signs you're burning out

Ever wonder if you’re burning out? I know a lot of leaders and people who wonder that.

There’s a fine line between being tired and actually burning out.

The challenge is, once you cross the line, it’s so difficult to get back.

Eleven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life. People had always warned me I would burn out. I thought I could prove them wrong. And usually I did. I would get tired – out of balance – but when I saw the edge, I could always pull myself back.

That approach worked just fine until the summer of 2006, when it didn’t.

In that fateful summer eleven years ago, I found the edge, and as I was falling, I knew this time I realized I couldn’t pull myself back.

Although I’m not a person who suffers from depression, I’m sure I would have gone to the doctor and received a diagnosis of clinical depression that summer when I fell off the edge.

Perhaps it wasn’t a stereotypical depression.

I could get out of bed every day, and I did.

As a Christian, I kept praying and reading my bible. I never lost my faith (I just couldn’t feel it).

People who weren’t that close to me didn’t realize it was happening.

But I knew something inside me had broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

My speed decreased to a snail’s pace.

Hope felt like it had died.

My motivation and passion dropped to zero. (Make that zero Kelvin).

Like most people who experience burnout, it felt like a strange land. I had been tired before, but I had never truly been burned out. It was so disorienting I didn’t know what to do.

What terrified me is that I knew many in ministry and life had gone down this road before me and some of them never made it back.

For them, ministry was done. And sometimes, tragically, they were done – hope never fully returned and they didn’t ever become the person they were before.

That was the last thing I wanted to happen to me.

Looking back, the diagnosis is still a little elusive and mysterious.

Who really knows what corrodes the soul to the point where it deflates?

But I’d say the most likely candidate for what derailed me is what I’d call emotional burnout. 

In caring for others I had not adequately cared for my heart or soul, or let others who wanted to care for it do so.

I spiralled down for about 3 months before I hit bottom.

Then with the love and assistance of a great wife, board, leadership team, close friends, a counselor, and a very gracious God, I slowly began to recover.

It took, honestly, a few years to really feel full stride again, but I recovered to 80-90% of full strength in the first year. The last 10% took two or three more years.

The good new is, there is life after burnout (my next post will be on ways to recover from burnout).

I’m writing this because burnout seems to be an epidemic among leaders and, increasingly, among people in general.

Maybe you’re right on the edge of the cliff right now. Or maybe you’re in free fall.

So how do you know if you’re more than just tired? How do you know if you’re burning out?

Here are 11 things I personally experienced as I burned out.

I hope they can help you see the edge before you careen past it.

1. Your passion fades

Everybody struggles with passion from time to time, but burnout moves you into a place of sustained motivation loss.

Think about it, for those of you in leadership or ministry, you used to have a passion for what you did. Passion got you into leadership, and it’s one of the factors that makes both life and leadership wonderful over a long period of time.

But when I burned out, my passion set like the sun.

I knew what I was doing was important (leading a local church), but I couldn’t feel it anymore.

I realized that a passionless leader will never lead a passionate ministry. But I just couldn’t find my passion anymore.

2. Your main emotion is ‘numbness’ – you no longer feel the highs or the lows

If you’re healthy, you feel things. You experience highs and lows.

When I burned out, I couldn’t feel either properly anymore.

If someone was celebrating the birth of a new child, I couldn’t feel happy. I just felt numb.

If someone was sick or fell into trouble, I couldn’t feel for them either. I just felt numb.

Burnout numbs your heart, and this was actually one of the earliest signs for me that the edge was near.

3. Little things make you disproportionately angry

It’s not that burned out people feel zero emotion, but I know when I burned out, the emotions I felt were often just wrong.

One early sign I was heading for burnout was that little things started to set me off. Something (like a missed deadline) might be a 3 out of 10 on the problem scale, but I would react like it was an 11. That’s never good.

Treating small things like they are big things is a sign something deeper is wrong.

4. Everybody drains you 

People are a mixed bag for sure. Some energize you. Some don’t. I get that. On this side of heaven, that’s life.

But when I burned out, I realize nobody energized me anymore. Not even my family, my friends or my leadership team.

In my head I knew they were good people, but my heart couldn’t feel it.

When nobody energizes you, they’re not the problem. You are.

5. You’re becoming cynical

Oh, cynicism. It’s hard not to become cynical as you age (here’s why).

But cynicism never finds a home in a healthy heart.

If you find your cynicism is advancing at a rapid rate, it may be a sign you’re burning out.

6. Nothing satisfies you

One of the hardest aspects of burnout for me was that nothing seemed to satisfy me.

Sleep didn’t. Prayer didn’t. Good people didn’t. Recreation didn’t. Vacation didn’t. Work didn’t. Food didn’t.

That’s a sign of depression, and it’s also a sign you’re burnt out.

7. You Can’t Think Straight

When you’re burning out, your heart messes with your head; you lose the ability to think straight.

I remember having read enough and listened to enough about mid-life crises and burnout to know that people make stupid decisions when they’re burnt out.

My emotions made me think I would always be this bad. That I was a failure. That there was no hope. That I should just quit.

So I had this daily conversation with myself that boiled down to five words: Just don’t do anything stupid. 

For me, that meant not doing three things. I told myself, Carey, don’t:

Quit your job

Have an affair

Buy a sports car

By the grace of God, I did none of the three. The first two are still part of my long term plan, but one day I think it would be fun to have a sports car.

Some days, simply avoiding stupid is a win.

8. Your productivity is dropping

One sign I knew I was in burnout was incredibly low productivity.

I’m usually a fairly productive leader and person (some would say highly productive). But when I fell into burnout, even writing a simple email might take an hour.

I couldn’t think straight. My pace slowed right down, and I felt like there was a cloud between me and everything I was trying to do.

If you’re working long hours but producing little of value, you might be burning out.

9.  You’re self-medicating

In the early stages of burnout, many people turn to self-medicating to numb the pain.

Whether that’s overeating, overworking,  sexual addictions, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care.

I avoided drinking, drugs or sex. My poison was, ironically, more work, which just spirals things downward.

People who are burning out almost always choose self-medication over self-care.

10. You don’t laugh anymore

This is such a small thing that’s actually such a big thing.

If you’re burning out, you don’t laugh a lot. I remember in my recovery laughing out loud one day after listening to something on the radio. It was then that it hit me: it had been months since I had laughed out loud.

When you’re burning out, nothing seems fun or funny, and, at its worst, you begin to resent people who enjoy life.

11. Sleep and time off no longer refuel you

If you’re just tired, a good night’s sleep or a week or two off will help most healthy people bounce back with fresh energy.

If you’re burning out, sleep and time off no longer refuel you. You could have a month off when you’re burnt out and not feel any difference.

I took three weeks off during my summer of burn out, and I felt worse at the end than when I started. Not being refueled when you take time off is a major warning sign that you’re burning out.

So Are You More Than Just Tired?

So how do you know if you’re burning out?

Identifying with just a few of these signs might just be a sign that you’re tired.

If you identify with half, you might be close to the edge.

If you identify with most or all, well, you might be in the same place I found myself—burnout.

And if you think you’re burning out, I would encourage you to seek immediate professional help – a medical doctor and a trained Christian counselor.  I would also encourage you to talk to a close circle of friends (again, my next post will be on recovery from burnout).

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you and what you’re seeing when it comes to fatigue and burnout.

11 Signs You’re More Than Just Tired…You’re Burning Out

87 Comments

  1. Frances on May 4, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    This has bin helping me so, so, so, so, so, much I can understand my self more than ever ,and I love this piece of your life story it suprized me. Oh and thanks.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 5, 2021 at 4:11 pm

      So glad to help!

  2. tvwallman on March 28, 2021 at 8:42 am

    hey, i was looking exactly what you were looking for, and i didn’t find it either

  3. Lisa on March 17, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks for this helpful tips

    • George on March 20, 2021 at 4:16 pm

      Hey Lisa , did you actually find help in these tips ? I think i did to some degree too , it definitely hit on some good points .
      Now on to what am i gonna do about it .

  4. Cynthee on March 3, 2021 at 6:26 am

    I literally just googled ”I am tired of living” and opened the second search result. I don’t know what exactly is wrong but I do know that I now find life to be devoid of any excitement. All the things that used to make me happy now seem like a burden (including praying and it also feels like God is mad at me). I like to be alone because I don’t want to bother people with my issues. I almost ended my relationship because I just want to push everyone away but like you told yourself not to do anything stupid , I keep telling myself ‘don’t hurt this guy, he did nothing wrong’. Finding this online makes me know for sure that I am not alone. God bless you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 3, 2021 at 5:16 pm

      So glad to hear that this was helpful.

      I hope you are able to reach out to a counselor and get help. You aren’t a burden to anyone!

      • go away on April 19, 2021 at 4:00 pm

        No it did not help, I’m tired of the world and it’s hate a hateful beautiful world

  5. Doug McColl on February 16, 2021 at 9:34 am

    I think maybe you could have given yourself permission to buy a modest sports car, a convertible at least. Driving with the sky overhead and the wind in your face is pretty close to heaven and darn good for the soul.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 16, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      Totally agree! Might still happen one day, although I’m not too sure about a convertible in Canada…

    • J Howard on February 27, 2021 at 1:50 am

      8 hoped that I would find something different in your article. I didn’t. Unlike you I have not support. Not my supportive wife, my loving caring children, old friend, nothing. I am not interested in normal. I hate being fake. I once enjoyed that I was different, but having been the mistreated, scapegoat, target for so long I see that this will never change. I’m not smart enough or strong enough (to fake it) because I value authenticity and despise being free and petty. I am intelligent, but not in the way others are. After working very hard I become burnt out. I have not been able to re-energize. There is no break. There is no time where I can put aside responsibility to focus on centering. I have needs that go unmet and maybe they are simply greater needs than others have. I am always beyond tired. I have nothing in the tank and on a good day I run on fumes. So when I can try my energy is used up before I can even achieve my goals.

      So I read your article. I hoped maybe you had something else besides the happy ending nose to he grindstone with a little luck you’ll be okay story. What I found is that you don’t. You wrote some stuff and seem to be selling something even though you are giving it away. I wish you had something, but society has always been cruel to me. The only people I e ever received kindness from are the outcasts and odd balls. Even among them kindness has been rare . So why did you write this as if anyone can be helped. Why didn’t you just specify that there isn’t always hope? Why couldn’t you just tell the truth? There is hope, sometimes, but only if you have the support. Otherwise we are all just statistics and worthless creatures who will never be able to achieve even a hint of the life we were promised as young Americans. Some of us are just weird and losers and society will always reject us. We are screwed.

      The bottom line is that no matter what someone like me who while honest and caring is unacceptable by our social standards and while I’d never hurt anyone or objective them or dehumanizing them, I will always be the garbage of society . For me that is clear. Having read your apparently different perspective I see that there is no alternative. So I’ll just sit here holding on to the smallest thread of hope that someone will justify my ending or offer a new perspective of true hope.

      • Emil on March 28, 2021 at 8:41 am

        Hey, I was looking exactly what you’ve been looking for. I didn’t find it either.

      • Laurie on April 23, 2021 at 10:24 am

        Wow, did I just write that? I agree, he just told us what we already figured out. I’m wary of finding a counselor because the ones I’ve had in the past just wanted my money and never offered any help that would keep me off their billing cycle. Then when I wean myself off to save money I got blackballed. Now if I go to anyone else I’m afraid I’m going to get labeled as a “problem”. It’s one thing if you can still make money and take off, or balance your time, yada yada yada, but when you work for others and your time is not your own, you have responsibilities up the wahzoo, then when it is your time you have the energy of a gnat, yah things just hit the proverbial wall!

      • S Rutland on April 29, 2021 at 1:55 am

        How are you doing now?
        I’m often outcasted to. “Their way or the highway” I’d choose the highway every single time.

        If you’re even the smallest bit different your brushed to the side, but you have to hold you ground for what you believe is right. People can be nasty, but there is also people out there that will be empathetic towards you and genuinely want to be there for you to make your life happier. Having said this, I believe it starts from within. Once you accept yourself and all your flaws, other people will too. Be confident in being different. Just be you.

  6. B on February 16, 2021 at 4:25 am

    I don’t know if anyone will ever read this but I stumbled across this blog post after doing an internet search with the words “do you ever get so tired you just want to give up?” I am. I have been at the same job for 21 years now. It is a stand up job on tile floors and I work 8 to 10 hours a day usually without a break because we seem to always be short staffed. About a month ago I knew I was probably headed down a less than postive path when something very strange happened. I came home after work and sat down in my chair and stared up at the ceiling waiting for my body to stop throbbing so I could change clothes and go to bed. After a while I realized that I had been staring at the ceiling for a long time and I checked my watch to discover that I had been sitting there doing that for nearly three hours. Then there was what is most accurately described as numbness. I have no joys in life at all. Nothing makes me happy. I fake laughter when I think it is the appropriate response for the sake of a coworker. I have no friends for a variety of reasons and the few people that I am acquainted with do not really share my interests and I very often find myself intellectually isolated from the people around me. On the rare occasion that I feel something genuine it is just anger which is so pointless that I have nearly lost the ability to become angry. This blog entry hit home in so many ways but the real question is what do I do now that I find everything to be meangingless?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 16, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      Hey,

      I’m so glad I was able to help you put words to what you’re going through. Here’s a good place to start: https://careynieuwhof.com/how-i-recovered-from-burn-out-12-keys-to-getting-back/

      This is how I fought my way back from Burnout. I’ll be releasing a full book on it in September as well. Would love to have you follow along the launch journey. 🙂

    • Amy on February 17, 2021 at 12:10 am

      I’m sorry. Sounds like you are in a hard season. I’d like to reiterate the article, get professional medical help and seek out a qualified Christian counsellor. Please trust that I am going to stop right now and pray for you. God bless you and may he give you wisdom on how to move forward in good physical and mental health.

    • Sarah on April 28, 2021 at 7:54 pm

      I appreciate reading your article on burnout. It’s very normal to experience this, in the world we live in. Some come to burnout through excessive competition and living shallow values or with people who don’t have heartfelt feelings for their wellbeing.

      I appreciate your perspective, in that even those truly engaged with life, spiritual connections with integrity, can still become burned out.

      It seems like anyone who puts a lot into the world around them, will come to that place where they feel discouraged and possibly disconnected from their true joy and inspiration.

      Sending everyone much love.

  7. Matt Waitley on December 23, 2020 at 4:30 am

    Thank you Carey. I needed the recognize some of these indicators. Can’t wait to check out your course on this.

    • Anne cartwright on December 28, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      I feel like that so mutch,sad,things seem meaningless lack of self control over my emotions worthless and just feel stuck here.

      • Marianne Castle on January 27, 2021 at 4:24 am

        Me too , I feel the exact same way lately . Like it’s never going to end . I hope we feel better soon . I’ll pray. I have a few ideas but I have to start eating more and better , that should help at least a little then I was going to join some kind of gym or club .

    • Rev. Don on December 29, 2020 at 5:50 am

      Thank you. But soon as you went into a sales pitch I quit reading. Too bad your help come with aprice tag. Which is revealing and rings hollow.

    • Jim bob on January 3, 2021 at 8:36 pm

      I thought you wanted to help. But you’re just a salesman.

    • Omar on January 12, 2021 at 8:20 pm

      The signs are here with me! I’ve just discovered through this article that I was burned out way long ago. During those years, I knew it’s burned out, but may be I unconsciously or consciously have been kept denying it, I don’t know actually! I am happy for you man. I smiled for those victorious moments you have had, and laughed at others. I guess this doesn’t make me burned out😃! I don’t know if I am off the cliff or not! I feel so desperate, and hopeless. I am a lone. I do nothing. I am waiting for something to happen. I wish it will happen soon. However, I am certain it will happen at the right time, when I jump from where I am right now ….. but don’t know to where! That’s bad. And that’s why I think why I am in this situation, because of this thinking. I see no point! What else to do! Thay bad too! I am very confused. I may confuse my self purposely! But why? Because I just want to sit do nothing and things happenn for me, so being in this situation is a good excuse for me😄! I really don’t know! I don’t like what I am in! I don’t remember what I was!
      Thank you!😃🌱

    • George on March 20, 2021 at 4:22 pm

      Hey all , did you actually find help in these tips ? That’s great , i really hope so. I think i did to some degree too , it definitely hit on some good points .
      Now on to what am i gonna do about it .

  8. Tinn on December 17, 2020 at 12:24 am

    Thank you for giving light to this topic. I don’t know when it started. I am not close to the edge, Im in the edge. I don’t understand what I feel, I feel like I’m a whole new person. Signs above, that’s what I feel. And it saddens me why, how is started. My motivation dropped to zero. I feel like a don’t feel a thing. All I have is my drive, my motivation. It’s like starting all over again. I’m failing. I’m falling hard. And I don’t care.

  9. Mike McDonald on August 28, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Carey, I have lived reading your stuff and listening to your podcasts since Covid started. I had hoped to attend your conference this past June, but sadly Covid got in the way. I just want to offer one piece of constructive criticism. YOU NEED A PROOFREADER … desperately. My eye goes to every mistake, and while most of them I can figure out and just keep reading, I thought I would bring this one to your attention, because you might want to correct it. Read your own words carefully:
    For me, that meant not doing three things. I told myself, Carey, don’t:

    Quit your job

    Have an affair

    Buy a sports car

    By the grace of God, I did none of the three. The first two are still part of my long term plan, but one day I think it would be fun to have a sports car.

    Carey, is quitting your job and having an affair part of your long term plan? I know you didn’t mean to say this, but I catch little glitches like this in almost everything you write and distribute weekly. You are better than this. Get someone reliable to eyeball it for you before you send this stuff out. I love what you’re doing too much to see you make these tiny little (yet sometimes embarrassing) mistakes. Praying for you and the groundbreaking work that you do.

    • Jewel Rogers on October 10, 2020 at 5:45 pm

      Thank you for mentioning that. Threw me off. I reread it like 5x. I’m guessing it’s a typo. Pretty good one.

    • Lisa Wms on October 22, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      Mike, Mike, Mike. The words are written correct. You need to get a pair of reading glasses.
      “ For me, that meant not doing three things.”
      “ Quit your job

      Have an affair

      Buy a sports car

      By the grace of God, I did none of the three.

      The first two are still part of my long term plan” As in long term plan NOT to do.

      Please read with readers and read multiple times before correcting someone’s grammar. It’s very rude.

      • Jess on December 17, 2020 at 4:43 pm

        Agreed!

      • Marcus Smith on December 26, 2020 at 6:23 pm

        Sorry Lisa, you are wrong. There is absolutely no reason inherent to the rules of english to presume “not to do”. And frankly calling out someone for being rude makes me think you are the one who should so some self evaluation. The wording in the OP is ambiguous at best, and should have been edited.

  10. Keith Horsey on July 30, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    This is me right now and has been me since 2018. 2019 was essentially the worst year of my life where enough major life changing stuff went wrong in a row in the first four months to fill 10 years of existence. From layoffs from one of my jobs, to having to move as a result two months later, having my live in relationship break up two weeks after the layoff to literally being 5150 two days after that and again a month later. I managed to reverse course, get a new job that replaced both of my old ones, and get back to some semblance of even keel again but then next thing you know this COVID crap starts up and the rest is history.

    My contract ends on January first 2021 and now I have to start a job hunt. I have exactly zero interest in doing that in my field. In fat I have hated doing what I do since I grew up and had to start doing it to make money instead of doing it for the reasons I started in it, which was the magic and wonder of it. I’d found a new relationship but it was over in four months just like the last one because I have lost my ability to conform to someone else’s idea of what and who I am supposed to be to get along with them. I want to leave the country, drop my IT career, and do something involving the human condition, like study ancient history, excavate ancient civilizations, or something similar, but moving abroad takes money and because of COVID, I can’t leave the country and visit Europe.

    I am tired of living in California with hysterical idiots. Tired of being lied to by politicians, doctors, other people. Tired of everything being so damned “important”. Tired of buzzword solutions to such a conundrum. Tired of being interested in people. Tired of that being “awkward” for them. Tired of knowing what awkward means. I have an interview today, and have absolutely no motivation to go through with it. The idea of interview after interview infuriates me. I’m tired of bills. Tired of phone calls. Tired of notifications constantly begging the question of why there is so much vital that I need to know so badly that I have to be hounded by electronic noise to avoid missing any of it, knowing I could do without all of it.

    Basically, I am tired of being conscious.

  11. Jessica Moore on January 4, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    i Feel like this most days , I’m only 18 just turned 18 . I’ve been fighting this for a while. Started out as depression/anxiety I’ve been in that medication since I was 11. Then it got to where I started feeling all of those signs and I needed something new my doctor said that all those feelings I’m having could be from my overeating and feeling bad about it so she put me on vyvanse for binge eating , then I said It didn’t help so she moved it up more then it worked for a month and stoped so she moved it up to the highest dose and said it was for fatigue (the way I explained how I felt) and it worked for a few weeks then stopped so I quit the meds all together bc how I couldn’t think clearly. I just don’t understand how when I feel like I’m coming out of this it all crashes right back down on me ever single time.. I’m so angry and tired I don’t want to go to work or school . I have a full ride to collage and I know it’s gray but I’m not emotional feeling that joy a lot of my feelings are missing a lot of me is missing I’m not the only me anymore and I miss that I’m so hurt and I’m starting to give up on it. I have a therapist but I’m at the point where will anything help? I want so badly to be better and get out of this mind state and this feeling but it always comes right back and I just feel like a blank page like I don’t have energy for nothing anymore I quit softball I quit hanging with friends I’m just there I’m not involved I’m really lost but this helped me with knowing I’m not alone someone else got thur this it’s just so hard to think I will when I haven’t yet I’m praying daily to God and I know he’s bound to pull me up I just need him now . Thanks for this amazing story I felt all eleven things and it helped me know what is going on with me .

    • Tara on May 25, 2020 at 10:54 pm

      I just saw your post (this is a seriously late response but gonna respond anyway) how are you doing now? Anything change?

  12. Nomorejuice on December 7, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Every one of these fits me to a T, it’s getting worse. My job sucks the life out of me due to the endless hostility between co- workers and the power struggle between management. I cannot get caught up at home , I am CONSTANTLY in a rush. And being pulled in 10 diff directions. Everyone drains me , I’m starting to hate my pets and I’ve become distant from friends and family Bc I just don’t have time to keep in touch.

  13. David on November 14, 2019 at 12:22 am

    Thanks Carey!!

    In my opinion, the biggest sign of burnout is decrease in productivity. If you already have a proper method to measure performance, this should be fairly easy to recognize. Another clear sign is constant fatigue and a decrease in creativity, among others.

    There are various approaches you can take to slow down. Personally, you can take a vacation or sabbatical leave. On the organizational level, you can arrange an employee gathering, group vacation, etc.

  14. Brendan Scale on July 19, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Thanks again Carey. I peaked in 2015 and used your advice as a guide as God recovered me. Really appreciate your honesty and thoughts. I also appreciated Dr Arch Hart’s 12 steps to recovery too.

    I praise God He has made me whole again. I’m still human but so thankful He gave me a new vision and a new reason to live. He is awesome.

  15. Belinda Jamieson on July 6, 2019 at 6:13 am

    I’m glad to know other people go through this. For me, at the moment, it is weariness of life. Especially had a hard year and a half and those things have passed. Then new issues – I will have to find a new job soon and my current one is okay but doesn’t feed me with any passion to do it. I’m wearing down.

    That looking ahead to a job search will take a lot of energy and time. I have a sense of narrow options to find something to give me work-life balance AND enough money to live off. I don’t enjoy 40 hour weeks in the type of work I usually do. I may need to retrain.

    Currently, I want to get away from people. and be left to work alone. As a single parent the stress of always ‘being there’ and also doing what nurtures myself is sometimes hard to cope with. I feel like a child and just wish someone would take care of me!! Very regressive.

    Living in a house with difficult owners, who interfere a lot, is stressful. The negative experience of not being able to find and afford a new place is also tiring. So I guess I let each thing seem hopeless, when it’s not. I have found many jobs before. I have found homes before. I have come through parenting this far, not much further to go. We have phases of being close to people and not, being social and not.

    I see a lot of good is here in my life and where I live, work. I feel bad. I known I’m fortunate in most areas and have to remind myself of that! But I have to admit it’s not satisfying in a spiritual way to be stuck living for money and the daily grind. There must be a little more enthusiasm for what we do, I think it can be found. For now it helps when I just live in the current day and nowhere else or I won’t cope with it.

    So today all I have to do is put away my computer, go to the loo and get into bed and sleep!! 🙂

  16. Christina on June 7, 2019 at 6:26 am

    LOL, I think he meant, as part of his long term plan he does NOT intend to quit his job or have an affair. However, he would at some point like to have a sports car. 😉

    • Nikki on July 4, 2020 at 10:02 am

      I really hope so. I saw that too! Not the part to have a error in word usage. I want to email him so he can fix.

  17. Patrick Dyson on June 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you very much for this post, super helpful and from the comments, helpful to lots of other people! I don’t see how to contact you privately about a typo, so here it is

    Your paragraph below says “The first two are still part of my long term plan” “have an affair” does not seem to be in keeping with your image, I am thinking that you want to change that?

    For me, that meant not doing three things. I told myself, Carey, don’t:

    Quit your job

    Have an affair

    Buy a sports car

    By the grace of God, I did none of the three. The first two are still part of my long term plan, but one day I think it would be fun to have a sports car.

    Some days, simply avoiding stupid is a win.

    • Christina on June 7, 2019 at 6:27 am

      LOL, I think he meant, as part of his long term plan he does NOT intend to quit his job or have an affair. However, he would at some point like to have a sports car. 😉

  18. Derrick Ehorn on March 29, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Howdy nice post !

  19. Frankie on November 15, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Carey,

    Thanks so much for this article! It ‘saved my life.’

    Three months ago, I was experiencing a definite case of burnout. Since I had no clue why I was experiencing everything I felt (I’d never been there before), I was left confused and disillusioned. Being on staff at a decent-sized, growing and thriving church had me at the edge of work balance overload.

    After some prayer and coming across this article, I realized (for my situation) the best thing to do was step away from the ministry that meant so much to me, in order to heal.

    Three months later, here I am… doing much better after rest and time off, and part of another amazing church ministry (but on a bit smaller scale which is helping me slowly get acclimated again).

    But just as (I’m sure) you can relate, in those dark moments I never would’ve imagined I’d see the light at the end of tunnel, much less be here at a church on staff again doing what I love.

    Thanks so much! You are a Godsend.

  20. Dudley Anderson on October 3, 2018 at 4:15 am

    Fantastic advice. Thank you. I think I’m going through this right now.
    One of the biggest causes for my dilemma has been criticisms.
    Bless you for your honesty and your advice.

    • sal on January 8, 2019 at 11:13 am

      I have a MEDICAL condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome My worst complication is FIBROMYALGIA.

      This reality check is an eye opener…… Anyone feeling “low” for more than a few months – GO TO A MEDICAL DOCTOR!!! Please rule out (underlying issues) such as Diabetes, Thyroid, Auto immune disorders…..

      Life coaching is awesome…. Faith is the best medicine! Be realistic about your ability to give (of yourself)…. You know when to stop pouring your morning coffee before your cup runs over….. Sometimes our cups are too big…… Scale it down….. Take care of you! You are the most important person….. of course, GOD first!!!!

  21. Amy Walter-Peterson on September 2, 2018 at 6:30 am

    I think you might want to reread #7 in your blog. I’m guessing you’re not advocating affairs as part of a long term strategy for wellness.

    • Margo MacDougall on September 6, 2018 at 8:10 am

      Re-read #7…it says “don’t quit your job” and “don’t have an affair.” M <.

  22. J Nelson on April 30, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for this, Carey. I find myself in each of the signs except self-medication. Same goes for my wife. We each have a counselor, which helps. If/when we can get out of debt, I would certainly consider taking your course.

  23. Leo Kaytes on April 17, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    I am interested in this information

  24. Ministry Burnout on March 6, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    […] Carey Nieuwhof has been there too. He wrote a post entitled “11 Signs You’re More Than Just Tired… You’re Burning Out” on his blog. I resonated with far too many of those signs a few years ago. Perhaps you can relate […]

  25. Justin Setzer on June 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Carey,

    Love your blog and podcast. You are a blessing to the Body of Christ.

    I am about to go on a four-week sabbatical. I became very worn out after allowing years of opposition to get to my heart and head. I take the blame for allowing that to happen.

    I was curious if you had any recommendations for organizations that come alongside and help pastors recover from burnout.

  26. Mike on June 10, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Carey,
    Thanks for the transparency and honesty as well as the helpful tips. I too have been to burnout and back. I did get great help from Care for Pastors in FL, they were awesome. However, I sense myself slipping back and headed to it again. It’s only been a couple of years and I thought I was healed, but now I see from reading your article that it takes longer. I need to give myself permission to continue healing. But here’s a question, how do you heal while in the midst of the pressures?

    • Edward on February 13, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      Precisely my question as well. Even if and as we seek healing, support, balance, and begin to prayerfully discern ways we can more wisely steward our time and energy…the external pressures and locomotive (or bullet train?) of ministry persist. Very hard to heal slowly while the system chugs on. I don’t have a good answer to your question, either.

  27. Jon on June 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for a great article. I printed it off. I do believe the drain of ministry creeps us very slowly. This article was like my blood test: it revealed what was right and what was not.

    i love being a pastor… which is my greatest strength and also a weakness if I do not pastor “myself”

    I ran my fourth Half Marathon of my life this summer and run about 20 miles a week. It is good for the soul!

    Jon

  28. Sean Nemecek on June 9, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I would love to take the High Impact Leader course but the times when it’s offered are the worst times in my church’s calendar (busy schedule, tight budget). Right now would be the perfect time for me to take the course (mid to late June). We are in a good place financially, and this month is always a time of rest after our crazy April and May. Early October and Early January are also good times. Is there any way you could make it available for purchase all year round?

    • Amy on April 29, 2018 at 8:50 am

      I purchased the course in January and I’m so glad I did! It has changed how I spend my time by helping me stay focused on my priorities without being sidetracked with things that just keep me busy. I’ve been able to get more done and be more available (physically and emotionally) to the people I love. Purchase it when it available whether you are in a busy season or not and go through it at your own pace. The first three sessions will help you immensely with your time.

  29. Rob Bagwell on June 3, 2017 at 12:00 am

    Oh how this is where I am now! I have spent the last eight years in hospice ministry. The company got bought out and everyone one by one quit or was fired. I was presented with a responsibility that covered a two hour drive by another two hour drive. I was exhausted. I came home every night burned and self medicated. Finally, after a 10 hour day 60 to 70 percent driving in the country, I saw a news story and my anger about all of my colleagues of several years now gone, I blew. I wrote some un Christlike messages to the woman who got Bill O’Reilly fired. Stupid! One of her devotees said she would ruin me. She sent a copy of my posting, hopefully not adding to it, to my local bishop. I was helping in another diocese twice month. A staff member in the bishop’s office saw the post and showed it to the bishop. I was suspended. Did I deserve it. Yes. Now I’m seeing a psychologist to “sign off” that I’m ok. Because of church directives, the bishop had to send this info to a neighboring diocese and I was license was revoked. The final straw was when it was sent to my canonical diocese and I received a stern rebuke fueled by another assisting bishop who had hurt me and my family terribly. Now I’m just edging on despair. Burn out? I’m completely consumed by the fire. My burning love for God is more a numb hoping he will stay with me. The following Wednesday, I the last of the long term staff at the hospice was fired for not fulfilling their expectations. I was getting miserable and a glorious group of Christian staff was no more. That’s where I am. I decided to stop any medicating so I cannot be accused of alcoholism, which the assisting bishop had always accused me of, with no evidence and protestations from the head of my parish board. Jesus help! As I write this my depression makes my stomach feel like a bottomless pit. I long for the energizing that I had in congregational ministry. I fear that will not happen ever again. Pray for me please. Right now, I need the joy of the Lord to restore me and open a door to an income. Thanks for letting me share. I’m really hurting.

  30. S Hicks on May 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Great post! It’s good to know the signs. My now ex-husband was a minister for over 10 years. We spent time overseas in missions. Then he started experiencing burnout. He refused counsel and now we are a broken family. He was just “done” with everything including marriage and the church. He now doesn’t even attend church. It’s very confusing for our 3 kids. All of the signs you posted are very evident and led to his burnout.

  31. Eddie Diaz on May 23, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Carey, thanks for this post. For the past year and half I have struggled off and on with the “funk” that I was/am under. I came across this article as I was signing up for your webinar and sent it to my wife. She read it and responded that she thinks I fit all 11 signs, I agreed. For the past year and a half I have placed my head down and tried to just push through, but it seems after the initial push it just gets deeper. I appreciate you sharing your story and helping me to have some clarity to what is happening. We will be seeking some help… Thanks again.

  32. […] told part of my story in this post along with sharing 11 signs you might be burning […]

  33. Robbie Neiman on May 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Great post, Carey! I feel like you wrote this especially for me as I have been experiencing all eleven to one degree or another over the past 5 months. One thing that I find helpful in all of this is moderate to brisk exercise. I do a fast paced prayer walk almost every day for at least 30 minutes and also do a light weightlifting session a couple times a week. This routine is not a complete cure but it does help me considerably… both physically and mentally. As an athlete understands that muscle needs to be tore down before it can be built up, so perhaps spiritually, God has to tear us down (maybe through burnout) to build us up even stronger.

  34. Lin on May 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    In the midst of it. Thank you for your insights that show what I am going through.

    • Valerie J Kerr on June 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Prayers for you. V.x

  35. Will on May 20, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I wonder how you know if burnout means you need to change jobs, especially if you are being treated unfairly at one job and even other individuals think you should move?

  36. My 5 for Friday (May 19, 2017) | Art Rainer on May 19, 2017 at 4:09 am

    […] 11 Signs You’re More Than Just Tired…You’re Burning Out by Carey Nieuwhof. Many leaders will say they are tired or possibly even close to burnout. This can be a dangerous place to be. Carey Nieuwhof says, “Burnout corrodes the soul to the point where it deflates.” Here are eleven signs you’re burning out. […]

  37. Lilly on May 15, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    I’ve never read something that so closely mirrored the thoughts, feelings and slog-through-molasses of the last 3 1/2 years off my life. Thank you. It might not be your pastor/church planter who is slowly slipping away, it may be his wife…

    • Elayne on May 19, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      I see & hear you sister.

      • Laura Lea Blanks on May 26, 2017 at 10:39 am

        It can get better, please believe me. Remember it took years to get to this place, normal will not come back overnight. You might find that you like the new, refreshed you even better. YOu might even love your spouse more. My heart breaks for both of you.

  38. Fanie on May 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Man, I needed to read this today! I am eagerly awaiting your post on recovery Carey.

  39. […] told part of my story in this post along with sharing 11 signs you might be burning […]

  40. 增达网 on May 14, 2017 at 3:52 am

    受教了!呵呵!

  41. […] Carey Nieuwhof   |   11 Signs You’re More Than Just Tired…You’re Burning Out […]

  42. helen rush on May 13, 2017 at 12:58 am

    agree with this, but I think there is more at issue here. I do not believe it is just about doing too much, or work life balance is wrong and getting very very tired and so inevitably…..burnout. While doing my degree, this featured quite highly in my not-for-profit case study. I looked at the mayo clinic and they suggest that the factors that contribute. include; Lack of control.; Unclear job expectations.; Dysfunctional workplace dynamics; Mismatch in values; Poor job fit; Extremes of activity; Lack of social support; Work-life imbalance. If we could only utilise the advice from these experts and put processes in place – I have too many suggestions to discuss here LOL. Makes my heart sad that some think burnout is inevitable and the only thing that can be done is to rest and not work so hard………………….. (this is not what I think you are saying, just what I have experienced and seen time and time again)

    • Sharie Blanton on May 14, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Would love to hear your further thoughts on this.

    • Elliott on April 29, 2018 at 11:12 am

      I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well Helen.

    • Dan Shilling on August 24, 2020 at 11:25 am

      Yeah well I’m done…I’ve tried for years to get some where anywhere that people say I should be. But I’ve always had been told that I would amount to nothing…so here I am trying to figure out how people do it. How do they manage a house, a car, a family, get that great paying job with benefits? For 20+ years I’ve tried and have watched others make something for themselves but me…I already fell through the cracks years ago. So like I said I’m done

  43. Joanne on May 12, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I found this article very insightful to understand others who are going through depression and or burnout. This article gave me questions to ask and behaviour to be aware of. I am looking forward to your next article so I can give a little bit of advice to others as I recommend them to seek professional help. Thank you for your candidness. God bless.

  44. […] 11 Signs You’re More Than Just Tired…You’re Burning Out by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  45. pastorcarl on May 12, 2017 at 10:09 am

    This has been timely and helpful. I have a great wife who notices things and asks me what’s going on or how I’m feeling when I seem to be “checking out”. I’m aware that things aren’t as they should be, but the nature of our calling does not include structured “time out” like someone who punches the time clock. I need to be reminded to be intentional about self care, which includes those seemingly innocuous things like humor and play. There will always be a mountain of things to do that there is never enough time for, but I need to stay focused on the main things and help others to do the same. Fatigue comes most often from doing the meaningless and unrewarding tasks without recognition. Doing the things that we’re passionate about also fuels our passion. Thanks for bringing this to mind again as we all need to hear it!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Carl…thanks for this. So helpful. Checking out could actually be sign 12. Great point!

  46. Mike on May 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the transparency, Carey.

    I’ve experienced (and am still experiencing) many of the eleven points you mentioned. For me, the motto I tell myself for getting through point 7 is “three days.” I still continue to battle depression and have periods where I dip into wanting to end it all. I learned from a suicide prevention website that when I get to that point, I can help myself by acknowledging the mental pain and setting a three-day limit to see if the pain subsides. For me it usually takes a day and then I can start thinking and feeling clearly again. I also try to speak with my wife and trusted friends who will listen without judgement.

    I only share this to say an “Amen” to your post and give a strategy to others who may be suffering in darkness. You’re not alone. Find someone you can trust and open up.

    Thanks again for being vulnerable, Carey.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Mike…wow. Thanks for this. At my lowest, I also struggled with suicidal thoughts. It truly is horrible. That’s good to know about the three day limit…never heard that before and I’m glad you have found it helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Nate Fietzer on May 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. You have no idea what it means to me. The fact that you have been where I am and are now healthy and such an incredible leader gives me hope. Every sign you have shared above is blatant in my life. I have been trying to recover for the last two-three years. I have asked “What’s Wrong?” and “What Happened?” over and over again. I have kept up with (even increased) my Bible reading and prayer time. I went to OC17 questioning if God was done with me when it comes to children’s ministry and in your session you said “God hasn’t exhausted your call to ministry. You’re just exhausted.” and it broke me. With all that said, I am really looking forward to your next blog post!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 11, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Nate…thank you for this note. Man, I’m so humbled and thankful God used this piece and my time at OC17 to encourage you. Hang in there. Help is on the way. Start by telling someone close to you and seeing a doctor and a Christian counsellor. I’ll share more Monday and I’m doing a Facebook Live on it tomorrow, May 12th at 12:30 EDT. Hopefully this helps.

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.