At one point last year, I worked for over 100 straight days. At first, the idea of being ultra-productive was inspiring to me. It felt like I was taking charge of my world, influencing others in positive ways, and that was an amazing feeling indeed. Over time, however, those feelings started to go away. Instead of feeling inspired, I was beginning to dread the alarm waking me in the morning.
There were some days I would look at myself in the mirror and wonder what I was doing. Then I would grab some coffee and get to work. At the time I didn’t recognize it, but this was clearly I sign that I was headed to burnout.
In retrospect, there were a lot of warning signs that were telling me that it was time to take a few days off to take care of myself. Are you experiencing any of these burnout symptoms right now?
#1. 100% Exhaustion. Do you get 8 hours of awesome sleep, but wake up tired? That happened to me a lot. I made up a lot of excuses about this fact and compensated with caffeine, but that didn’t change the fact that I felt physically and emotionally tired.
#2. Poor Eating Choices. I started replacing vegetables with potato chips. The potato chips eventually got replaced with Twinkies. Coconut water turned to soda, which turned to energy drinks. When you’re tired, you try to eliminate that feeling by consuming high sugar, low calorie foods and for me, every substitute made me feel worse, so I’d compensate with an even worse eating choice.
#3. You Never Relax. Even when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about working. I could stress myself out thinking about a deadline that was more than a week away. The number of headaches I started to get could be tracked daily near the end of my 100+ day stretch.
#4. Fun Disappears. I could plan fun activities, but they didn’t seem fun. The only real enjoyment I remember having during that massive stretch of work was when I was actually working. I felt out of place if I wasn’t working and that prevented me from being able to relax.
#5. Insomnia. I’m not one for racing thoughts in my mind 24/7, but after awhile that started to happen when I’d try to get to sleep. I’d plot out my work for the next day. I’d think about the things I could have changed over the course of the day. I’d worry about what others were thinking about me. Eventually I had to put a white noise machine into my bedroom to give my mind something else to focus on while I tried to get to sleep.
#6. Always Irritable. I was buying groceries one day near the end of my 100+ day stretch. It was taking longer than normal to scan the items. “Can’t you hurry it up?” I asked impatiently at one point. The cashier gave me a strange look. Then she told me it would be $101.97. I remember that specifically because I then snapped. I’d expected it to be $80… but I’d grabbed two steaks and forgot about that. Irritability and burnout go hand in hand.
#7. Isolation. I could recognize that I was irritable. I felt like people didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. That’s when I started to isolate. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to hurt others. The fact is I was isolating because I didn’t trust anyone but myself to get the work done.
#8. Negative Work Quality. There was also a distinct decline in the quality of my work once I reached the end of my 100+ day stretch of work. It’s what eventually caused me to give myself a thorough evaluation. If I didn’t give myself a break, then the potential was there to lose a lot of business.
Burnout is something we often joke about, but I discovered that suffering from burnout is no laughing matter. Give yourself an honest evaluation today. Are you suffering from these symptoms? If you are, then burnout could be right around the corner.
Are there symptoms of burnout that you have recognized in your life? What are they and how do you cope with them? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this important subject.