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How to Recognize Burnout Symptoms & Improve Your Health

Blog Sleep & Wellness
How to Recognize Burnout Symptoms & Improve Your Health

Burnout is an increasingly common phenomenon, and it’s not exclusive to overachievers or perfectionists. Burnout symptoms can affect anyone who’s juggling multiple roles or finding it difficult to cope with workplace demands.

You’ve just landed your dream job, and for the next few months, you put 110% into everything you do. You’re the first one in every morning and the last to leave.

You work through nights, weekends, and public holidays, rarely stopping to come up for air. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a shift occurs.

You’re mentally exhausted, chronically unhappy, and struggling to sleep. In other words, you’re starting to experience burnout symptoms.

Here’s everything you need to know about recognizing burnout symptoms and tackling them to improve your mental health and work performance.

What is Burnout?

What is Burnout?

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in its International Classification of Diseases. Even though burnout isn’t classified as a medical condition, WHO notes that experiencing burnout symptoms may prompt people to reach out to health services for help.

If you’re crumbling under the pressures of work-related stress, you’re not alone. A 2020 survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America found that 75% of workers experienced burnout, and 40% said it was a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. The signs of burnout are easy to spot: Your work no longer interests you, you lose the will to do a good job, and you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally drained.

Burnout is so prevalent among working professionals that even major companies are beginning to recognize its adverse effects on workplace productivity and satisfaction. LinkedIn recently announced the decision to give its 15,900 employees a paid week off to prevent burnout.

Burnout symptoms can easily be mistaken for a bad day, but the truth is that its effects are much more damaging. A full-fledged burnout can last weeks or even months if it goes unaddressed. Over time, the effects of burnout can take a severe toll on your health and possibly lead to depression, anxiety, and depersonalization.

What Causes Burnout Symptoms?

What Causes Burnout Symptoms?

The causes of burnout symptoms can differ from person to person, but here are some of the most common triggers:

  • Lack of work-life balance: Committing all your time to work and neglecting your social life can understandably take its toll at some point. If you’re spending more time at work than at home with your loved ones, then you’re not only at a higher risk of experiencing burnout symptoms, but you might also start to resent your job.
  • Loss of control: When you’re under immense pressure and don’t have the ability to make decisions about your workload or schedule, you might feel like you’re no longer in control of what you’re doing, which can lead to eventual burnout.
  • An unsatisfactory work culture: A work environment that lacks proper communication and support can quickly lower employee morale.
  • Being held to a high standard: On the one hand, high expectations can motivate you to be the best version of yourself. But on the other hand, these expectations can feel like a two-edged sword because most people can’t achieve every single thing they set out to do. Some failures are inevitable, and worrying excessively about slipping up can affect your performance and health.

The Stages of Burnout

You won’t experience burnout symptoms one day out of the blue. Instead, they appear in stages, but it’s important to note that personal experiences with burnout can differ from person to person.

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North outlined 12 stages of burnout signs, which include:

Desire to Prove Yourself

  1. Desire to Prove Yourself - When starting at a new company, you might feel the urge to prove you’re the right person for the job. This ambition can manifest in excess initially, causing you to take on more than you can handle.
  2. Working Harder - To prove yourself, you work harder, accept more responsibility, and put in extra time. At this stage, you might find it challenging to say “no” to tasks and may even struggle with prioritizing.
  3. Neglecting Your Needs - As you become more focused on your work and meeting deadlines, you start to neglect your personal needs, which may include sleeping less, eating at irregular hours of the day, and giving up on exercise.
  4. Conflict Displacement - When an increasing number of responsibilities burdens you, then the chances are that you won’t get to all of them on time. But instead of acknowledging that you have too much on your plate, you might find yourself blaming your boss, colleagues, or the workload for your inability to deliver quality work.
  5. Dismissing Non-Work Related Needs - At this point, you may withdraw from your family and friends to focus solely on work. Any non-work related social obligations might start to feel like a waste of time instead of something enjoyable.
  6. Denial - Your moods and behaviors change. You’re more prone to being impatient, angry, and irritable, but instead of taking accountability for it, you blame the people around you.
  7. Withdrawal - You’re so caught up in the work that you withdraw almost entirely from friends and family. Even though you would rather finish work than socialize, you might start to feel even more stressed about your job.
  8. Behavioral Changes - One of the more concerning burnout symptoms is a drastic change in your behavior. You may be prone to snapping at your loved ones for no reason, especially when they start showing concern about your well-being.
  9. Detachment - When burnout symptoms are more severe, you might not see any value in yourself or others. You become detached and begin to neglect your own needs.
  10. Inner Emptiness - You’re so drained that you feel empty inside and start to indulge in things that may temporarily make you feel better, such as alcohol, binge eating, or smoking.
  11. Depression - You begin to feel more hopeless and lose interest in your job. On most days, you might even find it difficult to get out of bed and go to work.
  12. Complete Burnout - When you experience total burnout, you may feel like you’ve hit a wall. Not only do you struggle to perform well at work, but your mental and physical health might also suffer, prompting you to seek medical care.

How to Prevent Burnout

Though burnout symptoms may persist for a while if left untreated, the good news is that they can be prevented. Here are some of our top tips for avoiding burnout.

Make Changes to Your Workload

It’s not always easy to ask for help, and the last thing you may want to do is show your colleagues or your boss that you’re incapable of handling your job.

However, if you’re feeling swamped, it’s essential to have a conversation with your boss about reducing the volume of your workload or setting more attainable deadlines. More often than not, burnout is directly linked to a large workload, so taking certain things off your plate can help you focus more on other tasks.

Most importantly, managing your workload is the best way to achieve a work-life balance. Ultimately, your day can’t start and end with work; you also need to free up time to do things for yourself and spend time with your loved ones.

Prioritize Self-Care

Prioritize Self-Care

If you’re experiencing burnout symptoms, then it’s essential to take a step back from work and focus on self-care, especially if you’ve been neglecting it.

Be sure to eat better, limit your alcohol intake, and set aside some time for yourself to unwind every day. Spend that time doing something that’s either relaxing or fulfilling, whether that’s curling up in bed with a good book or going out for a nice meal with your family.

Practice Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habits

Sleep is your superpower. Not only can getting sufficient sleep help you feel well-rested in the mornings, but it also has several other benefits, including memory consolidation, weight regulation, and boosting creativity.

In addition to getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, it’s important to invest in the most comfortable mattress to ensure a good night’s sleep. The right mattress can be hard to find, especially when there are so many options available, but just be sure to look for something that provides a good balance of support and comfort. A hybrid mattress ticks both boxes since it combines the firmness of traditional innerspring with the contouring comfort of memory foam.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise isn’t just good for the body; it’s also good for the mind. A study conducted on nurses found that those who did yoga regularly reported that their work-related stress levels were lower and improved sleep quality.

The Bottom Line

Burnout symptoms can be overwhelming, but it’s also a sign that you need to take a step back from work and prioritize your health. Identifying the burnout signs and taking proactive measures to address them can help you beat burnout and come out of the other side stronger and more productive.

Your Turn...

Do you experience burnout symptoms? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.

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