Are You Experiencing Burnout?

Three ways to know, and three things you can do about it

“I’m so burnt out!” you’ve probably heard co-workers say – or perhaps you’ve said it yourself! And in the middle of a stressful project, or when you’re cramming for an exam, it can definitely seem as though the stress will never end. But when the project ends or the test comes and goes, and you celebrate with a well-deserved weekend away, do you come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge? Good news – you aren’t really experiencing any burnout. You’re only experiencing short-term stress and managing it well!

If downtime, a weekend away, or even two weeks away aren’t enough to push your reset button, it may be more than stress – it may be burnout. The difference matters, because, according to Psychology Today, true burnout has serious implications on your health and well-being, and there’s no real break from it. True burnout means you have to keep going, and you have nothing left to give. Physically and emotionally, you’re just done – but there’s still a mountain of work in front of you, and seemingly no way out.

The scourge of high achievers

Burnout is often the result of taking on too much, in the belief you can handle anything. Remember the last time someone at work asked for a volunteer to take on another project, and you stepped to the front without a second thought? That second thought might have reminded you that you were already struggling to get everything done, and feeling less and less fulfilled by your achievements.

You can only ignore exhaustion, consistently working long hours and enormous pressure for so long. Girl, if you’re experiencing the following, it’s time to evaluate your priorities, set some boundaries, and be as overachieving about your own well-being as you are about your job.

Three red flags that you’re experiencing burnout, and how to ease the pressure

If you’re experiencing one or more of the following, you’re likely struggling with burnout. Don’t let that stress you out further – there are ways to get your balance back and find life worth living and work worth doing, again.

Utter physical and mental exhaustion is like a virus. It can creep up on you and before you know it, it’s knocked you off your feet. If you’re cranky, have trouble focusing and maintaining productivity, and, most of all, find yourself taking no pleasure in what used to bring you joy, you’re probably dealing with exhaustion.

Quick fix: The body and brain need downtime from work. Which activities feed your energy instead of draining it? Get intentional about self-care and put them back on your ‘to-do’ list. Further, assign them a date and time – and keep that date.

If you find yourself ignoring your feelings, or feeling depressed when you do get in touch with your feelings, you’re probably avoiding recognizing that you just don’t care. Deep down, it all seems futile. This is cynicism – a defense mechanism triggered when we feel angry or hurt. Work environments where employees feel disempowered, lack autonomy, or are inadequately rewarded are breeding grounds for cynicism.

Quick fix: Identify the source of your cynicism and let it go. If quitting isn’t an option, I’ve got four tips that could help.

When you lack the power to produce the results you want, it’s hard to stay engaged and feel fulfilled. It’s demoralizing when poor results are beyond your control, and it leaves you feeling incompetent, powerless, and unproductive. You may find yourself thinking, “What’s the point?”

Quick fix: Set small goals that are achievable and realistic. Take the turtle steps you need to take to accomplish them, and shore yourself up by taking time to recognize that you did get something done well. As the Harvard Business Review notes, acknowledging your achievements is an important form of self-care.

It may not feel good to recognize yourself and your feelings in these red flags. But being aware you have these challenges can help you change course before your mental and physical health are compromised for the long-term. So take a breath, and let yourself know that clearer awareness of the challenges helps you understand how you feel and why. That alone can help release the pressure of burnout, and open the possibility for a fresh outlook.

Felicia Baucom
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