Around the holidays, we can experience feelings of being overwhelmed. While you can feel this way any time, how do you recognize your exhaustion is severe enough that you are burned out? Having self-awareness helps you see it is time to act on your self-care so you can be your best self with friends, family, and colleagues.
What is “burnout?” It is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. However, you don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden “have burnout.” Mental and emotional exhaustion are much more insidious, creeping up on us over time, which makes them much harder to recognize. The good news is that our bodies and minds give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can realize it before it’s too late.
Here are 7 warning signs to help you know it is time to stop, breathe, and recharge:
Feel depleted, tired, and easily annoyed
In the early stages, you may lack energy and be tired most days. When you are in the later stages, you feel physically and emotionally drained, and may feel a sense of hopelessness or dread for what lies ahead. The lack of power causes feelings of irritation. Instead of beating yourself up, turn your attention to some needed time off.
Experience physical symptoms such as dizziness and nausea
Physical symptoms may also include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal distress, fainting, and/or headaches. This is the time to see a doctor for an assessment. Physical signs are often part of our mental state because our body and brain are a system. Early on, it starts with physical tension and intensifies as a message to us to pay attention!
Motivation drops to seriously low levels
Signs of low motivation include forgetfulness, impaired concentration, and attention or a lack of focus. When you are having trouble with focus and mild forgetfulness, this is an early sign. Later, you may find you’re incapable of getting your work done and everything piles up. The goals that stimulated you are no longer enough, and you struggle to find motivation. It’s another sign that you need rest. Back off and stop pushing yourself so hard. List some things that are fun and bring back your energy.
Experience anxiety, depression, and anger more often than usual
We all have these feelings, and we should pay attention to them for their essential message about what we need. In the early stages, you may feel sad or worried, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel angry, irritable, hopeless, trapped, and severely depressed. (If your depression and anxiety are to this point, you should seek professional help as soon as possible.) You may have bouts of angry outbursts or arguments either at work or home. Speak with someone you trust. You may figure out what you need and a healthy strategy.
Have trouble getting to sleep or insomnia
In the early stages of burnout, you may have occasional trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. The overwhelming feeling of exhaustion makes it harder for you to calm your thoughts and fall asleep. Later on, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal. And as exhausted as you are, you just can’t sleep.
Feel like crying, and you can’t find a reason
When exhausted, you can feel shaky and vulnerable. In the early stages, your senses are heightened. Then later on as you reach burnout, you can find yourself in a hyper-sensitive state in which even the smallest thing such as a harmless joke or mistake could trigger your tears. It might feel like others are against you or lacking the strength to cope with challenges. When you are exhausted both physically and mentally, normal day-to-day stress is intensified. Crying can release tension.
Feel detached and isolated
When you are in the latter stages of burnout, you may feel “comfortably numb,” as if you have lost your feelings. You don’t feel bad, but not good either. Your senses have left you, and all you have is a senselessness and loss of all hope. This is a sign you need help!
If you experience any of these 7 warning signs, pay attention immediately and take some action on your self-care. Stop, breathe in and out slowly, and rest to recharge yourself. Even the slightest negative change in your wellbeing should be a signal to stop and relax. You need to take care of yourself first, and then you’ll be ready for a joyful, fulfilling holiday season!