eing burnt out is something that tends to happen when a person is overworked over an extended period of time. This could mean being overworked at your job, in your relationship, or really any other aspect of your life that requires attention and effort.
It’s not always easy to tell when you’re burnt out vs when you’re just tired in the moment. We’re going to provide you with a list of seven ways to tell if you’re burnt out, starting out with maybe the most obvious...
1. You’re Reading This
If you’re reading this, then you are most likely already thinking that you are burnt out. That’s a great first step in figuring out if you are, in fact, burnt out.
It also means that you’re looking for a solution to the problem which is even better!
As we’ll mention later, it’s important to know that doing certain things can help you to start feeling better.
2. Not Caring For Yourself As You Normally Would
Prioritizing your work over staying healthy is another sign that you might be burnt out or heading toward being burnt out. Things like not showering, not brushing your teeth, or forgetting to eat could all be symptoms of beginning to burn out.
Another symptom of being burnt out that’s under the same umbrella is coping in unhealthy ways. Eating crappy food, not being active, and anything like that are indicators of being burnt out.
One thing in this category isn’t something that you’d really think of as being a symptom. Drinking a lot of coffee (whatever that means to you) or having an excessive amount of other caffeinated beverages to give you enough energy to do your job is a tell-tale sign that you may be headed toward a burn out or you might already be burnt out.
Of course, drinking coffee and tea in moderation can be a healthy part of a normal day, but doing those things excessively as a way to get yourself to engage in your work is something to pay attention to.
3. Feeling Exhausted
This symptom of being burnt out is usually a precursor to the previous symptom. A lot of the issues that come along with being burnt out often stem from not getting enough sleep and thereby being exhausted.
Exhaustion in this context means feeling tired and lethargic for the majority of the day and doesn’t actually have to stem from a poor sleep schedule.
Exhaustion could stem from work, interpersonal relationship problems, or anything else that could cause stress or uneasiness.
4. Feeling Unmotivated
This is one of those symptoms that often stems from an amalgamation of other symptoms of being burnt out. Feeling like you have no motivation to get any work done at your job is a pretty clear sign that you might be burnt out.
We all have moments of doubt and we all feel unmotivated at times even regarding things we love doing, but we aren’t really talking about those moments. We’re referring to a prolonged period of time (maybe a whole day) where you feel completely unmotivated.
This kind of feeling is often what can lead to drinking too much caffeine as mentioned before.
5. Having Physical Problems
As you can see in the above diagram, the kind of headache that you’re likely to experience as a result of being burnt out is a tension headache.
A tension headache usually feels like someone grabbed a bunch of rubber bands and wrapped them tightly around your head like a Coachella flower crown but… painful and uncomfortable. Pretty unpleasant.
It’s crucial to really key in on what kind of headache you’re having so you can most accurately treat it for the long run. So, not just popping Tylenols until the headache disappears, but actually making a change to your lifestyle so that you can avoid having a chronic tension headache.
Headaches aren’t the only thing that can be a sign of being burnt out. Any kind of trouble using the bathroom or using the bathroom too much can be a sign of being burnt out.
In even more extreme circumstances, being experiencing burnout can lead to serious medical problems like depression and obesity.
6. Performing Worse at Your Job
Take a second to compare your work output from a little while ago when you weren’t feeling the way you’re feeling, and compare it to your current work output.
If there’s a noticeable difference, that might indicate that you’re burnt out.
Part of this outcome has to do with the fact that being burnt out can create problems with your cognitive capabilities.
7. Thinking Too Much About Work
When you’re done with work, you should be able to disconnect a little bit from whatever it was that you did or didn’t do at work.
If you’re spending a lot of time thinking about work even when you’re not there, that takes away from the time that you could be spending recharging from a hard workday.
Thinking too much about your work and bringing that into your non-work life can interfere with the things that you enjoy more than work and decrease your overall satisfaction with your life. That’s why thinking about work too much is often another sign that you’re experiencing burnout.
So You’re Experiencing a Burnout, What Now?
There are so many great ways to get yourself out of the rut that is being burnt out. That being said, it can be overwhelming to try and implement a lot of new things at once into your life. Take it a little slow by implementing two or three of these things at a time if you’re feeling overwhelmed by this list of strategies for dealing with burnout:
- Set a schedule that allows you to get enough sleep
- Take time to unplug every now and then
- Give yourself time to decompress
- Get organized
- Contact a mental health professional
Get The Right Amount of Sleep
We are starting off the the most basic straightforward one of them all: Sleep
A lot of folks will tell you to get eight hours of sleep every night. They’re sort of right.
The vast majority of people do in fact need 7-9 hours of sleep, but there are outliers in every situation. Take the time to experiment with different amounts of sleep and stick to whichever makes you feel the most rested and ready for the day in the morning.
Once you know how much sleep you need, plan accordingly. Make sure to get that amount of sleep as consistently as you can because this can be a huge first step in recovering from a burnout.
Limit Your Phone Use
If you have a flip phone… don’t worry about this one. Everyone else, this is really useful advice. Give yourself parameters for when, how long, and how frequently you can use your phone.
Phones are awesome, but they can also stress you out quite a bit. That’s why it’s a good idea to make an effort not to use them as much as you do, assuming that you’re on your phone a fair amount already.
Giving yourself limitations like not using your phone during meals, before bed, or right after you wake up can help you get back on your feet following a burnout.
Take Time to Decompress
There's been a lot of back and forth on how helpful the self-care movement is overall, but the fact of the matter remains: you can't be on all the time. Sometimes something as simple as setting aside time for an activity you enjoy -- curling up with a book, playing your favorite childhood video game, sitting down with a friend over coffee, going for a walk, calling your mom -- can provide much-needed relief when you're feeling overwhelmed.
But if the thought of taking that time for yourself is overwhelming on its own, it's okay to start smaller. Take five minutes before you open your laptop each morning or before you go to sleep each night to just clear your mind and breathe (yes, technically that's a type of meditation, but five minutes isn't so bad, right?) Or maybe break out the body scrub your aunt sent for Christmas last year and spend a couple extra minutes taking care of yourself next time you're in the shower.
Sometimes it seems like you have so much to do that you can’t even muster up the strength to get started. Figuring out an organizational system for yourself might be the solution to that problem.
As we said above, perhaps the most popular way of organizing yourself is writing to-dos for yourself on a schedule planner or calendar (if you don’t want to buy one, there are free online versions).
Actually seeing what work you need to get done in writing is a way to reduce stress by allowing you to plan ahead and finish whatever work needs to be done in bits and pieces instead of all at once.
Above All Else, Contact a Mental Health Professional
All of these solutions are great, but they definitely need to be personalized. That’s something that you could do yourself, but having the help of a mental health professional is even better.
On top of that, the mental health professional can identify whether or not you are actually experiencing burnout, or if there is something else going on. In the case of there being an underlying issue or something of that sort, they can help treat you properly in a way that we cannot.
After reading all of that, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Just remember, if you think you’re burnt out, take it step by step and believe in your ability to make things better.
Best of luck!