Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you sign up or purchase products or services mentioned. Please see my full disclosure (https://ambitiouslyalexa.com/affiliate-disclosure) for further information.
Between work, school, or other obligations, chances are you’ve been exposed to the warning signs of burnout at some point. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion due to long-term excessive stress.
Think of burnout as a manifestation of stress. Rather than being over-reactive and hyper-alert like you would under typical stress, burnout makes you feel disengaged, hopeless, and overwhelmed.
Our society tends to push the narrative that if you aren’t running yourself into the ground, you’re not productive enough.
But there needs to be a balance between productivity and self-care, otherwise, you will approach the negative effects of burnout very quickly.
Being busy every second, having your days filled with back-to-back obligations, is not going to be healthy for your mental wellbeing.
It’s important to identify the warning signs of burnout early on so that you can address them and lessen the impact they have on your life.
Do any of the warning signs on this list ring a bell? If so, scroll down to read about them and learn what you can do to fix each one.
- You’re always tired
- You spend all your time at home in recovery mode
- You have a short fuse
- You’re very busy, but not accomplishing much
- Your output isn’t your best work
- You’re always pessimistic
- Your schedule and goals are unrealistic
This post is all about the warning signs of burnout
1. You’re always tired (you can feel the burnout)
Because burnout creates emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, it’s no surprise that you’re tired!
Adult life is tiring, but if you’re constantly feeling exhausted, that’s a sign that something isn’t quite right.
It’s also possible that you aren’t getting enough, or good quality, of sleep. And if your sleep cycle is unable to replenish you, those tired feelings will carry over day to day.
What to do:
- Slow down where you can, especially in the evenings and at night. Have a warm cup of tea when you get home from work. Find moments throughout the day where you can take it easy, and practice things like mindfulness meditation.
- Avoid cell phone use close to bedtime. Harvard research supports that blue-light from cell phones and computer screens affects your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the chemical that helps you fall asleep.
- Take a sleep aid. If it feels impossible to get enough hours of sleep no matter how hard you try, there’s no harm in talking to your doctor about being prescribed something non-addictive for sleep. This has helped me tremendously when nothing else would.
If you experience anxiety, this can play a role in burnout too. Grab my (free!) anxiety tracker below to check in on yourself and understand your anxiety symptoms!
Managing anxiety is tough. This tracker makes checking in on yourself a little easier. Want to gauge how your anxiety symptoms are doing? ...and want it free? Get my printable anxiety tracker sent straight to your inbox!
2. You spend all your time at home in recovery mode
You come home from a long day of work with absolutely no energy to do anything productive or enjoyable for yourself.
Instead, you drag yourself to the couch, binge-watch Netflix, and scroll on your phone for hours on end until it’s time to get ready for bed and do it all again the next day.
This sound familiar? If it is, you may be burnt out.
If this routine becomes a regular pattern that you can’t drag yourself out of, your body is telling you that it is in desperate need of recovery.
There’s a difference between winding down for an hour after work and spending the rest of the day unable to do much.
What to do:
- Block time for yourself on a schedule to do something genuinely enjoyable. Start small. It can be as simple as reading a chapter of your favorite book or spending 30 minutes painting. The goal is to get you doing something happy.
- Address what it is about your day that’s making you need so much recovery time. Assess if there is anything you can do to take it easier. Maybe it means spreading out your tasks at work or going to sleep an hour earlier.
3. You have a short fuse
Maybe you’re experiencing more road rage lately, or getting excessively furious any time your computer slows down.
If every little thing has been setting you off, it’s a good possibility you’re under a lot of stress.
Feeling overwhelmed from the warning signs of burnout might make you more likely to snap at people or complain about every inconvenience that comes your way.
What to do:
- Understand that while under stress, you will be more sensitive. Avoid doing complex tasks that are apt to get you frustrated at that moment, and wait until you’ve cooled off before tackling them.
- Writing and journaling can be fantastic tools for stress. Especially if you need to vent without taking it out on others. Have you ever tried a mental health journal? You definitely should! Below is my mental health journal specifically for managing stress, negative emotions, and unhelpful behaviors.
4. You’re very busy, but not accomplishing much
Busyness doesn’t necessarily equal productivity. If you’ve got more than you can handle on your plate, your focus won’t be at its best.
You might feel like you’re doing a lot because you’re booked 24/7, but you’re not seeing many accomplishments.
What to do:
- No more multi-tasking! Did you know that multitasking takes up more time? Our brain is very bad at switching from task to task, so the time it takes to switch between tasks adds up and makes for terrible efficiency.
- Begin tasks with the end goal in mind. I highly recommend the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where habit #2 says exactly that. The goal is to make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want–looking at the big picture. This will motivate you to make the most of every part of your tasks.
5. Your output isn’t your best work
In addition to not accomplishing much in quantity, you might be lacking in the quality of your output.
It’s hard to go above and beyond when your mindset isn’t in the position to thrive.
When we feel burnt out, the last thing we’re able to give is our all. Scraping by with the bare minimum is, sometimes, all we can manage.
What to do:
- Break down the bigger things. Your sense of accomplishment will be more present if you take baby steps and focus on completing each small part of the puzzle rather than looking at a giant task as one giant task!
- Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Even if a certain accomplishment or gesture is “expected of you,” that doesn’t invalidate it! If you take pride in the little things, they’ll all come together to form a good quality piece of work.
6. You’re always pessimistic
Because burnout can leave you feeling hopeless and unmotivated, it’s hard to look on the bright side.
It’s easy to get into negative thought patterns, but we have to work to challenge those negative thought patterns.
What to do:
- Challenge negative thought patterns by using a technique called cognitive reappraisal. Cognitive reappraisal works by reshaping negative thoughts into something more positive. For example, if you fear doing poorly on an exam, adjust your thinking by saying “I studied thoroughly for this exam. I have a good chance of doing well on it.”
- Again, journaling can help here by developing a more positive mindset. If you need help getting started, you can read my article on 10 Thought-Provoking Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery. And of course, make sure to grab yourself a journal that you can dedicate to positive thinking!
7. Your schedule and goals are unrealistic
If your to-do list has you feeling defeated, it may be a sign to assess your schedule. Even on higher-functioning days where you feel more ambitious, you always want to keep your goals realistic.
What to do:
- Don’t set more than 2-3 goals per day and spread out your to-do list more evenly throughout the week. Don’t pile soooo much into one day. Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t put so much pressure on yourself!
- It’s okay to leave things “in progress.” If you have an all-or-nothing mindset, like myself, you probably feel like you have to start and finish everything same-day. But that’s not always true!
- Have a solid planning system that works for you. I always say it, but the Clever Fox Undated Planner is an absolute lifesaver for my scheduling and goals!
Of these 7 warning signs of burnout, I want you to pick just one today that sticks out to you most. Decide how you will implement it in your daily life.
If you’re currently experiencing burnout, I know it will be difficult to implement all of these at once.
And I don’t expect you to.
That’s why I say to take it easy, just select one item from the list and see how it improves your ability to cope with the burnout!
Wishing you the very best in anything that you’re facing right now.