid that they could take away my reputation, my income, and my home. I was afraid that they wouldn’t accept me if they knew how I struggled with doubt, and how often I felt like an imposter. I lived in constant fear, the image I projected to protect myself from harm would be revealed as a facade and become the very thing that would destroy me. This anxiety kept me from seeing a greater reality, one that would eventually help me face my fears.
That deepest and most profound reality is this. We are fully and permanently loved by God in Jesus Christ. Nothing is more true or more real than God’s love for you. And if you want to overcome burnout, you must embrace this reality. I’m not talking about just mentally agreeing with the truth. I’m talking about experiencing it at the very core of your being. Until the most common thing you say about yourself and to yourself is, I am loved by God. God’s love for you in Christ must become your core identity.
This security in Christ is the answer to all our facades and insecurities. Since burnout is heavily influenced by anxiety, recovery from burnout is rooted in security. We need to know that we are safe; that ultimately nothing can harm us. This is a hard thing to accept in a fallen world. We see pain and death all around us. If this isn’t enough, we are born through pain and we spend much of our early lives learning to avoid pain.
So how do we overcome this overwhelming feeling? By embracing the deeper reality of God’s love, by being rooted and established in love, we can comprehend how wide and how long and high and deep is God’s love and know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17 & 19). That’s the heart of The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout to start you on your journey toward becoming rooted and grounded in God’s love for you. The journey from exhaustion to wholeness starts with finding your secure identity in Christ.
Video 8 – Curiosity in Conflict
In my favorite scene in my favorite show, Ted Lasso, the title character steps into a conflict that teaches us all a lesson, that it’s better to be curious than judgmental. Conflict is one of the great sources of anxiety that leads to burnout. Whenever we face conflict, we have two opposing options. We can either become judgmental and defensive, or we can be curious.
Here’s the kicker, we can’t be both judgmental and curious at the same time. A great way to shut down the anxiety of conflict is to turn off the judgmental part of our brain by becoming intentionally curious about our opponent. Acting toward others with compassion, empathy, and curiosity will help you understand their motivations and actions. This understanding will allow you to be gracious and loving in the face of anger in opposition.
This is especially true when it comes to our critics. Sometimes their words can sting because they echo our own inner critic. Rather than becoming defensive when criticized, we need to learn to love our critics by listening to them well. Don’t assume that your critics are right just because you feel guilt or shame. Reserve your evaluation of their words for a time when you can work through your own emotions. remain curious about your critic. Thank them for coming to you. Honor the courage it took for them to say these things. Restate their criticism, in your own words to make sure you’ve really understood them, and to make them feel heard. Try to discover not only what they mean, or what led them to say these things, get the story behind the story. Ask about their life, their work in their family, show that you are genuinely interested in them as a person, even in the face of their criticism.
After you have made a relational connection, ask your critic for suggestions about what you could do differently. Thank them for their suggestions. But don’t commit to anything. Instead, tell them you’d like to take some time to think through what they’ve said. Ask if they would be available to answer further questions if you have any. Stay curious. Keep asking questions until they give you something practical.
Staying curious about your critic or opponent will open up space for conversation and resolution. Learn to ask good, open-ended questions that give the other person a chance to be seen, heard and understood. In The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout, I offer some practical tips for how you can respond to your critics with love and grace without falling into people pleasing behavior.
Video 9 – Grief, Loss, and Lament for Burnout
One of the hard truths about being a leader is that we will face losses, a project may fail, we may take a risk that falls short of reward. We may even lose people through death a change in jobs or conflict. A leader who doesn’t know how to grieve their losses is on the road to burnout. Leaders who are in burnout experience anger, shame, and frustration attached to ungreased losses. I’ve talked with pastors who said, “I’m just so angry all the time.” Sometimes they can point to specific frustrations or losses. Often, they are angry at themselves and may or may not know it. Many times, they can’t place the source of the anger. They just know they feel like a raging Hulk that wants to smash everything. Sometimes they stuffed their anger until they feel numb, not being able to feel anything at all.
People in burnout talk about feelings of hopelessness, numbness, or grief, which are all expressions that something has been lost. Whether it be purpose, vision, or energy. This sense of loss can be hard to discern because it’s mixed with other feelings like anger, doubt, frustration, and fatigue. Burnout always involves a loss of self. That experience may feel like being abandoned by God, but we are not alone. Unresolved grief and loss often show up as anger. And that’s okay.
God has given us a great tool to express our anger and resolve our grief. It’s called lament, and we can find it in the book of Psalms. Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the psalms are laments, intensely emotional cries of complaint to God. They are rooted in the character of God and express the brokenness of our world. As I was working through burnout, I discovered an interesting paradox. The more I tried to avoid my pain, the heavier it became. All our emotions are connected. Denying one emotion means that we diminish our access to all the others, including the good ones. That’s why we often feel numb. As I denied my pain, I also experienced less joy in my life. Artificially reducing grief also reduces joy. Expressing grief honestly opens us up to joy.
Lament is the pathway into the goodness and joy of God. Lament is the process of letting go of what we have already lost. It requires space to allow our emotions to come to the surface. We need to feel the pain and express it honestly. So, lament can’t be forced or rushed, and it will be intensely personal. Here are some elements of lament that may be helpful for us to keep in mind. Lament is directed toward God. Lament is raw, and emotionally honest. Lament believes that God hear lament moves to a specific petition, or request, and lament recalls that God is good. Recovery from burnout and building resilience requires the practice of lament. In The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout, I will guide you through the practice of lament so you can rediscover joy.