Burnout is real. It’s that feeling you have when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long and just can’t anymore. In today’s article, overachieving is no longer a pleasant surprise to teachers and employers; it’s an expectation. And this comes at a price: our mental health.
There are several signs that you might be headed for burnout, including physical, mental, and emotional signals. The ones I mention are some of the major ones, so if you’re having any of these worrying signs, you should probably consider whether your lifestyle benefits or hurts you.
I will also provide a Quick Fix for each character to provide an option for helping you start to improve how you are feeling. Remember that these Quick Fixes won’t be for everyone, and they are always permanent solutions. But hopefully, they will give you a jumping-off point when brainstorming ways to help yourself!
1. You can’t remember the last time you weren’t stressed
One of the cornerstones of burnout is experiencing high stress levels for a prolonged period. This stress could come from your personal, professional, or academic life—sometimes even multiple sources. Over long periods, the pressure starts to affect your body, not just mentally affecting you physically. Neither mental nor physical decline in health leads to a productive and happy life, so be sure to monitor your stress levels closely!
Quick Fix: Take a Mindful Minute. As I enter the stressful professional teaching world, mindfulness has become increasingly important.
There are several great tools and tricks to help you become mindful, but my persona is investing in a Spire Mindfulness and Fitness tracker. I have previously written about my Spire in this article. I highly recommend investing in one; it will change your mindfulness thinking!
The Spire app (which is free!) has some tools you can use to take a mindful minute, including breathing exercises. Use these to reset your stress levels momentarily and tend to your body.
Buy a Spire on Amazon here.
2. You’ve Abandoned self-care
Self-care is an essential and often overlooked part of life. Unfortunately, some even make fun of those prioritizing self-care, claiming it’s incredibly indulgent and unnecessary. That is so not the case!
I was taught to look at self-care in this way: Imagine you are a bucket of water. Every time you are selfless, you lose some water. Every time you give your time to others, whether at work, school or otherwise, you lose some water.
Every time you are stressed or worried, you lose some water. You can replenish your supply of water by practicing self-care. If you don’t fill your bucket with more water, eventually, you’ll have nothing left to give.
In this metaphor, the water is your emotional health. You have to habitually do things that replenish your emotional health to give your all in life. If you have an empty bucket, you can negotiate your time and energy for important things such as your job, studying, or parenting.
Quick Fix: Be a little selfish. Take time to practice self-care.
It might seem impossible because of your busy schedule, but trust me. It would be best if you did it. I like to give myself an at-home spa day.
There are many ways to do this on a budget, including making your face masks with ingredients from your kitchen.
If you want to treat yourself, though (and you should!), I recommend buying an at-home spa kit. You can get them for less than $30 on Amazon, and they include all the fancy products you would get if you spent $100 at a natural spa.
Buy an at-home spa kit on Amazon here!
3. You don’t have time for friends or family
It would be best if you never were so busy that you didn’t have time to call or hang out with the people you care about. Taking this quality time with friends and family is a form of self-care.
Plus, reinforcing those bonds will remind you that you have a support system comprised of people who love and care about you. If you’re headed for burnout, you might have forgotten this. Lean on your support where you have them; they will be accommodating during this difficult time.
Quick Fix: Call a loved one for at least five minutes.
4. You‘re Always Tired
Exhaustion is a telltale sign that you’re headed for burnout. This can be for a few different reasons. For one, insomnia is a sign of being too stressed.
If your mind is moving at a hundred miles per minute, there is a way you can relax enough to fall asleep peacefully. On top of that, mental restlessness might make staying asleep more difficult—either way, you’re getting the quality sleep you deserve.
Another issue is that you may think you do not have enough hours in the day to sleep enough or at all. When you grind, you might prioritize perfecting a project oversleeping. That might be acceptable for one night (though never preferable), but certainly not for several nights or weeks. Sleep deprivation is a serious issue and will detrimentally affect your performance.
Quick Fix: Prioritize sleep. I know it probably isn’t that simple, but it is. Just do it. To help you out with this, we have published several articles about the importance of sleep, so be sure to check them out:
5. Your diet has changed
…and not for the better. If you burn out, you might not feel that you have time to cook gourmet (read: healthier) meals at home, and instead, you’re eating fast food. The convenience doesn’t make up for the fact that all this unhealthy food is holding you back, both physically and mentally! Your brain and body need proper nutrition to operate at optimal levels.
One manifestation of stress is either over or under-eating, neither of which are healthy choices. It’s essential to monitor your portions and frequency of eating in addition to what you are eating.
Quick Fix: Stop going to the drive-through line and hit the grocery store instead. Plan at least one day of healthy meals you prepare at home, and you will see what a difference it makes! There are many cookbooks out there with recipes for simple and healthy meals that you can make on a budget, like this Superfood Cookbook. It has easy recipes based on quinoa, a budget-friendly superfood!
Buy Superfood Cookbook on Amazon here.
6. You don’t go out anymore
First came less sleep, then the change in your diet, and now you no longer have time to work. The trifecta of physical health markers has all fallen thanks to your workload.
Quick Fix: Schedule at least 30 minutes three times a week to go for a walk, bike ride, or hit the gym.
7. You don’t do anything outside of work or school
Another sign you are for burnout is if you don’t know how you spend your time. Maybe you used to love your job, but that’s what’s now that you’ve loaded your schedule. The same might happen if you have packed your course load in school. That sense of dread you feel when fulfilling your responsibilities, instead of finding joy in checking off your to-do list, is a sign that it’s to reevaluate things.
Quick Fix: Remind yourself why you love what you do. If you have trouble thinking of something, that might be a sign that it’s it’s for a significant change.
Big change can be, so you might want some resources to help you through it. I recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. It has some excellent advice on courage when changing course in life.
Buy Daring Greatly on Amazon here!
8. You haven’t taken a vacation in forever
Do you remember the last time you took some time off? If not, then you could be headed for a burnout. There’s a reason most college professors allow students a certain number of skip days, and companies grant paid time off to employees—no one can keep going forever.
Quick Fix: Go on a short vacation, even if you can think of excuses not to.
9. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning
Pressing snooze several times in the morning can signify several different things. Maybe you’ve been exhausted and needed to savor every minute of shut-eye you can squeeze out of your schedule.
Perhaps you aren’t ready to jump out of bed and start your day. Maybe you want to curl up under the covers so your responsibilities can’t overwhelm you. Or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Whatever the reason, you deserve a more positive start to your day!
Quick Fix: Give yourself a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I wrote an article about tips and tricks to help you wake up in the morning, so that’s where to start.
But maybe you need a bigger why. You can write yourself an encouraging note the night before and leave it next to your bed. When you wake up, read the message aloud and then get going.
10. You’ve Lost Motivation
Loss of motivation is a huge red flag, as it can be both a symptom and a product of mental and physical exhaustion.
In addition to being a sign of burnout, loss of motivation can point to more significant mental health conditions for which you might want to seek guidance and help. Take the time to talk to your doctor if you think you might need more official treatment for how you’re doing.
Quick Fix: Remind yourself why you do what you do. You can start by reading my article “Find Motivation When You Feel Like a Loser” and”There are also several great books out there that you can read. One book I’d recommend is You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.
Buy You Are a Badass on Amazon here!
11. You feel detached
Feelings of detachment often accompany a loss of motivation. If you’re motivated to keep pushing, you probably also feel detached from your work. This could also mean details from people who are important to you.
If you’re concerned about burnout, you might isolate yourself from friends and family and, consequently, feel distant. Or, even if you see loved ones regularly, you might not feel as close to them anymore.
As with the loss of motivation, feeling detached from things and people around you can also be a sign of a more significant mental health concern. Please talk to a health professional if you are experiencing detachment because you deserve to get the help you need!
Quick Fix: Reach out to a friend, family member, doctor, or therapist. Talk to someone about how you feel so that you can create a plan to remedy the issue. Reconnecting with a loved one will also remind you that you’re alone, which can go a long way.
This might be a scary time; you shouldn’t go through it alone! There are also great books out there that you can use as resources, including Resilience from the Heart by Gregg Braden. It gives both a scientific and spiritual angle on pursuing through difficult moments.
Buy Resilience from the Heart on Amazon here!
12. You aren’t proud of your accomplishments
You should be proud of yourself when you meet a personal, academic, or professional goal! However, if you don’t know that your accomplishments mean much, this could be a sign that you are burned. It’s a matter of working so hard for so long that, in the end, you aren’t excited about the product of all that work.
Quick Fix: Share your accomplishments with others. The people who care about you will be excited and proud of what you’ve done, and hopefully, some of those positive vibes will rub off on you!
13. You are simply #done
You know the feeling.
Quick Fix: See any of the Quick Fixes mentioned above!
If you identify with many or all of these signs, it’s too late to change. I included a quick fix to attend to each movement of burnout on this list, but the keyword here is short. These tips will not sustain you forever, but they can become part of your daily routine to create lasting change.
If you feel you might be headed for burnout, the best thing you can do is take a step back and talk to someone. You might have to make significant life changes to get yourself on a better path or make only a few minor adjustments.
Either way, it can be scary to ask for —that something needs to change. It’s Worth it, though. Make yourself a priority again; you deserve it!