Beep beep beep. Your body feels like 1000 pounds as you slowly rise out of bed and your head feels like it’s full of cement. It’s another day in the relentless cycle of work, responsibilities, and deadlines.
But that’s just ‘how it is’, right? So you push through the fatigue, drink 3 cups of coffee, determined to prove that you can handle it all. All the while you’re on a bullet train to burnout.
The three major symptoms of burnout are:
Exhaustion, the first symptom of burnout, creeps into your life. Every minor inconvenience starts to feel like a monumental hurdle to overcome because you’re running on fumes. At the end of each day, you’re drained, wondering if you’ll have to energy you’ll need for the next day.
The instinct to deny or fight against exhaustion is strong. Grind culture has told us that if you push harder and double down on your efforts, you’ll create results and prove your resilience.
But that’s often the furthest thing from the truth. What actually happens is that the more you push, the more you neglect your own needs. Rest starts to feel unattainable, and the idea of getting out of the exhaustion loop seems impossible. You convince yourself that it’s just a temporary phase, and you continue on, pushing yourself to override your body’s natural signals that it’s time to rest.
Then you head into the cynicism phase. It starts to feel hopeless like you’ll feel this exhausted and stressed out forever. You begin to believe that you have no control over your circumstances and get wrapped up in a victim mindset. Even the thought of self-care starts to feel pointless because there’s no way some rest will be able to make a dent in the amount of tired you are.
Now you’re deep into burnout and this cynicism is the red flag signaling you are in an unhealthy and ineffective state of being.
The third major symptom is when you begin to detach. You’re in survival mode and everything starts to feel extraneous. Your lack of passion, creativity, energy, and empathy becomes evident. You stop caring. You feel yourself start to separate and detach from what you’re doing, which is especially concerning for those in positions of leadership and caring roles. You start to feel lost and disconnected from the world around you and even your own internal experience. Combined with cynicism and exhaustion, burnout starts to feel really oppressive and overwhelming.
Running on empty means living and leading at a fraction of your potential. Is that truly how you want to navigate through life?
The goal is to keep you from getting to any of these points, but even if you’re deep into depersonalization there’s hope.
It’s never too late to make a change and embark on the path to recovery.
Here’s some good news: the research on burnout clearly reveals that you don’t need a 10-month vacation or a sabbatical in order to restore and start to get back to wholeness. The key lies in micro-adjustments throughout your day.
Only a few minutes here and there to tend to your spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional well-being can have a profound impact on your recovery from burnout.
Breaking through burnout begins with a simple question. Ask yourself: “What do I need at this moment?”
It may have been a long time since you’ve simply asked yourself what you need. Or maybe you’ve acknowledged your needs but squashed them down and ignored them. That’s what leads to burnout.
The answer can be simple as a sip of water, a moment in the sun, a standing desk, or a call with your best friend. By attending to these needs, you can enjoy your daily life without constantly running on empty.