5 Signs That You Have Burnout

A woman puts her head down on a desk filled with books and a computer

43 percent of American workers are feeling burned out at work.

As professional and personal boundaries continue to overlap, and our devices make us available 2/7, it’s no wonder that our jobs are making us feel stressed and tired all the time.

It doesn’t help that the signs of burnout are hard to diagnose and easy to dismiss. Whether it’s the pressure to perform well at the office or the guilt we feel for wanting to take time off, we don’t necessarily take the signs seriously even when we’re not feeling 100 percent. 

But it’s important to look for the signs of burnout early on so that you don’t put your emotional, mental, and physical well-being at risk. 

You might already be familiar with the typical signs of burnout. According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs of work burnout can include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability 
  • Tension Headaches 
  • Changes in sleep, e.g. insomnia or sleeping irregular hours 

But there are also other and more subtle ways that burnout can manifest. Whether it’s decision fatigue or a creative rut, burnout can show up in different and not so obvious ways. Below, we take a closer look at the subtle signs of burnout, and provide ideas on how to cope and take care of yourself. 

1. You’re getting tired of making decisions – big and small

It is said that we make about 35,000 decisions a day. From deciding what to eat for dinner to figuring out the strategic goals for your company, the constant decision making can easily lead to decision fatigue. 

But if you’re regularly feeling overwhelmed by small decisions, then it could be a sign that it’s time for a mental refresh. 

Here’s how to address it:

  • Have a decision planning framework. Make the decision process easier by having a decision framework you can rely on. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to help you decide your priorities or an old-school pros and cons list to evaluate your decision and its consequences. 
  • Automate your tasks. Whether it’s planning out your work outfits for the week or setting up autopayments for regular bills, automating your tasks can give your brain a much-needed break. 

2. You can’t remember the last time you had a new idea

Burnout is closely associated with the corporate world, but creative professionals definitely experience burnout as well. The pressure to generate new ideas and deliver  creative concepts on a regular basis can be taxing on your mind and body. 

A sign that you might be experiencing creative burnout is that you’re having trouble coming up with new ideas. Or maybe the thought of writing or being creative is turning you off. 

Here’s how to address it:

  • Engage in mindful activities. Activities such as meditation, coloring, knitting, and gardening can help relax your busy mind. And when you’re feeling calm and relaxed, you’ll be much more receptive to creative thoughts.
  • Turn to your journal. Writing in your journal is so therapeutic. Journaling provides an outlet for your thoughts and reconnects you with your creative self again.

3. You don’t want to look at your devices 

With remote work blurring the lines between personal and work hours, and employees feeling pressured to constantly be on call, a new incoming message can be enough to send your cortisol rising. 

If you find yourself avoiding your phone and dreading looking at your email inbox, this could be a sign that being on-call is taking a toll.  

Here’s how to address it:

  • Set work hours. First things first, set work hours for yourself. If your close of business is 6 PM, then make sure you commit to that. Put away your phone. Shut down the computer. Don’t respond to work messages. And don’t forget to include your office hours in your email signature. This helps manage expectations for you and your recipients. 
  • Use email auto-reply. You don’t have to be on vacation to use an email auto-response. Create one during busy times of the year or activate it on nights and weekends. This helps people know that you’re not ignoring their email, and that you’ll get to their message as soon as your time allows

4. You turn to comfort foods over foods that are good for you

We all need our comfort foods from time to time, but if they’re quickly becoming your go-to meals then it’s time to start nourishing yourself from the inside out.

Here’s how to address it: 

  • Have an easy meal plan. When life gets busy, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal from scratch. So instead of foregoing a healthy meal and opting for fast food, see if you can find a happy medium. Try planning out your meals in advance. Stock up on pre-chopped vegetables from the supermarket. Or opt for pre-made salads and hearty soups.  
  • Eat breakfast. It’s so easy to skip breakfast, especially when work gets busy. But having breakfast gives you a nice, healthy start to the day, and ensures that you won’t end up “hangry” by noon and desperately reaching for junk food. Get into the habit of eating breakfast and include foods that are easy to prepare like yogurt with fruit or overnight oats. 

5. You have a short fuse with the people around you

Do you find yourself snapping at coworkers? And even at friends and loved ones? A short fuse could mean that you’re feeling drained and taking it out on others.

If you haven’t been sleeping well or eating healthfully, it’s only natural that your patience is going to wear thin. So if you find yourself getting more and more angry and annoyed, then it’s time to reset and manage the emotions.

Here’s how to address it:

  • Get active. Sometimes, if you’re feeling a lot of pent up anger, it helps to release the emotions in a healthy and productive way. Maybe it’s taking a yoga class or going for a run. Even just stepping out of the office for a few minutes and walking around the block can help you reset and calm down. 
  • Talk to someone you trust. Whether it’s a licensed therapist or a family member you trust, it can help to talk it out. When you keep your emotions bottled up, any little thing or person can easily set you off. Allowing yourself to vent from time to time can provide a huge relief.

For more advice on how to manage burnout and make time for self-care, read our guide here

Written by JiJi Lee.

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