Recognizing the Signs of Burnout Is a Great Start Toward Recovery

May 30, 2019

Overwhelmed man hides under book while holding a
Kip Soteres

The signs of burnout are not always as obvious as a complete collapse or breakdown. Psychology Today points out that the symptoms of burnout can mask themselves as depression, de-personalization, detachment, cynicism or even just the impression that you are working harder and harder while accomplishing less.

Recovering from burnout begins with the recognition that you are in fact burning out. One of the worst qualities of burnout is that it can affect your self-awareness. So, the more burnt out you become, the worse you get at recognizing the signs of burnout, until it's too late.

Inc.com reports that while experts can't fully agree on a formal definition for the condition, they do agree that there are at least three major paths to it: overloaded, under-challenged and neglected.

Overload burnout is when you work yourself increasingly hard to be successful, while you really are only succeeding in making yourself exhausted. Many people cope with this form of burnout by complaining, but beneath can be a sense of pride in being the hardest worker or the person everyone turns to when there's a problem to be solved.

Under-challenge burnout is when you are not growing, learning new skills or you feel unappreciated for the work that you do. When people take no pride, interest or satisfaction in their work, they distance themselves from their work, which leads to disengagement and a general lack of incentive.

Neglect burnout comes from feeling victimized and helpless at work. Over time, feelings of inadequacy settle into deep passivity and resignation.

No matter the cause, burnout is the end condition that results from combinations of over-work, under-recognition, boredom and learned helplessness.

Reading the Signs of Burnout

So if you really think you're suffering from burnout, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel exhausted all the time?
  • Do I have more frequent headaches and muscle aches?
  • Am I trapped into feelings of negativity around my job?
  • Do I feel disconnected from the self who goes to work each day?
  • Does it take a massive "pre-game effort" or elaborate ritual for me to get myself to work on a regular basis?
  • Do I say or feel that any attempted effort or solution at work is futile?
  • Do I constantly feel like I have to sacrifice my own needs on the job, or that other people just boss me around?
  • Do I find self-care and personal hygiene more difficult to maintain?
  • Do I procrastinate before and during work?
  • Do I feel myself becoming more short-tempered or feel isolated from my working teams?

If the answer is yes to more than two or three of these questions, it may be time to consult a professional and confirm if burnout is contributing to your problems. If so, here are a few tips to get you started on the path of recovering from burnout.

Start With Health and Fitness

A fitness regimen will help bring energy levels back. It will also introduce a level of discipline and give you a level of control that you may not feel at work. That sense of control is a tonic that can greatly help you overcome the helplessness often associated with burnout.

Don't Want to Focus on Fitness? Start With Small Changes

If fitness just isn't working for you or is too big of a commitment, find another area of your life. Start small. Get success and create some momentum. Switch out coffee for tea or soda for natural fruit juice. Cut down on screen time and read a book. Join a social club. Get a pet. Take up a new hobby or renew an old one. Commit to the change that taps your natural passions and build upon it.

Time for Honesty

Experts agree that burnout often results from persisting in a status quo state for too long. You started down a path and now it feels like a tunnel. If you don't like your job, if you don't feel respected, if you feel like you can't be yourself at work, maybe it's time to write that down and start making a plan to change it.

Environment

Something as simple as work environment can bring you down and contribute to burnout. Throw away old emails. Clear off your desk. That work you didn't do three years ago is never going to get done and nobody noticed that you didn't do it. Throw it away! If your lighting is bad, lobby for better lighting. If your working space is cramped or uncomfortable, advocate for improvements.

Take a Vacation

Sure. Take a vacation, but make sure it isn't spent on routine. Have an adventure and avoid those screens at all costs. Make sure you have a plan to explore your passions while you also get some rest and relaxation. Too many people work for that same old annual beach vacation, only to have their energy dissipate within days of returning to the office.

Noticing Your Own Burnout Is Good News

The signs of burnout can be subtle. It's a state of mind that can sneak up on you over years. If you're noticing it now, it may be an indication that you are ready for positive change. Don't wait for the next 10 years to pile up. Get yourself on a regimen that will help you with recovering from burnout, starting today.

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