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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Spot the Signs of Burnout and Overcome It Fast

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How to Spot the Signs of Burnout and Overcome It Fast

Burnout is an issue that many associate with work, but it can actually occur in just about any area of life where you’re overdoing it. Knowing how to spot the signs of burnout is important in order to confront it before it destroys your energy and motivation.

If you’re having trouble focusing on your next task, have an immense urge to crash on the couch for a Netflix binge, or can’t seem to get yourself to wake up on time, even though you have a lot on your plate, you may be experiencing the symptoms of burnout.

According to Deloitte’s workplace burnout survey, “many companies may not be doing enough to minimize burnout.” This is to say that the responsibility is not only on the employee. According to that report, nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and they definitely should.[1]

Too many companies don’t invest enough in creating a positive environment. About one out of five employees said that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate job burnout. It is the culture, not the fancy well-being programs, that would probably do the best work.

This is a significant problem for individuals and companies, and it’s also an issue on a macro level. A Stanford University investigation found that more than 120,000 deaths per year, and approximately 5%–8% of annual healthcare costs, are associated with the way U.S. companies manage their workforces.[2]

It is both the employee and the employer’s responsibility—and the latter can certainly do more than they have in recent years.

In this article, I’ll guide you on how to know if you suffering from the signs of burnout and, more importantly, what you can do about it.

Who Is Prone to Burnout?

For starters, it is a good thing to know that you’re in good company. According to a Gallup poll, 23% (of 7,500 surveyed) expressed burnout more often than not. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported having struggled with burnout and depression at some point.[3]

According to Statista (2017), 13% of adults reported having problems unwinding in the evenings and weekends. According to a Deloitte survey (consisting of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees), 77% of respondents said that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.[4]

Burnout is not only an issue of the spoiled first-world. Rather, it is a serious matter that must be taken care of appropriately. It affects so many people, and its impacts are just too significant to be ignored.

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Some occupations are more prone to burnout, such as people who deeply care about their jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Passion-driven and caregiving roles such as doctors and nurses are some of the most susceptible to burnout.”

The consequences can have life or death ramifications, as “suicide rates among caregivers are dramatically higher than that of the general public—40% higher for men and 130% higher for women.” It is also the case for teachers, non-profit workers, and leaders of all kinds.[5]

Deloitte’s survey also found that 91% say that they have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. 83% even say that it can negatively impact their relationships, and millennials, despite their seemingly carefree attitudes, are slightly more impacted by burnout (84% of Gen Y vs. 77% in other generations).

What Is Burnout Syndrome?

Burnout was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and is an occupational phenomenon.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes three dimensions:[6]

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or emotional and physical exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

The 5 Stages and Signs of Burnout

At this point, you must have a clue if you’re at risk of burnout and what the signs of burnout look like. There are different methods for understanding where you are on the burnout syndrome scale, and one of the most common ones is the “five stages method.”

1. Honeymoon Phase

In marriage, during this phase, you’re beyond happy and feel almost invincible. It’s the same when it comes to taking on a new job or role or starting a new business.

At first, you’re incredibly motivated. Although you might be able to notice signs of potential future burnout, in most cases, you might ignore them. You’re highly productive, super motivated, creative, and accept (and take on) responsibility.

The honeymoon phase is critical because if you plant the seeds of good mental health and coping strategies, you can stay at this phase for extended periods.

2. Onset of Stress

Let’s continue with the wedding metaphor. Now that you’re happily married for some time, you might start noticing certain issues with your spouse that you don’t like. You might have seen them before, but now they take up more space in your life.

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You might be less optimistic and feel signs of stress or minor signs and symptoms of physical or emotional fatigue at work. Your productivity reduces, and you think that your motivation is lower.

3. Chronic Stress

At this stage, your stress level is consistently high, and the other symptoms of stage 2 persist.

At this point at work, you start missing deadlines, your sleep quality is low, and you’re resentful and cynical. Other signs of burnout at this point include higher caffeine consumption and feeling increasingly unsatisfied.

4. Burnout

This is the point where you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t go on unless there is a significant change in your work environment. You have a strong desire to move to another place, and clinical intervention is sometimes required.You feel neglected, your physical symptoms are increasing, stress management has become impossible, and you may have issues with digestion. You are likely obsessing over problems in your life or work at this point.

5. Habitual Burnout

This is the phase in which stress and burnout are embedded in your life. You might experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, outbursts of anger or apathy, and physical symptoms of chronic fatigue. You also likely feel hopeless about your current situation.

The Causes of Burnout

So, now that we know how to identify the stages and signs of burnout, we can move on to tackling its leading causes. According to the Gallup survey, the top reasons people experience burnout are:[7]

Unfair Treatment at Work

This is not always something that you can fully control. At the same time, you should remember that even if you’re not calling the shots, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept unfair treatment. The consequences mentioned above are just not worth it in most cases.

Workload

According to Statista, in 2017, 39% of workers said a heavy workload was their leading cause of stress. We live in a busy work environment, and we will share some tips on how to manage that.

Not Knowing Your Role

While not something you can fully control, you can, and probably should, take action to better define it with your boss so you know exactly what is expected of you.

Inadequate Communication and Support From Your Manager

If your superiors aren’t offering constructive feedback or support when you have various life issues popping up, you may begin to feel frustrated and under-appreciated, which can lead you to experience signs of burnout.

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Time Pressure

As mentioned, motivated, passionate workers are more in danger of experiencing burnout. One of the reasons is that they’re pressuring themselves to do more, sometimes at the expense of their mental health.

How to Overcome Burnout

While burnout is an issue that should always be taken seriously, there is a lot you can do to fight it head-on.

However, let’s start with what you should not do. Burnout cannot be fixed by going on a vacation. It should be a long-term solution, implemented daily.

According to Clockify (2019), these are the popular ways to avoid burnout:

  1. Focus on your family life: 60% of adults said that stable family life is key to avoiding burnout. Maintaining meaningful relationships in your life is proven to reduce stress (instead of having many unmeaningful relationships).
  2. Exercising comes in second, with 58% reporting that jogging, running, or doing any exercise significantly relieves stress. Even a relatively short walk might improve your body’s resilience to stress.
  3. Seek professional advice: 55% say they would turn to a professional. There are online websites where you can speak with professionals at reduced costs.

Aside from the three most popular ways of avoiding burnout, you can also try the following:

1. Improve Time Management

Try understanding how you can use your time better and leave more time for relaxation. That’s easy to say (or write) but more challenging to implement. It would help if you started by prioritizing yourself.

Understanding the connection between your values and your everyday tasks is a tremendous help. You can use proven methods to improve the relationship between your vision/goals and your daily to-do lists so that you know why you’re offering time to each piece of your day.

2. Use the PLEASE Method

The PLEASE method is a combination of things you should do to be at your best physically, especially when signs of burnout start to appear. It stands for: Physical Illness (P.L.) prevention, Eat healthy (E), Avoid mood-altering drugs (A), Sleep well (S), and Exercise (E).

3. Prioritize

You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way. You’d be surprised how easy it can become once you start saying no. Some might even describe it as exhilarating.

If you generally have a hard time saying no to others, check out this article to get better at it.

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4. Let Your Brain Rest

Culturally, most of us are already wired to think that hard work is essential, and while that’s true in most cases, we sometimes forget that our brain needs to rest for it to recharge. Seven hours of sleep are essential (depending on your age). Meditation may also be helpful to overcome burnout.

5. Pay Attention to Positive Events

We tend to focus on the bad things in our lives. However, by focusing on positive things, we can change our mindset. One way to practice this daily is by writing three good things about your life every morning or evening. It’s been scientifically proven that doing so for a few months can help rewire your brain.

6. Take Some “You” Time

A Netflix binge is not always good for you, but it might be if you’re noticing signs of burnout. The better the leisure time is, the better you’ll feel in the long term.

It’s usually better to read a book or start a new hobby that requires more cognitive skills than just lying on the couch. But as long as you feel good watching a movie, that might be a good start.

7. New Technologies Might Be Helpful

There are tons of self-help apps such as Fabulous, Headspace (meditation), Noom (diet and exercise), and others. They’re good to use, but you should also be careful not to run away from your problems only to watch social media for hours.  You should also be aware not to be in an “always-on” mindset.

Bonus: Rebound From Burnout in 8 Hours

Watch what you can do to rebound from burnout quickly in this episode of The Lifehack Show:

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re at the first or the fifth stage with the signs of burnout, there are always ways to overcome burnout and get back to living the best version of your life. The first thing is self-awareness—knowing that there’s a problem. The second step is to decide what to do about it!

More on How to Overcome Burnout

Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Yair Nativ

Yair is an award-winning serial entrepreneur passionate about the opportunities that technology offers to improve people's lives.

How To Overcome Creative Blocks When Feeling Stuck How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals How to Spot the Signs of Burnout and Overcome It Fast 7 Best Time Blocking Apps That Make Scheduling Easy How Not to Lose Focus While Working (Backed by Science)

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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

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The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

I love my sleep. I always make sure to get at least eight hours each night. I’ll even leave parties early so I can get to bed at my usual time Yet, there are still mornings when I wake up feeling exhausted, even after a great night’s sleep. Whenever that happens, I run through a mental checklist, grasping at straws to explain to myself why I feel so groggy: why do I feel exhausted? Did I drink too much last night? Did I stay up past my usual bedtime? Did I hit snooze on my alarm twelve times? Eight hours of sleep a night shouldn’t result in chronic exhaustion, right?

Regardless of how much quality sleep you’re getting, you can still feel mentally exhausted, burnt out, run-down, worn through—whatever you want to call it. Most of the time, you’re so exhausted you don’t even have the time or the sense to see it clearly.

The answer is right in front of your face, but you haven’t had a chance to step back and analyze your situation. Maybe you hate your job, or you’re worried about paying rent, but you’re not actively thinking about it. How could you with all that’s going on? It’s planted in your subconscious, lurking there and eating away at your morale.

That worn-down feeling is a cumulative combination of unconsidered stressful circumstances—an amalgamation of past worries and future anxieties. We aren’t talking about your regular physical exhaustion from a long day’s work standing on your feet. This is purely in between your ears. You’re overstimulated, and it’s dragging you down. But what’s the real reason behind this brain fog? Why do you feel exhausted?

The first place to look at is stress,[1] which is the body’s natural response to a new challenge or demand. Where are you currently experiencing stress in your life?

Most pain, exhaustion, or emotional fatigue is the direct result of stress. Daily life is filled with tiny stressors—running to catch the morning bus, praying you’ll find a parking spot, or worrying about the leak in your ceiling at home. As these small stressors pile on uncontrollably, you realize you’re white-knuckling through the day.

Mental exhaustion,[2] simply put, is long-term stress. It’s having a day like the above over and over again for months on end until it weighs so much it finally drags you to the ground. You can’t keep living like this.

You may have experienced this in the form of a “mid-life crisis,” or even a quarter-life crisis where you stop and realize you never pursued the things you once hoped and dreamed of. Life passed you by in the blink of an eye. What happened to the “purpose” you once wanted to get out of life? Maybe you wanted to be an artist and all of a sudden, you look down and you’re forty-three years old sitting in a conference room surrounded by suits and boring charts.

You’re faking your way through life and you’re tired of putting on an act.

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Why Do You Feel Exhausted?

“Depression, anxiety, phobias… so many things can be disguised in a way that gives a facade of normalcy over a person’s internal struggles.” —Morgan Housel

There are many reasons why you may be feeling exhausted. There may be times when you had complete hours of sleep yet ask yourself after waking up: why do I still feel exhausted?

Why? It’s because there are other possible reasons for this exhaustion other than improper or lack of sleep. Here are some reasons why you feel exhausted.

1. High-Pressure Occupation (emergency responders and teachers)

Working in a highly stressful scene like an ER or police department is an obvious input for stress. Long hours on the job and making high-level decisions in crisis mode need to be followed by a period of rest, relaxation, and debriefing.

2. Working Long Hours

Consistently clocking in 12-14 hour days for weeks on end can drag you down. Many occupations require this type of work seasonally, like accountants during tax season. But when you’re spending that much time at week year-round and there is no end in sight, mental exhaustion can become chronic.

3. Financial Stress

For obvious reasons, being in troubled circumstances with your finances can cause long-term stress and constant worries, which lead to feeling exhausted. How can you enjoy life if you can’t afford to do the things you enjoy? No matter how much you sleep, you will still feel exhausted if something is troubling you at the back of your mind like financial problems.

4. Dissatisfied With Your Job

When you ask yourself, “why do I feel exhausted?” Try also asking, “Am I satisfied with my job?”

Many people slog through life in a job they hate. Whether it’s your unruly boss, the team that you work with, or the customers who you’re sick of hearing complaining, being stuck in a dissatisfying job can cause feelings of resentment in work and your personal life.

5. Clutter

Whether you’re naturally a messy person or life has become so frantic that you haven’t even had a chance to clean or organize, clutter plays a massive part in mental exhaustion. Having a clear workspace and a calm environment to walk into makes a difference in mental clarity. This can also affect your productivity and your attitude towards your job.

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6. Avoidance and Procrastination

When you feel exhausted, it may be because something at the back of your head is troubling you. You may have some responsibilities that you should be doing or have done but still have not. Putting things off too long will cause hidden stress to climb on top of you like a monkey on your back. Avoiding your responsibilities and procrastinating are some of the possible causes as to why you feel exhausted.

7. Living With Chronic Pain or an Illness

Going through life with stress is hard enough. Add on top of that something like chronic back pain or a congenital condition and it’s like taking care of two separate people for yourself. This can also cause feelings of resentment, bitterness, and irritation around people you love, even those who support and take care of you.

8. Death of a Loved One

Losing a close friend or family member is something everyone has experienced, and it never gets easier. Many people try to play tough and portray to their loved ones that they are okay and dealing with it just fine. But the reality is that it’s weighing them down.

Be honest with yourself about it, and have someone you can talk to. Experiencing your grief alone and not sharing it with anyone may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

9. Lack of Purpose

Life needs to have a purpose. Every individual has a purpose that is entirely unique to their circumstance. It can be guided by religion, occupation, or an ultimate life goal to strive towards, such as writing a book or owning a business. Without an ultimate purpose, it’s easy to let yourself slip into a depression that leads to mental exhaustion.

What Should You Do When You Feel Exhausted?

“When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.” —Nicholas Sparks

1. Talk About It

It may sound obvious, but talking through these struggles with someone is a form of therapy in itself. Chances are, someone has been through the same type of thing that you’re going through right now. Don’t hide it. Open up and learn how others dealt with it. It’s more common than you think.

2. Find an Outlet or a Hobby

One way to help find joy out of a life of exhaustion is to come home to a hobby. Unwind from the workday by doing something you love that’s also a bit challenging. Learn how to play guitar, play video games with your kids, read a book, or learn new recipes to cook for your family. Take your mind away from whatever it is you’re worried about. Focus entirely on the process and get out of your anxiety.

3. Be Realistic

You can’t do everything. Look at your schedule, and be honest with yourself and the people around you about what’s possible for one person to do in a day. You can’t change the world alone. Enlist the help of others and don’t be too proud to ask. Putting the weight of the world on your shoulders may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

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4. Arrive Early

It took me years in life to realize how much being early can relieve stress. Waking up five minutes earlier gives me five minutes to relax and think if I’m forgetting anything before I head out the door. Leaving five minutes before I normally would for an event gives me five minutes to arrive and get a good seat, scope out the scene, or talk to someone and learn something about the place.

Being early allows you to be relaxed and completely comfortable as opposed to running through life in a hurry. Settle in before anyone else and have the mental edge that you’re prepared for anything.

5. Exercise More, Try Healthier Habits

Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. But have you ever regretted a workout? One hundred percent of the time it makes you feel better and gives you the momentum to have a great day.

Try healthier habits. Go for a walk right when you get out of bed. Try a new vegetable once a week. Drink more water. Stand more. Replace dessert with fruit. If you drink ten cups of coffee a day, try to go one day a month without coffee. Healthier habits ultimately lead to a happier life in more ways than you think.

6. Journal

Similar to talking about your problems, journaling is an excellent outlet for not only getting the thoughts out of your head but also to clarify your feelings. As you write, you’ll realize you actually didn’t understand what you were thinking. Writing helps that. Do it often.

7. Take Care of Something

Get a pet. If you’re not ready for a dog, then buy a few plants to take care of. This takes the attention off yourself and on to something that relies on you for livelihood. It will help put everything in perspective and relieve stress and exhaustion.

8. Meditate

This is such an overly-used cure-all, but meditation really does help with clarity of thinking and developing a sense of calm in your life. Researchers found that meditation “decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.[3]

It doesn’t have to be sitting with your legs cross, fingers in a circle, and saying “Oooommmmmm.” Meditating can take on whatever form you’re comfortable with. It can be taking a few deep breaths before you step out of your car, or it can be closing your eyes and thinking of your loved ones when you’re having a hard time.

Sometimes before bed, I’ll just close my eyes and envision a future I want for myself. I picture the people I love hugging me and saying “Congratulations.” For what? I don’t know, but I’m putting myself in the mindset to succeed.

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Final Thoughts

Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit:[4]

“The more you work on systems for reducing stress and excess decision-making, the more mental energy you’ll have.”

This is true in so many areas. Work on habits and routines that will eliminate the number of decisions you make. The more disciplined you are in these areas, the more freedom you will have to do the things you truly want and need. But also, understand how you are getting in your own way.

Author Tim Ferriss likes to ask himself, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” or “What are the stories I tell myself that interfere with self-love?”

Take a look at the actions and routines you structure your life around. Are there small tweaks you can make to get out of your own way? What would this look like if it were easy? Sometimes, asking yourself questions like these can lead to surprisingly simple solutions and answer the question of “why do I feel exhausted?”

As I said, everyone is struggling in their own way. How you manage your stress may differ completely from someone else. By being vulnerable and understanding that you have the ability to overcome this exhaustion, you can begin to find meaning. Exercise consistent positive habits and the momentum will attract more positive momentum. Oh, and get good sleep!

More Tips to Help You When You Feel Exhausted

Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

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