Burnout does not happen all at once. It occurs after a person finds himself or herself subjected to chronic stress for prolonged periods of time. Burnout can occur over a series of weeks or several years. How long it takes a person to experience burnout depends on the types of stressors involved as well as the physical, mental, and emotional constitution of the person in question.
Consistent exposure to stressors in the workplace and possibly at home, without a means to mitigate them, causes burnout. Since burnout has a causal relationship with a person’s environment and daily activities, there are discernible signs of the condition.
Some or all of these signs may be present when a person reaches their burnout level of mental and physical fatigue.
1 – Extreme and ongoing physical and mental fatigue is one of the more familiar signs of burnout. People press through these symptoms to the detriment of their health, using stimulants like caffeine and sugar in the form of coffee, energy drinks, and food. This creates a cycle of high and low energy, which actually increases stress levels and may lead to other health issues in the future, like obesity and high blood pressure.
2 – People who reach burnout often experience recurring illnesses and become ill more frequently. Their high levels of fatigue compromise their immune systems making them more vulnerable to disease.
3 – Sleep disturbances or trouble falling asleep, either a few times a week or more frequently, may be a sign of burnout. You may wake intermittently and go back to sleep or wake and not be able to go back to sleep at all. When burnout occurs, some people advance to having nightly bouts of insomnia.
4 – Without intervention, burnout often leads to depression. Mild feelings of sadness or discontent grow into deeper feelings of melancholy and lethargy. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness, feeling bound to the cause of your burnout and hopelessness.
5 – Pessimism grows as personal dissatisfaction and a sense of powerlessness does the same. Your perception of yourself becomes increasingly negative and may affect work and personal relationships.
6 – You begin to withdraw from social interactions. This may progress to actively avoiding social interactions by timing your arrivals and departures to avoid other people.
7 – Continually focusing on your job, even during leisure time, to the point it becomes hazardous to your personal relationships. Burnout causes work to edge out time with family and friends; it occupies your thoughts and conversation and usually with a negative tone.
8 – Your ability to think clearly and effectively begin to fail. Initially, you may experience minor memory lapses. If the high stress levels continue, it begins to impact your ability to perform regular tasks well and in a timely manner.
9 – Your job performance falls below the expectations of your coworkers and yourself. Part of burnout is an overreaching sense of detachment, which causes harm instead of allowing you to exercise an even handed approach to your job. The level of detachment leads to an actual disconnect.
10 – Increased levels of anger and irritability also occur during an episode of burnout. This may affect personal as well as professional relationships leading to arguments or outbursts.
If you notice yourself exhibiting one or more of these behaviors, set aside some time to evaluate:
- The number of obligations you carry at work and at home. Are you overextended?
- Your level of job satisfaction. Is your job fulfilling your need to contribute and to develop professionally?
- Are you maintaining an appropriate work to life balance?
If your answer to any of these is no, develop strategies to turn them into a yes. You don’t have to do it alone, but however you do it it is extremely important to get stress under control so that it does not impact your physical, and emotional well being.
Seek out professional organizations, psychologists, therapists, and counselors for assistance with mitigating burnout.