Burnout isn’t just the aftermath of pulling too many late nights at the office or juggling an extraordinary load of responsibilities.
It’s a subtle thief, robbing you of energy, optimism, and drive. It creeps up quietly, masquerading as just another rough week, until it firmly establishes its dominion over your life.
Are you just tired, or are you burnout’s latest victim?
Here are the signs you’re more than just tired, you’re completely burnt out.
1) Chronic fatigue
If you’re feeling more tired than usual, you could have chronic fatigue. This isn’t just the ordinary tiredness you feel after a long day; it’s a deep, pervasive exhaustion that doesn’t go away even after rest.
Chronic fatigue can be accompanied by various physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle aches, joint pain, and a general feeling of heaviness or weakness. These symptoms further contribute to your overall sense of exhaustion.
If you’re experiencing chronic fatigue along with other symptoms of burnout, it’s essential to take steps to address and manage the underlying causes.
2) Reduced productivity
Have you noticed that the more you work, the less productive you are? For instance, you could be working 12-hour shifts, but how productive are you really in all that time?
Could you perhaps do more if you really focused for the 6-8 hours of work?
But apart from that, reduced productivity is also one of the symptoms of burnout. You may find yourself easily distracted, having difficulty staying engaged with your work, and struggling to sustain your concentration for extended periods.
For example, tasks that you used to complete quickly and accurately now take longer to finish, or you may make more mistakes than usual.
Burnout can also cause you to procrastinate or avoid tasks altogether. All-in-all, it could be better.
3) Neglected self-care
When I experienced my first burnout a decade ago, one thing I still clearly remember is how much I neglected, not just my appearance, but my nutrition, relaxation, and overall well-being because I had no energy or motivation to do anything outside work.
Needless to say, things got much better after I quit my job.
When you constantly push yourself to work harder or longer hours, you naturally start neglecting sufficient sleep, breaks, and leisure time.
Recognizing that you’re neglecting self-care is an important step in addressing burnout. After that, you need to cut it at the roots.
4) Increased illness
If you notice you’re susceptible to illness more than usual, it means that burnout might have caused a weakened immune system resulting in frequent illnesses, such as colds, flu, or infections.
One of the reasons is that prolonged stress results in the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can suppress certain aspects of immune function.
This can impair the body’s natural defense mechanisms, making it harder to ward off pathogens and increasing the likelihood of falling ill.
5) Chronic stress symptoms
While we’re on the topic of stress, burnout can cause you to experience chronic stress-related symptoms.
There are too many to list here, so here are just the major ones:
- Muscle tension,
- Digestive issues (such as stomachaches, diarrhea, or constipation),
- Changes in appetite,
- Sleep disturbances,
- Frequent infections,
- Elevated heart rate,
- High blood pressure.
As is the case with most illnesses, these symptoms can be persistent and may worsen over time if you don’t manage the stress effectively.
6) Escapist daydreaming
Many people cope with burnout and stress with excessive escapist daydreaming or fantasizing.
The key word being excessive.
Daydreaming lets us experience a temporary detachment from our current circumstances and responsibilities.
It’s a mental escape from the challenges, monotony, or emotional turmoil we’re experiencing, allowing us to momentarily disconnect from our worries and concerns.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with it. But, if you’re doing it all the time, that means something’s off with your life, and burnout could be one of the causes.
7) Existential questioning
Hand-in-hand with daydreaming goes questioning the meaning and purpose of your work, life, or existence in general and experiencing existential crises.
I’ve gone through many bouts of existentialism during my life, the latest one less than a couple of years ago. It wasn’t burnout related, but it was still “interesting.“
I don’t have to explain to you this feeling of “What’s the point?” However, although it’s one of the symptoms of burnout, it can also benefit you.
While it prompts feelings of uncertainty and existential angst, it’s an opportunity for personal growth, self-reflection, and developing a unique worldview.
Listen to your gut, and do what’s best for you.
8) Lack of motivation
Another widespread symptom of burnout is the lack of motivation. You simply have less drive, interest, and enthusiasm for everything work-related.
However, this also spills into your personal life, and you find yourself not doing almost anything outside working hours.
This usually means you’re always passed out on the couch watching TV, neglecting all aspects of your personal life.
Lack of motivation can also be a signal from your body and mind that you need time for rest, recovery, and self-care.
As we know, burnout often arises from a work-life imbalance.
9) Mental distance from your job
If you find it hard to be interested in your work or to get involved in projects or activities that used to excite you, you could be experiencing burnout.
One thing I’ve noticed is that you develop a pessimistic or cynical attitude toward your work, colleagues, or clients.
This cynicism typically results in a disconnect, where you no longer care about the quality of your work or helping your team or clients.
10) Feeling compelled to work constantly
On the polar opposite is a symptom of burnout that makes you feel compelled to constantly work, have difficulty setting boundaries, and neglect personal relationships or leisure activities.
You’ve, in fact, become a workaholic.
Workaholics have an intense preoccupation with work and a strong need to constantly engage in work-related activities.
They find it difficult to disconnect from work, even during non-working hours or vacations.
Kind of feels like I’m describing myself, to be honest. But luckily, I don’t experience this next sign (anymore).
11) You have constant “Sunday scaries”
The so-called “Sunday scaries” is a feeling of dread you start experiencing on Sunday afternoon or evening when you start thinking about Monday and work.
Most people experience this, so know you’re not alone, and basically, anyone you turn to can relate.
With burnout, this feeling occurs the night before the workweek, first thing in the morning, or even as a continuous feeling.
When the sheer thought of work causes anxiety, dread, or discomfort, you know you must find a solution.
12) Increased forgetfulness
Experiencing more frequent memory lapses or difficulty remembering simple tasks or information is also a sign you’re not just tired but completely burnt out.
One of the reasons this starts happening is that you’re constantly occupied with many thoughts, tasks, and worries.
This cognitive overload makes it difficult to focus and remember information effectively, leading to increased forgetfulness.
How to address burnout
If you’re experiencing signs of burnout, it’s critical to address the issue rather than try to power through it (as I tried doing).
Here are some potential solutions to help manage and recover from burnout:
Rest and relaxation
This is the most immediate step you should take. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, and set aside time for relaxation and leisure activities that you enjoy.
Change of environment or job
If your burnout is tied to your current work environment or role, you should strongly consider a change.
This could mean switching to a different department, looking for a new job, or even changing careers altogether. This certainly helped me a lot.
Self-care encompasses all aspects of looking after your physical, mental, and emotional health.
It includes small daily routines, such as taking a walk during your lunch break, to more significant things, like taking a vacation.
If burnout symptoms persist, you should also seek professional help. Therapists and counselors will provide strategies and treatments for this serious issue.
Regular physical activity helps reduce stress, improve mood, and boost your energy levels. Choose activities you enjoy to make incorporating exercise into your routine easier.
I recently started (ropeless) rope jumping and haven’t looked back!
Creating clear boundaries between work and personal time is important, especially if you’re working from home.
This could mean setting specific work hours, taking regular breaks, or making a dedicated workspace.
I stopped working in the evenings, even if it meant earning considerably less money. It just isn’t worth my health.