It doesn’t matter if you are working as a freelancer, for a small startup or big corporation. Most people live hectic lifestyles, enduring high levels of stress, working overtime, meeting tight deadlines, and so on. Well, no matter how sturdy and resilient we think we are, there is a time when all the stress we subject ourselves to, and all the tense conditions at our workplace take a toll on our mind and body.
This is called a “burnout,” and it is the stage when your mind refuses to work properly, you are nerve-wracked, and your body feels like it has run a marathon. You cannot seem to find sufficient resources to get up in the morning and carry out your day in a regular manner.
Everything seems too complicated, and everybody is annoying, the only thing your brain seems to be craving is plenty of sleep. You are also very touchy, irritable, and start experiencing various health issues, like frequent headaches, colds, stomach issues, and fever. You need to know when you are heading toward a burnout because it can do a lot of damage to your health if you don’t stop it promptly because it weakens your body’s defense system.
Here are eight signs that tell you if burnout is just around the corner.
- Feeling tired all the time
Exhaustion is a sign that you are close to facing a burnout, because you may have consumed all of your resources at a faster pace than they can regenerate, out of the desire to perform better or to face the stressing environment at work. You can feel exhausted out of a physical, emotional, or mental point of view, depending on the nature of your job.
One thing is for sure when you feel tired all the time, and you don’t seem to find sufficient energy to keep on going, everything seems to be working out poorly. Your performance drops and you seem to lose interest in even the simplest things, as the only thing you experience is the feeling of being beaten up.
- Your motivation disappears
Remember how you felt like you can move mountains when you started working at your current job? Well, when you’re burned out, motivation seems to be just a distant memory, something that is completely missing from your life at the moment.
You can’t find enough desire to get going in the morning and to perform the tasks you usually do. Work now is a form of daily punishment, the sole idea that you have bills to pay and you need a paycheck for this is the one that is pushing you out of bed every morning.
- Negative emotions take over
As mentioned before, a burnout can affect you emotionally as well, making you more prone to developing negative emotions, such as cynicism, frustration, disappointment, and so on.
You start to care less about what you are doing, not seeing any importance in your actions anymore, as you will embrace a more pessimistic view of things. While it is not out of the ordinary to experience negative feelings now and then, it is important to notice when they persist more than they should.
- You will start having cognitive issues
Due to being exposed to prolonged stress and fatigue, you will start having trouble when it comes to focusing and paying attention. It is like our brain stops noticing too many details, concentrating on negative aspects that may be interpreted as threats.
This narrow focus is more like a defensive system on a short-term basis, allowing us to address a pressing problem in a short period. But when stress becomes a constant occurrence in our life, our brain encounters difficulties at exiting the narrow focus mode, adopting it as a long-term solution, which leads to a lower capacity to focus. Thus, you tend to forget things easier and find it more challenging to keep things in mind.
- Your job performance starts suffering as well
The easiest way to see whether you are experiencing burnout is to check out your job performance in comparison to the performance you had a year or two ago. You see, burnout is not something that settles in quickly, in a day or two, it takes months for your mind and body to hit the limit. Because you feel exhausted, you don’t feel too motivated to do well at work and have trouble focusing. Therefore your performance will undoubtedly drop.
Still, just having one bad day at work doesn’t mean you’re burned out; all of us experience days when nothing seems to work out. When you are burning out, job performance will embark on a downward spiral, being poorer tomorrow, and worse the day after tomorrow.
Keeping things up this way without doing something about it may damage your performance at work on a long-term basis. By the time you start feeling better, you will have plenty of catching up to do so that it can be quite unpleasant. If you notice that your job performance starts sliding, do consider you may be having a burnout and take proper measures.
- You don’t see the point in taking care of yourself
Together with losing interest in your job, a burnout will also lead to losing interest in taking care of yourself. Unfortunately, many people engage in a variety of negative habits due to feeling burned out, such as drinking and smoking too much, adopting a sedentary lifestyle, not eating sufficiently or eating unhealthy food, and not getting enough sleep at night.
Getting drugs over-the-counter to deal with the problems triggered by a burnout is another problem, as people will rely on medication to get some sleep at night. They will also start drinking too much coffee, out of the desire to get more energy, and indulge in too much alcohol at the end of the day, trying to find an efficient way to relax and get rid of stress.
- You will stop feeling happy and satisfied
If you were once happy and satisfied with your life and your job, feeling burned out will take these positive things away from you. It will be like nothing appeals to you anymore, both at work and at home. No matter what you do and what other’s do you will not manage to provide the desired level of satisfaction. It will also be challenging to find activities that will make you feel happy.
This constant state of discontentment will only add up to your already too-stressed state of mind, which may turn you into a real-life monster no one wishes to be around. Your personal life will start to suffer because of this, besides the fact that your career is not that shiny anymore either because what is going on at home is annoying in most of the cases and the attempts of your partner to cheer you up are futile.
- Health problems will start kicking in
Chronic stress and a continuous state of fatigue will damage your health. You will become more sensitive as your body won’t be able to defend itself adequately against external factors. You will experience headaches and stomach aches, due to stress, and you will catch a cold and other infections easier because your immune system is negatively affected. Also, due to adopting an unhealthy diet, people that experience burnouts may be heading toward obesity if they’re not there yet already.
Heart issues, depression, and high blood pressure are all health problems that can be triggered by constant exposure to stress. They will not appear quickly, as it takes several months to a couple of years to develop such a health problem, the time in which stress becomes a constant part of your daily activity. This means to live with a burnout without doing something to remediate the situation.
Accepting and living while being burned out is not a solution. This doesn’t mean that you are scarifying yourself for the benefit of your company and career, because you underperform, and will certainly not bring any benefits to your personal life either because you won’t have any energy left to spend it together with your family.
If you are experiencing any or all of the previously mentioned signs, it means that you need to do something about the way you work and see work. Yes, your job may be necessary to you, but if you don’t find a way to refresh your energy and replenish your resources, you won’t be able to perform as you’d like.
So, you risk transforming your job into a backbreaker you don’t want to deal with anymore. If you need, take a short vacation in which you will completely unplug from anything that is related to work. Allow yourself some time to relax and unwind, eat well, and get plenty of rest.
Once you get back, do your best to be more organized and work efficiently during working hours, so you won’t have to do overtime or work on your weekends. Relaxation and spare time are a must because they allow you to do the things that make you happy while giving your mind and body the chance to rejuvenate their energy levels.
So, instead of taking work with you at home or dealing with work during your spare time, find a hobby or activity that stirs interest and passion in you, giving yourself a chance to unwind and not allowing work to burn you out again.
Keep in mind, that you have one health, but you can always find a new job.