Stress is a normal part of life for most of us, but there is a distinct difference between a busy lifestyle with responsibilities and being in a rut, or on the road to exhaustion.
Burnout is a negative feeling that comes when you push yourself too hard or take on too much. It can sneak up on you, when you’re trying your best! Are you overdoing it?
One way you can tell is by physical feelings of fatigue. Whether it’s working out too hard without enough recovery time, or packing your schedule so tight you aren’t getting enough sleep, being tired is one way your body tells you to take things a little easier.
Or, maybe you aren’t even sure if you’re overdoing it, because you’ve been going about things in the same way for so long. Actually, feeling disconnected is another sign of burnout: it’s common to lose enthusiasm for activities when you’re low on energy.
Since stress and burnout can affect your health, if you have any serious questions about your emotional or coping skills, it’s worth a trip to your doctor. For everyday concerns, watch for these signals of burnout—fortunately, you can take steps to prevent it!
Lack of Energy
When you are ambitious, you might expect a lot of yourself, accept extra assignments, or set lofty goals. When you are stressed, you might feel pressured, try too hard, find yourself “juggling too many balls in the air.”
But when you begin to burn out, you might struggle for the energy you need to get through your day, or even your regular tasks. If you find yourself in this situation, try clarifying your priorities, or even reducing your workload.
You can’t always cut a project or extend a work deadline, but often you can reassess your personal endeavors and find some wiggle room for minimizing. It can be helpful to zero in on one rewarding new habit like time management or meditation.
Using professional tools or advice to help you simplify an important area of your life (like health, finance or nutrition) can also make a world of difference.
Loss of Enthusiasm
Psychology Today describes burnout as a state of chronic stress, and mentions that high-achievers are at special risk for developing it. That’s because they are likely to work extra hours, try to impress, get ahead or be the best. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always play out that way.
Whether it’s working hard in business or in your personal life, caring for family, health, etc., the risks are the same. We aren’t always directly appreciated or rewarded for our efforts. This can cause feelings of disappointment and loss of enthusiasm when desired outcomes don’t come to pass. One simple prevention strategy is to focus on your own successes. Success breeds enthusiasm.
On the other hand, achievement for achievement’s sake can get boring, too! If you feel yourself becoming disinterested in projects or goals that used to motivate you, try changing an element of your routine or approach. Learn something new, meet a new team member, or focus on a new area, so you can avoid a rut.
Irritability & Pessimism
All of us have bad days from time to time, but if you notice you’re having more bad days, more often, it can be a sign of burnout starting to happen. It makes sense, considering you might already be experiencing the loss of enthusiasm or lack of energy described above. These symptoms aren’t fun to deal with.
Which is why, fun itself is something you can reintroduce into your life if you find yourself increasingly cranky or downhearted. You might be overdoing in one area of your life and severely underdoing it in this area. Lifestyle burnout can be reversed when you add social gatherings and sparkling conversation (if they’re lacking).
Some time in nature is an excellent prescription for emotional or mental burnout. If you tend toward stress, try a breath of fresh air before resorting to another frantic or angry reaction.
Finally, physical overuse is a known cause of irritability, so keep a workout schedule that makes sense for your fitness level and lifestyle. Allow a day between strength training the same muscle groups, alternate heavy and light cardio days, and choose exercise you enjoy to avoid overuse injuries and burnout!