Burnout can be challenging to identify. Many of us may think burnout is just another term for overwork or mental exhaustion. But burnout is more than feeling stressed; it’s an actual psychological condition that affects one’s outlook on life and work, often leading to depression and apathy. If left unaddressed, this cycle can make your day-to-day responsibilities feel devastating, making it difficult to function in every aspect.
Here are 8 common signs of burnout to look out for :
- Feeling easily irritated, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter as much, or you may feel more pessimistic than usual.
- You have little to no motivation. Burnout makes what you do less enjoyable. When you feel you have little internal motivation to work on your tasks, you’re likely experiencing burnout.
- You can’t sleep. You may wake up feeling tired as if you haven’t slept at all. A feeling of heaviness is common; it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about anything, and it takes real effort just to put one foot in front of the other.
- Emotional fatigue. Burnout can be caused by work, school, relationships, or several other things that require effort and involve emotional investment. You may feel more pessimistic, cynical, emotionally drained, or that your work doesn’t matter anymore. While everybody encounters negative thoughts and difficult emotions from time to time, it’s essential to recognize when these are becoming unusual for you.
- Compassion fatigue. People who help people are most likely to suffer from burnout — both professionally and within the family framework. The depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion are all signs of burnout.
- Physical exhaustion. A chronic amount of stress can manifest as physical symptoms in our bodies, such as headaches, stomachaches, and weaker immune functioning.
- Trouble concentrating or paying attention. Our bodies are designed to handle stress only in short bursts. When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues, making it challenging to focus on anything else. Stress also weakens our problem-solving abilities, making us more absent-minded or indecisive.
- Neglecting your own needs. You may have noticed turning towards unhealthy coping strategies- like drinking at the end of the day, eating junk, or avoiding exercise. Self-medicating becomes an endless, torturous cycle.
So you’re burned out. What now?
There is no shame in prioritizing your needs. Here are a few things you can do to start the healing process:
- Get active/Move your body. Exercise is the first line of defense against burnout. Go for a run, dance, do a few laps around your neighborhood. Whatever it takes. In doing so, you’re sending a message to your body that everything is okay. This ultimately resets the stress response-a crucial factor in burnout.
- Say no. If you consider yourself a people pleaser, you probably take on too much to avoid disappointing anyone. Saying no if you’re already running out of time in your day assures more stress in your life. Assess your current commitments and reconsider the nonessential ones. The immediate relief this brings may surprise you.
- Connect. Talking about burnout with loved ones can be a great source of support. Your friends, family members, and coworkers can help you see that burnout is a process, not a personal failure.
- Cultivate a rich non-work life. It’s important to leave work at work and find extracurricular activities that you enjoy—whether it’s a hobby, playing a sport, or volunteering. Find something that is rewarding to you.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. If you have trouble getting to bed at a reasonable time or consider yourself a night owl, try some of the following strategies:
- Keep your room as cool as possible. Studies show that 67 degrees are optimal for a quality night of rest. Your body needs to cool down 2 degrees before falling asleep, so the cooler, the better.
- Try the one-minute pause app. If you’re having trouble sleeping or winding down at the end of the day, try the app. These are great ways to calm your body and mind.
- Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your body will quickly adapt to your schedule, and going to bed won’t be a conscious effort anymore.
- Practice self-compassion. After you’ve been working hard for a long time, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your purpose or feel like a failure. Turn toward those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings with kindness and compassion.
- Consider what you’d say to a friend in your situation. You’d probably offer kind words, rather than criticize them. Do the same for yourself.
- Schedule a counseling/therapy session. It’s not a sign of failure to need other people. Therapy can help you identify the causes of burnout and find coping methods. Expressing your feelings and being validated is a great way to lessen the burden of burnout.