Feeling chronically exhausted and totally over it? It’s important to know the signs of burnout.
In today’s busy world it’s easy to get swept up into the idea that we have to be doing all the things all the time. Overwhelmingly, millennials are experiencing burnout at an alarming rate and it’s affecting their health and wellness in more than one way. The signs of burnout are not to be ignored.
An important note: in some cases, depression can develop with extreme burnout. If you feel like you might harm yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.
The dangers of burnout
So what is burnout and why is it so serious?
According to the good ol’-fashioned dictionary, burnout is defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Sounds pretty familiar, right?
It seems like the majority of people experiencing burnout are the do-everything type. Often, they don’t recognize their struggles until it’s too late and burnout hits them like a ton of bricks. Knock-down included.
Burnout is a very dangerous condition that can manifest itself in your life in more than one way. It’s important to tune into the early signs of burnout (more on that below!) and begin to make lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
Read next: Ways to Relax and Unwind After Work
Recognizing burnout: the early signs
Do you remember the last time you were so stressed that it was hard to form thoughts?
Or maybe you found it hard to recall common words or complete sentences?
That’s because forgetfulness and inability to focus are two early signs of burnout. In this phase, it’s not uncommon to feel like your brain has turned to mush and it’s all of the sudden hard to form a proper thought. When this happens, I like to suggest giving your brain a break from thinking and practice physical self care.
Another early sign of burnout is a higher susceptibility to getting sick. It’s a symptom of overworking your body. Your immune system lowers and you no longer have the strength to fight off colds and infections that usually wouldn’t affect you.
Also, a distinct lack of appetite might be a sign that something’s going on. When your body is constantly living in fight or flight mode, hunger usually is the first thing to go out the window.
Who has time to eat when we’re just trying to survive?
Other early warning signs include constant worry, irritability, and mild sadness.
More serious burnout symptoms
If you failed to miss the early warning signs that burnout is looming, these are some of the more serious burnout symptoms.
- Trouble sleeping: burnout can cause many sleepless nights as your brain stays fired up and overthinking and worrying. Plus, fight or flight, remember? We can’t sleep if we’re worried about getting eaten by a lion, hypothetically speaking.
- Anxiety: when mild worrying becomes constant anxiety, it’s usually a sign that your burnout has just kicked it up a notch. It might even begin to affect your personal or professional life.
- Depression: you might begin to feel feelings of hopelessness and guilt, like what you’re doing will never be enough. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support.
- Anger: what started as mild irritability usually makes its way to full-blown outbursts and yelling matches as burnout becomes more serious. When you’re giving so much of yourself to something (like work, for example) you have little bandwidth left to deal with anything else that comes your way.
The above symptoms are serious signs of burnout and may be best navigated with the support of a professional. Finding a therapist or psychologist in your area is a great place to start.
How to overcome burnout
Do you think you’re experiencing burnout? Thankfully, there are some tools to help you overcome those current feelings of doing too much.
First and foremost, I think it’s really important to examine the why behind doing everything you’ve committed yourself to. Is it possible you’re tying your own self-worth to accomplishing everything under the sun? Or maybe you only feel productive when you’re physically and mentally exhausted?
Some practices to help you uncover this answer include journaling and meditation. I’m a big fan of the guided meditation app, Headspace.
Come to think of it, journaling and meditation are great practices to help you overcome some of the mild symptoms of burnout.
Adding in moments of self care throughout your day can help to remove some attention you’re giving to everything else. It’s important to remember to check in with how you’re feeling through out the day. Also, focus on creating a mindset of gratitude as you go.
Like I mentioned above, if you’re experiencing serious burnout to the point you need professional help, do not hesitate to reach out to the appropriate parties for guidance and support. You are not alone on this journey!
Coping with burnout in someone you love
It can be so painful to watch the ones we love struggle.
Recognizing burnout in someone close to us is not always easy. As someone who has once been burnt out, it’s easy to brush it off and simply tell others we had a bad day/week.
If you think someone you love is experiencing the early signs of burnout, don’t be afraid to ask what’s going on. Approaching this conversation in a supportive and loving way will show the other person that you truly care. Help them to recognize that there is more to life than burning out at work.
Avoiding burnout in the first place
In an ideal world, we would be able to avoid burnout in the first place. Our boundaries would be steady and strong, and we wouldn’t be afraid to use the word No.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Personally, I believe that avoiding burnout starts with prioritizing small acts of self care throughout your day. Start as small as you need to, but ensure that you’re making your needs a priority.
Also, give yourself permission to take a break and disconnect from your phone. Reducing screen time can have a major impact on your overall wellness.
Remember, nothing is more important than your health and happiness. Shift your mindset from doing it all to one of caring for yourself first, and then assisting others.