Let’s face it, change is the only constant thing in many of our lives. Some of us find our lifetime careers early on, while others haven’t yet found employment bliss. Whatever stage of your employment life you’re in, burnout is a real and serious thing that can affect you mentally and physically.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about the top 5 burnout signs to look for and whether it’s time to start looking for a new position. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave the company, but it may mean finding a position/job that’s a better fit for you within the company.
While everyone experiences negative emotions from time to time, burnout cynicism is more serious. When you’re burned out, those negative emotions overpower the positive ones, and you feel generally more pessimistic than normal and more consistently. You cannot see “a light at the end of the tunnel,” or you become so jaded that you believe the light is actually the headlamp of an oncoming train. You believe nothing is going to get better and you can’t trust anyone. That kind of cynicism is unhealthy and usually very abnormal.
Irritability with coworkers, customers, or clients
Irritability is also something that will come and go, but with burnout it becomes magnified and you are constantly on edge. You become the coworker that everyone is afraid to cross. You may find that customers, clients, or even your coworkers are more consistently upset with you because you are being impatient and rude with them. If you find yourself in a constant state of irritability that keeps getting worse, you may be burned out.
With burnout, insomnia becomes a big issue. You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep. In the early stages of burnout, you might find you simply aren’t sleeping as well as you used to. You might occasionally encounter what I like to call “The Sunday Blues”. The Sunday Blues typically occur in the afternoon and evening of Sunday—the day before you head back to work. You get more stressed and irritated as the evening wears on and eventually are unable to sleep because you’re too worried about having to go back to work. If the burnout progresses, though, insomnia sets in and you end up not sleeping most of the days of the week. Lack of sleep contributes massively to the other symptoms of burnout such as irritability, cynicism, and exhaustion.
This is very common with burnout. You stop responding to your coworkers and try to distance yourself. Those you once trusted become those who anger you. This may mean you’re coming into the office early and leaving early to avoid interaction, you stop responding to emails and messages from your friends, you stop answering client and customer emails, and you withdraw into your office or cube.
Exhausted emotionally, physically, and cognitively
The last main sign of burnout is exhaustion. Emotional and physical exhaustion can lead to sleeping at work instead of actually working and having outbursts of emotion at work. Cognitive exhaustion is also a major issue with burnout. When you’re cognitively exhausted, your brain can’t process stimuli as effectively as it once did and your performance will slip. If you attended college, you likely experienced cognitive exhaustion at some point or another. At that point, those all-nighters cramming for tests were no more beneficial than forgetting to study all together. In fact, they exhausted your reasoning skills and may have caused more harm than good.
What should you do?
There are several other signs that you’re burned out, but we just wanted to touch on the main ones. So what is next? What should you do if you determine you have, indeed, hit the burnout stage? Well, the answer will vary for everyone. The first thing you need to determine is whether you want to stay at the company or try to look for something else. To do this, it’s important to look at your company’s culture and values and determine if they are contributing to your burnout or if your burnout is due to factors within your job itself. If the company culture and values are contributing to your burnout, it might be time to start looking for a position with a different company that better fits your values and desires.
If the burnout is solely due to your position itself, try to determine the specific aspects of your position contributing to the burnout. Once you’ve created a list, try to discuss your concerns with your supervisor. Most bosses, no matter what industry you’re in, want their employees to succeed and will work with you to get unstuck. If you feel there may be a better position for you within the company, pursuing that position may create a win-win situation for everyone involved. When you are passionate about your job, you’re more likely to succeed, and that’s a win for both you and the company.
I hope this information helps you to recognize the signs of burnout and provides a few tips to help you prevent or get out from under that burnout raincloud. Because everyone deserves employment bliss.