“The work of real self-care is to hold pain and hope together.”
Back in December at a pastors’ gathering, my local denominational body used a polling app to ask the group a series of questions about stress and burnout. The consensus was clear: this was a group of people reporting high amounts of stress and significant burnout. Clergy attributed the burnout to a variety of elements related to leading our churches following the pandemic. At the top of the list of stressors were financial strain, political division, and declines in worship attendance. In response, the local denomination has started naming clergy burnout as a problem and making it a priority to encourage pastors to care for themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Similar refrains show up in the fields of education, medicine, social work, and the service industry. Apart from magazine and blog articles, just take a look at the many social media ads, and it’s clear that the push to engage in self-care is everywhere. However, sometimes it comes with a silent and subtle accusation that burnout is each person’s individual responsibility. To experience burnout becomes a personal flaw of not doing enough self-care. It means you haven’t tried hard enough or balanced your commitments well enough. It can take on the quality of a moral failing, yet another source of shame for those experiencing it.