HR & Management

The five signs that you’re heading for burnout

5 min read

31 May 2017

Most tend not to realise they're heading for burnout until it's too late. So here are five signs to look out for.

If your company has you heading for burnout, then your business model is wrong and can’t be sustained. No job should make you sick. But oddly enough burnout only happens to the best of us, hitting the committed, the grafters, the loyal, the ones that will go the extra mile.

Going the extra mile is perfectly okay, and often necessary in business. This is not a state to reside in though and has devastating consequences to you now and in the future.

In my experience, recovery from burnout will take at least six months. That means your life, and that of those around you, is impacted beyond what you could imagine. People heading for burnout find that the very things they have tried to “keep together” are lost in an instant. It’s never worth it. So it doesn’t hurt to know what to look for.

1) Gut deep dread of the impending day, every day without fail

If you dread your work every single day then you could be heading for burnout, and if not now at some point soon you will. Nothing is worth you burning out. You’re simply worth more than that, but early burnout tells you you’re not, because you’re not hacking it like everyone else. So, get help, talk to someone and adjust your lifestyle before it’s too late.

2) Feeling full up; dizzy, can’t take one more thing

You have no “room” left to absorb any more demands on you because you’ve been giving your all and more for too long. You can feel angry quickly, depressed and overwhelmed. It’s your hard work that has got you here, but none of us can carry on regardless without it taking its toll.

3) Missing lunch for more than a few days, choosing fluids because they’re quicker

We’ve all missed lunch occasionally but if you do this as a matter of course, you’re actually not looking after yourself and not doing what will sustain your hard work ethic. You obsess that there is not enough time to fit the workload in. Eventually you will become ill.

4) Intrusive thoughts of walking or running away, self-doubt

This is a sign of being overwhelmed and because you can’t see a way out right now (you’ve got to keep bringing the £’s in and do the “right thing”) you’ll start fantasising about sitting on the train to the end of the line, or “what if I just keep driving”, what if I just keep walking and don’t go in? Will anyone care or notice?

5) Anxiety is a sure sign you’re heading for burnout

Shortness of breath, panic, struggling to take a deep breath. A non-specific low level anxiety that is getting increasingly worse. You may notice getting to work is harder, doing the job is harder, everything is harder even the simplest of tasks. You feel so anxious you might want to avoid people. You can’t put your finger on why you feel this way.

Early self-care is the best prevention – don’t leave it too late

Long term stress and ignoring the signs of burnout will require managing and may show up in these extreme ways:

• Depressive thoughts and depression;
• Feelings of suffocation; seeing no way out;
• Imagining your demise;
• Fleeting thoughts of ending your life;
• Consistent difficulty with concentrating;
• Short term memory loss;
• Binge drinking, binge eating, gambling etc;
• Quick to anger, angry outbursts;
• Insomnia (early hour waking);
• Trembling for no apparent reason;
• Loss of appetite; and
• Self-harming; brutal thoughts, biting, stabbing, hitting yourself.

The most intelligent minds often forget to do the things that will sustain them. You can have a great working life without it breaking you down. Not one person in burnout has ever told me it was worth it. The hard reality of burnout is that nothing in your life is unchanged. It’s affects your:

Physical health;
Emotional health;
Psychological health;
Nutritional health;
Relationship health;
Parenting health;
Friendship health;
Financial health; and
Happiness health.

Anna Pinkerton is a therapeutic coach, corporate therapist and a leading expert in post-traumatic stress disorder. She is the author of Smile Again: Your Recovery from Burnout, Breakdown and Overwhelming Stress, available from Amazon, priced £9.99.