Burnout is one of those things that happens when you least expect it. It usually happens when you are a high achiever always working long hours to cope with exceptionally heavy workloads. You cannot help but put pressure on yourself because it is important you excel at whatever you do.
But this sets you up to burn out.
What is the definition of burnout?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout results from chronic workplace stress you have not managed successfully. It has three characteristics:
- a complete lack of energy and feeling exhausted
- feeling removed or distant from your job, or feeling negative or cynical towards your career
- inability to work to your normal professional standards meaning you will be less effective and not be as successful as usual.
Burnout is insidious. It creeps up on you gradually. It is not simply extreme exhaustion and you do not burn out all of a sudden. Taking a holiday will not leave you refreshed and you lose interest in just about everything in your life. What was once fun will not be fun anymore and you will feel unhappy without being able to explain why. Everything will bother you and you will start to feel this way a lot of the time.
Tell-tale signs of burnout.
The three characteristics described by the WHO have symptoms so your body warns you there is something wrong. It is a matter of recognising these so you can do something about them to avoid fully-fledged burnout. But if you ignore the signs your body sends, burnout will continue to worsen. Here are 16 tell-tale signs of burnout.
1. Extreme exhaustion
One of the early signs of burnout is having little energy and feeling tired all the time. As burnout progresses, this will turn into extreme mental and physical exhaustion, and you will feel drained every day. It can get to the stage where you have trouble getting out of bed every morning. You may even dread what each day will bring even though you once loved your job and life. It can even make you physically sick.
2. Physical symptoms you experience
The types of physical symptoms you experience can include:
- heart palpitations
- trouble breathing
- chest pains
- gastrointestinal pain.
Another early sign of burnout is trouble falling or staying asleep some nights or occasionally. When burnout progresses, this can turn into nightly insomnia where you cannot sleep no matter how exhausted you feel.
4. Unable to focus or concentrate
Being unable to focus and forgetfulness are symptoms of early burnout. But it will get worse as burnout progresses. You will experience a complete lack of concentration to the point where you cannot get anything done and everything starts piling up on you. This will make you feel more stressed.
5. Appetite loss
In the beginning you may skip some meals because you do not feel very hungry. But if this continues, you may completely lose your appetite and not be able to eat, and lose a lot of weight.
6. Sick more often
As burnout progresses you can become sick more often because of a compromised immune system. You may be more susceptible to bouts of the flu, colds and infections.
7. Feel depressed
At the start you may feel sad and hopeless sometimes. You may feel guilty you cannot achieve what you once did which can make you feel worthless. This can spiral out of control to where you feel trapped in your job and life, and become severely depressed. This can even lead to thoughts the world would be better off without you. If you ever feel this way, please seek professional help straight away.
8. Become anxious
In the early stages of burnout, you can feel tense, on edge and worried. As it progresses, anxiety can take over your life to the point you cannot function at work and it affects your personal life as well.
9. Overly angry
Irritability and anger can be part of the early stages of burnout. But, if left unchecked, it can be difficult to control resulting in uncontrollable outbursts at home and at work. If your anger becomes uncontrollable and you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others, you need to seek help.
10. Nothing is enjoyable
In the beginning you can dread going to work or want to leave altogether. This can increase, if you do not get help, to where you no longer feel enjoyment in any area of your life. This can be to the point where you do not want to do anything and go out of your way to avoid work altogether.
11. Feel cynical
Burnout can cause you to feel cynical. That there is no point to anything. You no longer have a sense of accomplishment. The things that once drove you such as ambition, a sense of pride and achievement, do not matter anymore. Your job and career, spending time with family and friends can seem pointless.
12. Pessimistic instead of optimistic
When burnout starts creeping in, it can present itself as increased negative self-talk and you see the glass as half empty rather than as half full. As burnout increases, you can start to have trust issues with colleagues, family and friends. You may feel there is no one on your side, and feel abandoned and completely alone.
13. Disconnected from your life
Burnout can cause a sense of disconnection from your life and others around you. This can result in not wanting to talk to anyone, being late for work and appointments, and you may stop returning phone calls and answering emails.
14. Isolating yourself
In the beginning you may stop wanting to socialise. When burnout gets worse, you can become angry when someone disturbs you because you want to be left alone. And you may even leave work late or start early to avoid interacting with people altogether.
15. Increased irritability
You can become increasingly irritable because you feel useless, ineffective and unimportant as you cannot achieve the high standards you used to or expect from yourself. This can cause problems with professional and personal relationships. When burnout gets worse, it can destroy your career and the important relationships in your life.
16. Loss of productivity
No matter how hard you work or the long hours spent at work, depression, anxiety and chronic stress will prevent you from being as productive as you once were. No matter how hard you try to complete projects and get things done, the long list of things you need to achieve never seems to get shorter. You can find yourself unable to climb out from beneath the pile of things you need to do.
Even if you are not experiencing any of these symptoms right now, keep them in mind as you go about your busy life. Remember, burnout is insidious and creeps up on you so as soon as you notice any of these symptoms occurring take a good look at your life and what can be causing them.
In today’s world, we are under more and more stress. We expect so much from ourselves and everyone expects so much from us. Stress has become a normal part of our lives. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is a wake-up call you may be heading down the path of burnout. You need to take some time out to assess the levels of stress in your life and how it is affecting you. It is important to reduce it before you really burn out. Burnout is not like a cold that goes away after a while. You have to make some changes to your life if you do not want total burnout to take you down. Without making changes or getting help, you will eventually run out of energy and motivation to keep going.
If you think you are heading down the road of burnout or you are burned out, contact us to find out how I can help you get your life back on track. But, if you are in a crisis, call us immediately. We can help lift your depression, anxiety and stress quickly so you can deal with things better. We can work with you in our Spas, over the phone or via Skype. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $79 so you can start taking back control of your life. We can help you replace burnout with a renewed energy and love of life. Start today.