December 4, 2022

Burnout takes time to develop: it creeps up on you quietly. Its hallmarks are hopelessness, cynicism, and an inability to focus.

It is also associated with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, blood pressure issues, muscle tension, and random aches and pains. But it also manifests in more insidious ways.

You are at risk of burnout if…

They get angry about little things

When you lose the ability to enjoy your job, you lose patience as well.

Colleagues you used to like suddenly seem pushy, boring, or obnoxious. Your routine feels unbearably stale, but new projects are even more taxing. When you have a customer-facing job, it takes an inhumane effort to be polite and considerate with them.

In addition, the irritation can spill over into your private life. You become either snappy or robotically aloof, even with people you love. You can’t handle small inconveniences like a broken device. Also, you can’t pursue your hobbies like you normally do because you keep getting distracted or annoyed by details.

Bad habits become more tempting

Life-destroying or relatively harmless bad habits seep into your life when you’re under too much stress at work.

Maybe you’re biting your nails again or drinking more coffee than usual. You’re spending money on things you don’t need, all for that brief rush of joy you get when you buy them. You haven’t smoked in over a decade, but you miss it more than usual.

There is a well-documented link between burnout and addiction. Some people turn to alcohol and drugs for the first time because of burnout. Those who have struggled in the past are likely to relapse under stress.

When I was burned out, I started compulsively hating people on social media. It’s no big deal, other than robbing me of hours that I could have spent with people I love. It increased my bad mood and pessimism, and I couldn’t stop even though I wanted to.

Work chases your dreams

Burnout can creep into your dreams.

You may have recurrent nightmares about being back in school and being humiliated by a teacher you never think about again. Or you dream of being trapped, drowned, buried and so on. My burnout nightmares usually involved a lost item that everyone blamed me for.

Also Read: Customer Service Representatives Are Feeling Burned Out, How Can We Help Them?

Another weird symptom of burnout is “shallow dreams.” If your dreams are usually colorful and imaginative and you suddenly start having plotless, boring dreams, it could mean that stress is getting the better of you.

Your sleeping habits are everywhere

Falling asleep becomes stressful when you hate the thought of going to work in the morning. You may find yourself going to bed later and later each day. Or you lie in bed for hours, aimlessly scrolling through your feeds in hopes of distraction.

At weekends or during the holidays, the sleep pattern becomes particularly chaotic. You sleep in, wake up listless, spend your day in a fog, and then have trouble falling asleep. The more upset you are about your insomnia, the harder it is to relax.

For a long time, a break was considered the best remedy against burnout. Now we know that it doesn’t work that way: burnout makes true recovery impossible.

You lose your imagination

When you’re burned out and someone tells you to imagine the future, you don’t know what to say. You take your own life day by day, work has robbed you of the ability to look ahead.

But that’s not all. From personal experience I can say that burnout changes your inner world.

You are less expressive and find it harder to describe (or even think about) feelings. You feel empty, empty inside, but overwhelmed at the same time. You can’t imagine a better way forward.

The Ugly Truth

Everyone needs to know how to recognize burnout in themselves and loved ones, but recognition will not solve the problem. Burnout is not something you can overcome through positive thinking or better time management. You have to tackle it straight away.

Therapy can help, as can certain lifestyle changes. But remember, burnout is a reaction to your circumstances.

Sometimes the only way to escape is to change the circumstances involved. Talk to your boss, demand a change, and if you have to, quit. No job is worth this suffering.

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