Burnout 101: How To Spot The Signs Of Burnout (And What To Do About It)

You’ve reached the end of another 60-hour workweek and you’re left feeling exhausted, mentally drained, and it seems as if no amount of sleep can help you bounce back.

If you can relate to this scenario, you are most likely experiencing symptoms of burnout – a state of “emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress” (HelpGuide).

If left untreated, burnout can lead to even more serious cases of chronic anxiety and depression. To help you stay on track, here is a look at some common signs of burnout and a few suggestions for treatment and prevention.

6 common signs of burnout

  1. General lack of energy
    An overall lack of energy is one of the most common signs of burnout. Those with burnout often feel completely exhausted – even first thing in the morning after a full night’s sleep.
  1. Sleep disruption
    Even though you may be feeling exhausted all the time, burnout can sometimes cause problems with sleep. This could be anything from insomnia to frequently waking up in the middle of the night.
  1. Irritability and quickness to anger
    Those experiencing burnout may be feeling extra irritable, annoyed, or easily angered at even the smallest things. Family members may even comment on a noticeable personality change.
  1. Disinterest in hobbies and relationships
    If you are gradually disinterested in your favorite hobbies like listening to music, going for hikes, or spending time with loved ones, you might be suffering from burnout.
  1. Increased cynicism and negativity
    A pessimistic outlook on life is another common sign. This often looks like frequently imagining worst-case scenarios, an inability to solve problems, and feelings of hopelessness about the world.
  1. Forgetfulness and inability to focus
    Forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, and even where you’ve left your glasses can be another sign that you are burnt out. You may even find that your mind drifts away during conversations and you cannot focus on completing basic tasks.

What to do if you are experiencing burnout

  1. Take a timeout
    If you think that you are experiencing burnout, take a breather and give yourself a timeout. Take a day (or week) off work or try to use the weekend to relax and do nothing at all. This will give your mind some space to reflect and reset.
  2. Prioritize the basics
    Now that you’ve given yourself a chance to slow down and breathe, take a few days to just simply focus on the basics like getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, sleeping through the night, and doing some moderate exercise.
  3. Do something that you enjoy
    When you’re burned out, you may feel disconnected from yourself and those that you love. To overcome this feeling, make an effort to do a hobby or activity that you used to enjoy. Even something as simple as going for a walk with your partner can help you begin to feel more like yourself.

Preventing burnout

It is important to remember that burnout does not happen overnight. Instead, burnout happens gradually over time. While it’s good to recognize the signs of burnout, it is also a good idea to actively prevent burnout from happening in the future.

Simple lifestyle changes can oftentimes make a huge difference. To prevent burnout from creeping in, try to implement some of the following habits into your routine:

  • Maintain good sleep hygiene – try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Say ‘no’ to projects that you simply do not have time to take on.
  • Take vacation days – and using that time to actually relax or enjoy yourself.
  • Devote a few hours per week to practice self-care – try some of the techniques recommended here.
  • Refrain from working and checking emails outside of business hours.


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