With Work Being So Stressful Nowadays, a Burnout Seems Inevitable. Find Out How to Recognize the Early Signs.
Burnout is more common than we realize, with work and financial pressures at an all-time high. The World Health Organisation recognises it as an occupational phenomenon, and the numbers are growing with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to recognise burnout so that you can get help and put a stop to it in your life. Here are 15 signs that you might be heading for burnout.
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The Difference between Stress and Burnout
First things first, what is the difference between stress and burnout? Stress is usually a feeling of TOO MUCH! Too much pressure, too many demandsboth personally and professionally. But when you’re stressed you feel that if you can just get these things complete you will feel better.
Burnout is different. Its more about not having enough to give or feeling empty or exhausted even if you don’t have a ton on your plate. If you add a stressful lifestyle to burnout, then the person often experiences the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Burnout needs a lifestyle change to overcome, whether its counselling or a break. It’s important you don’t just keep going. Of course, we are not mental health specialists, and always recommend you seek professional diagnosis.
Procrastinating or Struggling to Concentrate
If you used to love diving into a project or task and were able to stay focused and concentrate for hours on end, and now you find yourself being distracted or unable to start, this could be a sign of burnout.
Not having the energy to just complete the most basic tasks is another massive sign you’re burnt out. Perhaps the thought of having to complete a project with a deadline leaves you feeling unable to commit – you could be experiencing burnout.
Lower Immunity – More Often Sick
Stress and constant tiredness weaken the immune system. This leads to a much higher frequency of colds, flu and catching anything that “going around.”
Of course, we’re not referring to Covid here, but any little bug that’s out there – you can be guaranteed that you’ll get it.
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Headaches and Muscle Pain
With the exhaustion you might already be feeling, you might also experience more headaches along with sore and stiff muscles. The psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger, who coined the concept of burnout in 1974, listed frequent headaches as a physical characteristic of burnout.
Using Food, Drugs or Alcohol as a Crutch
When you find yourself using substances or food as motivation to keep you going, then you might actually be burnt out. The problems stemming from abuse of drugs and alcohol, or overeating can be hard to overcome. So, if you recognise this in yourself, it is important to treat the source of the burnout, not just go cold turkey.
Feeling Constantly Tired and Drained
If you feel that no amount of sleep is ever enough, and that if you sat still for a few minutes, you could always doze off then you might have burn out. More on sleep habits later, but never feeling refreshed and enthusiastic because you are so tired isn’t a regular state of wellness and shouldn’t be ignored.
New Stomach Problems You Didn’t Have Before
Oprah always told us to trust our gut, and she couldn’t be more right when it comes to burn out too.
Stomach pain or discomfort are signs of burnout and might lead to complications if they go untreated. You know your body, so listen to it and give it the care it needs.
Self-Doubt or a Sense of Failure and Hopelessness
You might think that self-doubt is just part of living in the 21st century, but self-doubt is a common sign of burnout. The feeling that you aren’t effective, or a sense of incompetence, will lead to a lack of productivity and accomplishment and perhaps even a feeling of hopelessness. This isn’t a solid footing for anyone to work from, so recognise that this is burnout and get assistance moving through it.
Even if you fail sometimes, it’s alright since you can always learn a thing or two from your failure. Check out 15 Lessons Failure Teaches You.
Change in Sleep Habits
Back to counting sheep, because sleep is such a big part of our lives and burnout can rob you of good quality sleep.
Several studies link trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep to burnout, while there are others who don’t agree it is a clear connection.
A lack of sleep can lead to higher incidences of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney and heart disease. Don’t let burnout rob you of sleep, recognise the signs.
Aluxers, we highly recommend you watch our video 15 Ways to Be Less Stressed, where we really delve into tried and tested methods to de-stress and start sleeping like a baby.
Feeling Alone or Detached
Burnout can manifest in feelings of loneliness or feeling detached from others. If before you found it easy to share, or fit in at a gathering, and now you notice yourself feeling uncomfortable or alone even when you’re in a crowd, then burnout might be affecting you.
It can be part of a group of effects of burnout all rolled into one like the exhaustion, self-doubt or substance abuse, for example. The bottom line is that you aren’t alone, and help is available.
You might think that feeling alone is just a personal experience, and it doesn’t really affect anyone around you. But that’s not true. The social impact of loneliness is that people begin to disengage and this in turn affects work productivity.
The Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and the Gallup Organization have both run studies that have shown the direct costs to companies of disengagement: almost 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, 16% lower profitability, and a 65% lower share price over time. So, next time you think feeling lonely doesn’t affect others, think again and reach out for help.
Becoming Cynical and Negative About Everything
Have you been noticing a whole lot more unjustness than usual, or like life is just unfair all the time? Well, this is a common sign of burnout. Becoming cynical, struggling to find something positive to say about anything, or feeling resentful, are all symptoms of people experiencing burnout. If this is you, then perhaps you need to consider that you are burnt out.
Avoiding Responsibility and Delivering Lower Standards of Work
People who are feeling the overwhelm of burnout are often more likely to avoid taking responsibility. This can affect your success at work, or happiness in your home. The problem can spiral when your avoidance means that you are delivering below what is required, and then things feel even worse. It is a slippery slope, but you can find your way out with the right help.
Skipping Work or Social Engagements and Isolating Yourself
Are you racking up sick-days, or becoming known for cancelling with your friends? If facing people just seems to overwhelm you when before you enjoyed it, it then it’s time to assess what might have changed. Many people who experience burnout have a feeling to self-isolate covid withstanding. When someone is already feeling burned out, it feels hard to manage being surrounded with people without feeling further depleted.
Loneliness and exhaustion go hand in hand.
An article in the Harvard Business Review by Emma Seppälä and Marissa King refers to a the correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion. The more exhausted we are, the lonelier we feel. In the book The Happiness Track, research shows that 50% of people are burned out, and this isn’t just top executives, this is across the board.
Feeling Unsatisfied All the Time Even over Big Achievements
Don’t sweat the small stuff, is good advice. But when you don’t get joy from the big stuff then something’s not right. If no matter what you do, or how great your achievements are, you never feel satisfied with your efforts, then it might be a sign of burnout. It is normal to accept achievements humbly, but you should still feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, not just a void of nothing. Don’t let burnout take away the high notes in your life.
Taking Out Your Frustration on Others
Burnout can cause people to lash out when they would usually be pretty chill. Sometimes it’s without rhyme or reason, and other times you can home in on a small injustice and feel total outrage that you wouldn’t have before. The problem is that partnered with the despair of burnout exhaustion, your reactions can often be misplaced targeting your colleagues, family, friends or even clients.
Burnout doesn’t have to take centre position in your life. It is something that you can overcome and go back to feeling good again.
There are no extra points for overcoming burnout entirely alone, we are inspired by the words of Investment banker and activist, Ziad Abdelnour when he said: “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
Have you felt burnout? What was the turning point for you? We’d love to hear from you.