Are you starting to dread going to work like Frodo approaching Mordor? Do you wake up feeling tired after a full night’s sleep? Are you frequently irritable, and not particularly engaged at work? Chances are that you’re starting to burn out. Here are some of the classic signs of burn out and what you can do about them before you quit your job and move to a cabin in Borneo.
Sign 1: Disengagement
You’re not only disengaged at work, but with life in general.
Sign 2: Irritability
Are you getting irritated quickly? Do you regularly feel low-level anxiety? These can be signs of impending burnout.
Sign 3: Letting Go of Good Habits
In times of stress we should be taking care of our bodies. Instead, what we typically do is let go of our good habits and replace them with ones that can undermine our health. Are you exercising less? Eating poorly? Are you using negative coping strategies to deal with constant stress? These are red flags.
Sign 4: Cynicism
Feelings of cynicism and resentment are two harbingers of burnout.
Sign 5: Disrupted Sleep Patterns
People who are burning out often wake up exhausted even after a full night’s sleep. Alternatively, they can have problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Pay attention to disrupted sleep patterns. They can indicate that you’re burning out.
Sign 6: Not Making Time for Others
When you’re burning out you don’t always have the energy to connect with people that matter. Unfortunately, this can create a feeling of isolation. It’s important to stay connected to your social network. They are often your key support.
Sign 7: Worrying Excessively
Worrying excessively is a red flag. If you find yourself deconstructing things negatively, engaging in self-criticism and worrying about everything, it’s time to recognize that burnout could be around the corner.
Sign 8: Time Concerns
You can certainly push yourself for a period of time. But if you start to feel like there’s never enough time in the day this can create excessive stress, particularly for overachievers.
Sign 9: Low Productivity
You used to be the most efficient person you knew. Now, your productivity is dropping and you feel like you’re expending energy without getting the typical results.
Sign 10: Physical Illness
The physical symptoms of burnout can begin quite subtly – faint nausea, low-grade headache or a persistent cold you can’t seem to shake. Pay attention. Your body is trying to let you know that it’s breaking down.
What to Do About It
Assuming that you want to stay in the same career, or with the same organization, here are some tips for preventing burnout:
Prioritize – Prioritize your workload. Set aside time each day to answer emails rather than feeling compelled to respond in the moment.
Schedule a Meeting – If your manager is assigning more work than you can handle, schedule a meeting to discuss it. Come prepared with solutions, such as gaining more control over project timelines. The messaging is, “I want to deliver for you. Right now, at my current workload, I won’t be able to. Here are some solutions I’ve brainstormed. I’d love your feedback.”
Schedule Exercise – Regular exercise will help you manage stress, even if it’s just a 15 minute walk at lunch.
Eat Properly – Set aside time each Sunday to batch cook something healthy. This will help you eat well when you get home at night.
Focus on the Present – Control what you can. Break down projects into manageable chunks and attach a timeline to each goal. Understand that worrying does not serve you and often takes the place of concrete action.
Stay Connected – Stay connected to friends and family. They can be a valuable support network.
Establish Sleep Hygiene – Gear down for an hour or 2 before you go to sleep. This means no phone or computer time as the light disrupts sleep patterns. If you wake up in the middle of the night, remind yourself that there’s nothing that can be done at 3 AM to solve the problem.
Read “Relaxation Techniques: Try These Tips to Reduce Stress” from the Mayo Clinic to learn how to minimize stress and sleep better.
The signs of impending burnout can be subtle. Red flags such as decreased motivation, increased irritability and feelings of cynicism and worry can tell us that we’re reaching our physical and mental limit. It’s imperative, therefore, to be proactive and implement changes to prevent burnout. Schedule time for friends, prioritize your workload as best as you can and ask for a meeting with your boss to help problem solve the situation. At the end of the day, if you need to, you can explore a new career opportunity, but before you decide to leave your organization it may be worth trying some of the steps listed above.
Your Next Step
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