Even the greatest jobs can lead to burnout. The more you work and the more motivated you are to do an excellent job, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by the situation.
With technology blurring the line between home and work, burnout is becoming more common among people. The National Opinion Research Center and the American Psychological Association worked together on new research, and here’s what they found:
- 48% of Americans reported feeling more stressed over the past five years;
- 53% of employed adults say work leaves them “overwhelmed and overtired”;
- 31% percent have difficulty managing their family and work responsibilities.
In fact, one of the top reasons people quit their jobs has to do with burnout. And yes, you can be in over your head even when you love your job. The misalignment of output and input is the most common cause of burnout. In other words, you get burned out when you feel like you’re working too hard but not seeing the desired results.
This can occur when your job isn’t rewarding, but more frequently than not, it occurs when you’re not taking care of yourself.
Before you can prevent and treat burnout, you need to know the red flags so you can take appropriate action. Here are 7 warning signs of burnout, in no particular order.
1. Health Issues
Burnout has a negative impact on both your mental and physical health. Whether you’re experiencing back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, or just getting sick a lot, you should press the “pause” button and think about how work is affecting you.
It’s well known that stress causes high cortisol levels. Widely known as the stress hormone, cortisol is one that triggers our survival mechanisms and fight-or-flight response to deal with stressful situations. It also plays a role in regulating inflammation. Therefore, when levels aren’t within healthy ranges, your body’s inflammation may get worse.
According to doctors, long-term, chronic inflammation can cause certain diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndromes, and even cancer. While it is not the direct cause of these diseases, it may increase your chances of developing them.
Learn to pay attention to the signals your body sends you so you can prevent burnout from becoming a real problem. Your body is always talking, so listen to it.
2. Cognitive Difficulties
Research over the years has shown that stress hits the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain in charge of executive function. Your memory, focus, emotional control, and decision-making abilities are all controlled by the executive function.
When you notice that you’re forgetting important things, making poor decisions, having outbursts of emotion, and making silly mistakes, you’re likely burning out. Despite the mountain of things you know you have to get done, it’s very difficult to stay focused and on task. Does that sound familiar?
Well, if you experience this, that’s definitely a sign you need some time to rest. And while you may feel tempted to postpone the break, you should listen to your body.
3. Difficulty With Personal and Work Relationships
Stress makes its way into everything you do, especially how you interact with people. Even if you think you’re doing a good job dealing with stress at work, it may still manifest itself at home. In most cases, it’s your relationships that take the hit.
Stress that causes burnout makes many people more likely to lose their cool, snap at others, and get involved in unnecessary conflicts. But burnout can also lead to self-isolation. You may feel too overwhelmed to socialize with your coworkers, and you may even feel too weary to spend time with your family and friends outside of work.
It’s tempting to isolate yourself when you’re feeling stressed, but your loved ones can be great allies in the fight against burnout. Spending time with them can help you escape the stresses of work by reminding you that life isn’t just tasks and deadlines.
4. You Feel Chronic Exhaustion
You constantly feel extremely tired, and this takes its toll. On top of that, you’re stressed out most of the time, which is even worse. Even if you get an 8-hour sleep, you still feel unable to leave your bed and begin your day.
According to multiple studies, this level of tiredness isn’t just something you can get rid of in a weekend and come back re-energized. This type of chronic fatigue is constant and follows you from one day to another.
It also feels like you’re carrying around an extra weight pack, which is making you even more worn out. It’s a physical, emotional, and mental feeling of weight. This is due to the fact that you run off of adrenaline for longer than your body ever intended.
Again, taking a break is mandatory in this situation. But as already stated, chronic exhaustion doesn’t go away over the weekend. Depending on your level of fatigue, you may need a longer break to truly disconnect and relax.
5. Decreased Satisfaction
When was the last time you felt satisfied and happy with something you did? Whether it has to do with a household-related thing or a job task, satisfaction is meant to reward you as well as motivate you. But it’s hard to feel satisfaction when you’re working until late at night and not doing at least one thing that brings you joy.
In most cases, burnout always leads to a lingering sense of dissatisfaction. People and projects that once delighted you no longer do. This drop in satisfaction also makes work very difficult, which may eventually lead to performance issues. This happens because no matter how hard you work, you don’t feel like you’re getting what you strive for.
If you feel like you’re putting too much into your job and your compensation doesn’t properly reflect what you do, consider asking for a raise or even changing your current job. This may help you relieve stress and burnout, but be careful not to end up in the same situation.
6. Losing Your Motivation
A new job, like a marriage, has a honeymoon phase when everything looks rosy and feels possible. During this stage, motivation comes naturally, which is great. In a burnout state, however, you find it difficult to find the motivation to complete your tasks. You may get the job done and even meet all the deadlines, but the motivation that initially drove you is gone.
Instead of working for the sake of the work itself, your drive comes from fear — of letting people down, missing deadlines, or getting fired.
Understandably, you just can’t have the same motivation as you once did. Your nerves are fried, all that fatigue has caught up with you, and you’re merely getting the job done without any real sense of purpose or meaning.
Take a step back and give yourself some time to think about what motivates you. Is it a higher salary, different job tasks, or maybe a different job?
7. Poor Self-Care
Life seems like a constant fight against the things that feel good for a moment but aren’t good for you. When burnout bleeds over into everything, your self-control tends to vanish, and you find yourself giving in to temptations more easily.
This happens because stress affects both your self-control and decision-making, but it also has to do with lower levels of motivation and confidence.
Poor self-care isn’t just about doing things that affect your mental state. A sign of burnout is also when you aren’t eating or sleeping well. Think about the last time you had a massage, a spa routine, or anything that brought you pleasure and peacefulness. If you’re thinking too much about when this happened, that’s a sign you need to change something.
You may also want to read 10 Warning Signs You Should Talk to a Therapist.