It was a Tuesday at 9:25 a.m. and I was laying on my car steering wheel in my office’s parking garage. My body felt heavy and exhausted, and the thought of making my way upstairs to the office filled me with dread. It wasn’t the typical morning tired where I knew a mug of coffee would solve most of my problems- no, this was something different. I was headed towards burnout.
There has been a lot of buzz around the topic of burnout and I have a feeling that it’s because so many of us are experiencing it. Burnout is usually described as a state of perpetual exhaustion and is associated with ongoing stress, especially around work. It impacts your overall emotional state and the ability to do your job, and unlike regular stress, burnout isn’t associated with a specific deadline, time period or project. I’ve been at the point of burnout, and It’s not something I want to deal with on a regular basis. Therefore, I’ve tried to get better at recognizing my warning signs of burnout so I can intervene sooner and hopefully prevent it. I’m sharing four of my burnout warning signs, below.
I can’t focus
It’s not uncommon for me to struggle with focusing, but when I really need to lock down and get something done, I can do it. However, when even my go-to tricks don’t even seem to help me focus, I know I’m on the road to burnout. I like to consider myself the queen of procrastination (getting myself a crown), so I don’t think much of it when I jump to Facebook rather than buckling down on a hard task. But, when I can’t seem to focus on even the simplest tasks- i.e. adding a new name to a spreadsheet or printing out a report, my burnout warning bells go off.
I’m overally apathetic
This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with the focus issue. I’m pretty sure we’re all guilty of being apathetic when we are faced with a challenging or a seemingly boring task. Feeling apathetic here and there doesn’t cause burnout red flags for me. But, if I start to feel uninterested in things I like to do or towards every single task at hand, I get a little concerned. The complete lack of motivation (or even desire) to do pretty much anything is a huge sign I’m headed down the path of burnout, and makes me realize that something needs to change.
I’m not sleeping well
When I’m close to burnout, my sleep gets all out of whack. Like with regular stress, I find myself struggling to fall asleep in the first place. I lay in bed with a million thoughts around what I need to do the next day racing through my head. However, it’s when I struggle with more than just falling asleep that I know I’ve moved beyond the everyday stress. If I’m on the verge of burnout, I will find myself dealing with very vivid dreams or nightmares, waking up throughout the night, and the feeling of total exhaustion. It’s as if my body has an internal warning system, letting me know that I need to slow down- a couple nights of crappy sleep makes me stop and take notice of the path I’m headed down.
I dread seeing people
Those of you who know me personally are well aware of the fact that I’m an extrovert. Like everyone, I need alone time but I’m usually down to see people. However, when I’m on the verge of burnout, the thought of interacting with anyone sounds like a huge chore. I will find myself getting ready for work and dreading the idea of seeing my co-workers, when usually this is the highlight of my work week. I’ll even start to contemplate calling in sick just so I can avoid the interactions all together. This out of the ordinary behavior is a huge sign that I am about to deal with a case of burnout.
More and more of us are faced with burnout these days. Our jobs are taxing, and both internal and external pressures can weigh heavy. When time outside of work becomes less of a relaxing escape, but instead adds more to the to-list, it becomes even easier to struggle. I’ve been at the burnout point with both my job and honestly with life in general. For me, the drive to do just about anything completely escaped me.
So, in my attempt to avoid burnout all together, I’ve tried to pick up on the warning signs that my stress is turning into something more. When I notice myself experiencing one of these (or usually all of them…), I stop and evaluate what’s going on in my life. What do I need to relieve myself of some of the stress? How can I slow down and give myself space? Tuning into our bodies and learning when they are telling us to slow down is an amazing tool to fighting stress and burnout. I encourage you to stop and listen to what your body is telling you!