When Burn-out Strikes: How to Refuel Our Hearts with Dr. Stan Ward
Dr. Stan Ward coaches other leaders with compassion born out of his own experience. When Burn-out Strikes: How to Refuel Our Hearts  with Dr. Stan Ward, CathyKrafve.comDr. Stan Ward coaches other leaders with compassion born out of his own experience.


Refuel our hearts when burn-out strikes? I might be too tired for that! Seriously.

Many people think burn-out is a work thing, but, um, there’s more to the story. Dr. Stan Ward expands the discussion he began last week with his personal story about how to refuel our hearts when burn-out strikes.

When burn-out strikes, most of the time the stuff that really gets us is happening at home. Issues at work or church further complicate our lives. But home is where our hearts are.

Dr. Stan Ward offers some practical advice from his own experience with managing home, work, and caregiving, all simultaneously. (For Stan’s personal experience with burn-out, click here.)

In our interview, Stan included some great thoughts about refueling our hearts when spiritual burn-out strikes. (Please click above to hear more or find more Fireside Talk Radio podcasts here.)

Out of Gas

If you’re sputtering for air, Stan tenderly points out there’s no shame when burn-out strikes. (For an article about burn out from Stan, click here.) He offers an analogy of a car.

“Think about what happens to a car engine when it runs out of gasoline versus what happens when it keeps running without oil,” he explains.

On one hand, a car engine just stops when it’s out of fuel. When it gets more fuel, it starts back up. On the other hand, when an engine runs without oil for a while, it will destroy itself.

“As human beings, we’re made to go through cycles of exertion and rest, excretion, and rest. To be worn out is to have gone all the way through the exertion cycle where you can go no further and then you stop,” explains Stan. “Burn out is you keep making yourself go even though you don’t have the resources you need just to keep going. Eventually, that catches up.” 

When burn-out strikes, the consequences can be brutal. So, what signs tell us we may be way beyond needing a nap? Watch for the following three things.

Emotional Exhaustion—

Stan says to recognize if you feel like you have “brain fog.” Burn-out is a spectrum, according to Stan. In my life, when burn-out strikes, my feelings can range from a little overwhelmed to truly feeling unable to cope, as when my mom passed away.

If your burn-out feels like an uncomplicated case, a weekend of rest may be all it takes to refuel. But what if it’s more complicated? It may mean reprioritizing, setting boundaries, and enlisting help.

“It’s important to address emotional exhaustion because it’s often where burn out starts,” Stan says. Emotional exhaustion can cause us to pull back out of sheer survival instincts. That’s when depersonalization surfaces. 


Depersonalization is a fancy word for disconnecting from people and our sense of purpose.

“You can see if you’re emotionally exhausted you’re gonna want to withdraw to protect yourself,” Stan reports, “It’s this idea of disconnecting, becoming cynical, withdrawing from relationships, even withdrawing possibly from your sense of purpose; a lack of meaning.”

Stan goes into much more depth about depersonalization in his book, How To Beat Burnout: For Yourself, Your Family, and Your Team. I really enjoyed his explanations. Stan’s book is the kind of info I keep on my shelf as a resource. 

For instance, his ideas made me wonder if people who seem difficult person in my life are just burnt-out. The fact is, we all experience burn-out sometimes. It seems unfair to label people “difficult” when really they may be suffering.

“This is why in the earlier episode I mentioned the idea of comedy vs. tragedy.,” Stan adds, “Depersonalization is when you put yourself on that tragic path toward isolation. For me, that’s one of the most concerning pieces of this thing.”

Okay, if you read my stuff often, you knew I was gonna quote my friend Sandy Bristow here, “Isolation is where the devil takes you to go in for the kill.” (To find more about trusting our gut from Sandy, click here.)


“Ineffectiveness is that sense I’m in a hamster wheel, running all the time and getting nowhere.” says Stan. One of his friends, a police officer, describes it this way, “I feel like I’m throwing pebbles at a freight train.”

“When all three of those come together, boom, that’s when you’re really in burn-out.

There’s no shame in burn out. The real question is how do we refuel our hearts?

Refueling Our Hearts

It’s okay to feel like you’re experiencing some of this stuff,” San explains, adding that we should ask ourselves a very important question, “Does it get in the way of the life I want to live?”

“The realization that I have these daughters that I wanted to raise in such a way that they did not marry a total jerk,” he says, tenderly referring to a story he shared in the first episode when God woke him up to changes he wanted to make at home. “That’s the point where I realized Okay, I’m on the spectrum in a place where I’ve got to take action now.”

If emotional exhaustion is a zero and joy on the other, where would you put yourself today?  Take a quick self-care moment and give yourself a number, dear one. Stan knows now what recharges his batteries.

“What I’m working on helping people proactively move the needle in the right direction so they don’t hit zero. They don’t hit total emotional exhaustion, total depersonalization, total ineffectiveness,” Stan is in his happy place. “Because really once you’re in that (burn-out) space, there’s a lot of other negative stuff. That’s where we start seeing the self-medication behaviors that go on, the addictive behaviors.”

He warns depression follows closely on the heels of burn-out. Getting help can make all the difference for regaining joy.

“So then they can be fully present for themselves, fully present for their family, and fully present for their work groups,” adds Stan.

Spiritual Burn-Out—

“There was a point where people would come up and say, ‘I’m praying for you’ and I just wanted to smack ‘em,” laughed Stan when I asked him about spiritual burn-out. 

We really ran out of time, so look for me to invite Stan again for this important topic. In the meantime, he had this encouraging thought when we notice burn-out in our Christian brothers and sisters.

“As you’re reading scripture, remember the main characters are not Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and these other folks that we often try to get four bullet points from on how to live our lives,” Stan says. “The main character of scripture is God. When you frame it that way it takes a lot of the pressure off us. Hopefully, you can feel (more effective) and embrace grace more.”

In Other News–

With the current protesting, I want to remind you about a terrific book by Ben Sciacca: Meals from Mars. Ben tells the story of how lives get off-track suddenly in an accidental car-jacking. Accidental car-jacking you ask? Yep, it’s a crazy ride, but tons of fun to read. In a world ready to talk about race (finally!), this book is an eye-opening parable.

Plus, Ben chose the adventure of crossing the self-segregating cultural divide for his own family. You’ll love Ben’s fast-paced fictional account, as he tackles the racism conversation from many perspectives. Truly a worthy read! (Plus, you can hear how he learned a thing or two in the interview we did together. For all Fireside Talk Radio podcasts, click here.) A shout out here to my friend Frankie Picasso who introduced me to Ben on her show. (Love ya, Franke!)

Coming Soon–

My interviews with Deb Butterfield are up next in early July. I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation! With tender grace, Deb recounts her personal story about being slammed with a devastating discovery. Maybe you, too, know the pain when a beloved daughter has been molested by a trusted family member. (To find Deb’s book in the meantime, click here.)

Deb has quickly become a beloved friend in my life. I know you will love her courage and integrity, not to mention her warrior spirit, as much as I do. This one is dear to my heart, both the woman and her wisdom! I can’t wait to share it with you! Plus, her beautiful daughter has agreed to come on the show just as soon as we can schedule an interview. Please pray for us as we pull together this wonderful tool for God’s glory.

Plus, in honor of all our friends who attended CrossRiver Media’s Audacious Faith conference, I created a wonderful freebie just for you: 25 Power Questions for Turning Arguments into Conversations. Click here and it’s yours free by signing up for our website. You’ll also get our weekly blog loaded with ideas about creating GREAT conversations, GREAT companionship, and GREAT community. Plus, Deb’s interview will come right to your email inbox. All FREE! Yep, free. I LOVE free stuff!!

May we pray together?

Dear good Father, with so much happening in our families and crazy world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We get burnt-out and don’t even have the energy to know what’s happening to us. We disconnect for survival ad before we know it, depression has slipped in. Give us wisdom, O Lord, because we sure need it! Where but in Your presence can we find the hope, comfort, and energy we need for this day? Give us the courage to change what we need to change and to rethink our priorities. Fill us with joy in the living water of Your Spirit, we pray. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!

When have you struggled with burn-out? How did a friend offer you help? How could we pray for you today?

Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.

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