Burnout, Recognize the Symptoms

For the past several months I had been restless and cynical about almost everything in my life. There was nothing really wrong, I just complained. There was a lot going on, a wedding to attend, a new baby about to be born, a visit from my mom. All good things, right? I was looking forward to them all. At the same time work was busy, some things were about to change at work, but still nothing earth shattering.

Why then was I so grumpy and dissatisfied? Well, it wasn’t until I traveled to the wedding and spent time with family and friends with no work or responsibility except to show up and have fun. It hit me, I was burned out. Sure, I’d had times before when I’d felt overwhelmed – but never before had I felt this kind of despair. I had not been managing my energy well and here I was, negative Nellie and grumpy Gabby all rolled into one.

If you have been feeling these same feelings or even some feelings you aren’t sure why they are popping up, it very well could be burnout. Let’s take a look at what this can look like.

Failing to effectively manage your energy can lead to a cascade of negative consequences, from heightened stress levels and increased exhaustion to strained relationships and a decline in work performance. Even if you initially choose to overexert yourself, the repercussions can catch up with you, often when you least expect it.

However, the gravest consequence of poor energy management is burnout, a condition that results from prolonged and chronic mismanagement of one’s energy resources. Burnout can affect individuals not only in their professional lives but also in their personal lives.  This is exemplified by the growing issue of caretaker burnout.

Recovering from burnout can be a long and difficult journey. It is significantly more manageable if you identify the warning signs and make necessary changes before reaching the point of no return. To effectively navigate this path, it’s essential to recognize the primary symptoms of burnout, which typically show up in the following ways:

1. Escalating Cynicism and Irritability: Are you finding yourself growing increasingly cynical in your attitudes at work or in your personal life? Have others commented on this change? Similarly, are you becoming irritable, losing patience, or becoming overly sensitive to minor annoyances? While everyone has off days, consistent cynicism and irritability serve as red flags.

2. Persistent Exhaustion without Apparent Physical or Emotional Cause: Are you perpetually drained, feeling utterly depleted with no apparent physical ailment or depressive episode to account for it? If constant exhaustion lingers and there are no underlying medical concerns, it is a significant warning sign of impending burnout.

Note: It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to rule out medical issues when dealing with persistent exhaustion. It can be associated with various physical conditions, some of which may require urgent attention.

3. Declining Concentration and Focus: If you notice a growing difficulty in maintaining your attention or staying engaged with tasks, this could be indicative of burnout. Concentration problems that intensify over time should not be ignored.

4. Lack of Motivation and Initiative: Do you find it increasingly challenging to initiate tasks, follow through on commitments, or tackle activities that you once approached with enthusiasm? If a diminishing sense of motivation becomes a prevalent issue, especially in activities that were previously enjoyable and easily accomplished, this is another clear signal of potential burnout.

The presence and severity of these symptoms can serve as a gauge of your proximity to burnout. Should you experience multiple symptoms, particularly if they are severe, it is crucial to recognize that you might already be in the throes of burnout, necessitating immediate efforts to initiate the recovery process.

Illness is a Huge Red Flag of Possible Burnout

Have you ever encountered someone brushing off their illness with the phrase “It’s just a cold” and proceeding with their daily routine despite obvious signs of being unwell? Most of us have come across this scenario numerous times, and perhaps you’ve even found yourself uttering those words and soldiering on despite feeling sick. If this sounds familiar, then read on.

Disregarding an illness and persisting with your usual activities is far from an ideal approach when it comes to managing your energy. In fact, it’s one of the worst things you can do. When you’re under the weather, your body is engaged in a battle against the illness. Your body is primarily focused on healing and recovery. Most of the energy reserves available to you are funneled toward the huge undertaking of your body to recuperate.

If you attempt to maintain your regular routine while unwell, you force your body to tap into its emergency reserves. This is ill-advised for several compelling reasons. These reserves are designed for situations where you have no alternative but to persevere. Rebuilding them can be a time-consuming process, stretching over months or even years, leaving you ill-prepared to cope with unexpected emergencies.

Moreover, depleting your reserves can lead to severe exhaustion, exacerbating your illness and creating fertile ground for complications and potential burnout. Many individuals have found themselves hospitalized due to conditions like pneumonia, a consequence of attempting to power through a common cold.

Even if you manage to avoid the worsening of your illness through your regular activities, you are likely to prolong its duration. Diverting your body’s attention between maintaining your daily routine and battling the illness inevitably slows down the recovery process. In essence, refusing to pause and rest can easily double or even triple the duration of your illness.

Falling ill is akin to approaching a stop sign. You may be tempted to disregard it, but doing so often leads to unfavorable outcomes. When illness strikes, your body signals the need for you to stop and allocate time for recuperation. Rather than pushing through, it is essential to clear your schedule and prioritize rest.

Additionally, ensure you stay adequately hydrated by consuming extra fluids and continue with your regular dietary intake if possible. Your body relies on the added hydration and calories to aid in the recovery process. The next time you find yourself under the weather, resist the temptation to mask the symptoms with cold medication and carry on with your routine. Instead, choose the path of rest and recovery. Not only will you recuperate more swiftly, but your long-term energy management will also benefit.