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Are You on the Verge of Burning Out? 7 Warning Signs to Look For (and How to Cope)


If you work too long, too hard, or if you genuinely don’t like the work you do, you’ll eventually be at risk of burning out. You can think of burnout as a kind of rock bottom for your disposition toward your job, and possibly your entire career.

People who are burned out find it extremely difficult to even show up to work– let alone do their best at the job. Once you reach this point, you might start disappointing your team or suffer catastrophic losses in your business– or you might be so fed up that you abandon your company entirely.

For most people, the best solution is to proactively watch for the warning signs of burnout and take action before it’s too late.

These are some of the most common warning signs of burnout:

  1. Physical and mental exhaustion. One of the hallmark symptoms of burnout is physical and mental exhaustion. Even after a whole night of sleep, you feel tired in the morning. Your muscles may be sore or feel fatigued. You may find it harder to concentrate in meetings or pay attention to people when they’re speaking to you, just because you don’t have the energy. It’s much more than normal tiredness, and it affects you most days of the week.
  2. Workplace dread. Most of us have some kind of love-hate relationship with our jobs. We might quit if we didn’t need the money, but we don’t hate every aspect of doing the work. If you find yourself completely dreading the workplace and resenting the fact that you have to go into the office every morning, you might be on the path to burnout. You shouldn’t dread your workplace, or your employees, or the work you do.
  3. Hair loss.  If you’re so stressed that you’re starting to lose your hair, there’s no reason to continue in your current line of work with your current set of responsibilities.
  4. Irritability. People at the highest risk of burnout tend to be extremely irritable. Their moods can change at the drop of a hat and they might blow up at somebody or even the smallest infraction. This is especially problematic if you’re usually mild-mannered.
  5. Lack of sleep. It’s no secret that burnout can also affect your sleep, resulting in a terrible feedback loop. High stress and poor workplace conditions lead to lack of sleep, while lack of sleep makes work all that more difficult and stressful.
  6. Performance decline. With all the other effects, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that burnout is also associated with a decline in your performance. You’re not as productive or as competitive as you used to be.
  7. Chronic anxiety. Do you feel excessive anxiety, even when you’ve left the workplace for the day? If so, you should be even more concerned about the potential for burnout.

So what should you do if you notice any of these warning signs?

The exact answer is going to be a little different for everybody since different careers have different demands and different individuals have different preferences. However, most people benefit from some combination of the following:

Set stricter boundaries.

Don’t be afraid to set stricter boundaries. If you don’t want to be expected to respond to emails Saturday morning, say so. If your workload is excessive and it’s causing you too much stress, delegate some of your tasks. Your career is making you miserable, and if the worst-case scenario is that you no longer have to be there, that’s not necessarily a bad position.

Take time off.

Take time away from your job. Doing so can help you relax and destress and come back to your position feeling refreshed. Depending on the severity of your burnout symptoms, that might mean taking a long weekend or taking a full vacation.

Prioritize self-care.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you take care of yourself. Don’t take time off from work only to overwhelm yourself with personal responsibilities. Relax, spend time with family, and do things that you genuinely enjoy doing. You’ll be better off for it.

Burnout can set in at any time, for anyone, in any position. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how flexible your hours are, or how many other variables are in play. Pay attention to these burnout signs before they get any worse, and take proactive action to keep yourself in the right mindset.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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