Self-awareness and realisation are critical to making a healthy change.
What happens if we just keep pushing through chronic stress and neglecting our wellbeing? We burn out.
Without a good stress management plan in place, our minds and bodies will eventually collapse and force us to stop.
Burnout is pretty common these days, and it can happen to anyone - although ‘high achievers' are much more prone to it. The symptoms of burnout result in us losing sight of ourselves and leave us unable to function well in our personal or professional lives.
If you're experiencing any of the following 12 symptoms, you may be on the verge of burnout.
1. You're constantly anxious
A bit of worry now and then is normal, but if you're always on edge and your mind is constantly chattering away on repeat about the same oncoming threats and catastrophes, then it's possible you've burned out, and anxiety has taken hold.
2. You've lost all motivation
Do you usually identify as a highly motivated and driven individual? But lately, you seem to be totally unenthused about everything, including the projects and pastimes you care most about? Don't worry - you can rekindle your flame.
3. You feel negative, resentful and disconnected
Even the most positive, good-vibes folks can become cynical and pessimistic if they're suffering from burn out. Burnout can make us feel like we've strayed from our true path, even if we haven't - so before you drop out, quit or disappear into the woods, keep reading...
4. You're suffering from insomnia most nights
A late afternoon coffee or a stressful day can keep us staring at the ceiling every so often, but if you're unable to sleep night after night, for weeks on end - it's probably due to burnout.
5. You're emotionally exhausted
It's perfectly normal to cry from time to time, but if you're ending up in tears several times a week or even every day, it's usually a sign that you're totally exhausted. If you're crying over things that usually wouldn't bother you, it's time to stop and recover from the stress that's pushed you to emotional fragility.
6. You feel like there's never enough time
Burnout makes us feel as though we're always rushing around, never resting, and still failing to accomplish all our daily tasks. Could it be that your to-do list has gotten out of hand, and your burnout is caused by the insanely high expectations you've forced upon yourself? Or maybe it's pressure from someone else?
7. You're extremely self-critical
We usually have two voices inside our head - the critical voice, and the compassionate. The critical voice is there to help us reach our potential, and it's usually balanced out with the compassionate voice. When we're burned out, however, the voice of compassion is silenced, while the critical voice becomes louder and louder, telling us to work harder because whatever we accomplish is never enough.
8. You're getting sick
Chronic stress weakens the immune system, so it's no surprise that burnout is often accompanied by a persistent cold, an upset stomach, or a headache - but if left untreated, burnout can result in a far more serious diagnosis. Your body is desperately trying to tell you something!
9. You develop addictive behaviours
Burnout tends to come with an increased dependence on caffeine, sugar or other energy-boosting drugs. As these temporary fixes are counteracted with an even deeper low, it's easy for us to fall into a cycle of addiction when we're struggling with burnout.
10. You notice your productivity and competence plummet
Despite putting in lots of time, effort and energy into your work, you're not getting much done, and what you do manage to complete seems to be at a much lower standard. We also become forgetful and lose the ability to focus our attention. Work starts to pile up while we lose the confidence to complete it at the standard expected of us.
11. You're irritable and avoiding social activities
Have you been snapping at your partner or avoiding your friends? When we're feeling cranky for no reason and preferring to be away from the people we love, that's burnout forcing us to conserve our energy by limiting our social interaction. We're in survival mode, and there's no room for relationships.
12. You're procrastinating a lot more than usual
A little bit of procrastination is pretty normal, but when we end up procrastinating all day, every day, it's clear that we're struggling to cope with what we need to do. When we start procrastinating over tasks we enjoy, or tasks we'd normally do quickly and easily, it's definitely time to start managing our stress and treating ourselves for burnout.
‘Help! I’m about to burn out - what can I do?'
Wherever possible, take time off. Burnout is serious, so a day or two won't be enough to recover completely. Take at least a week (but ideally longer), not only to rest and recover but also to establish your ongoing stress management routines. Here are six steps to help you become yourself again!
Step 1. Cover the basics
First of all, we must make sure we eat well, rest enough and stay hydrated. These are the necessities for staying healthy, but they are even more critical and need more focus during burnout recovery.
Drink lots of clean filtered water, sleep as much as possible, never skip a meal and make each meal nutritious and satisfying.
Step 2. Identify your main stressors
Journalling and talking to a close friend can help! But so can this article about stress triggers.
Step 3. Remove the stressors
This includes anything that is physically or emotionally exhausting - it could be a strenuous workout routine, or it could be a negative relationship.
Step 4. Add stress-reducers to your daily and weekly routines
There are so many to choose from! Here are a few suggestions:
- Relaxing holidays (or an adventure holiday, if that's more your style)
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing exercises
- Gratitude and positive affirmations
- Long walks or easy jogs in nature
- Learn ways to improve your time-management
Step 5. Just Say No
Every time we take on a new responsibility, we're building more stress on top of the already excessive level of stress. For many of us, it can be difficult to say ‘no' - but when we do say ‘no,' we're really saying ‘yes' to less stress and more fulfilment from our current to-do list.
Step 6. Consider quitting caffeine (and sugar)
It doesn't have to be forever, but caffeine will do us far more harm than good while we're experiencing burnout. Try a 30-day caffeine-free challenge. When you're burned out, it can seem like you've never needed coffee more.
So yes - life will feel a bit more difficult in the first few days, but eventually, you might begin to see how caffeine was having a negative impact on your wellbeing.
If this article has helped you realise that you might be on the path to burnout, we hope you try the six steps to become yourself again! If you know someone who might be experiencing burnout too, share this article with them too!