Contrary to what you might think, it's surprisingly easy to ignore the signs of burnout. You might be so determined to meet a deadline or achieve some goal that you miss the red flags or warning signs that something is about to go very wrong. If you're not conscious of what your body is telling you or what is going on around you, you'll likely hit a wall before you even realize something is off.
Here are six red flags that show burnout might be right around the corner:
1. You wake up in the middle of the night with your mind or heart racing.
With your mind on your to-do list, it might not stop to take inventory of how you're doing as a human being under an enormous amount of pressure. If you're waking up in a panic, you need to slow down and prioritize things. Are there things you can delegate to team members? Can you push some deadlines and have fewer meetings? Can you get more sleep and make more time to meditate? Think about what you can do to minimize stress because this type of anxiety is a surefire way to bring on burnout as quickly as possible.
2. You're always in reactive mode.
Staying in reactive mode is a clear sign you're failing to prioritize. When you can't prioritize tasks, you'll quickly become overwhelmed with overlapping deadlines. Think hard about what you're saying "yes" to and start saying "no" to more things immediately. Once you get a grip on your responsibilities, be proactive about the things you can anticipate and protect yourself from future burnout, especially by building breaks into your schedule.
3. You constantly worry about the future.
When you constantly worry about the future, you don't have time to live in the present. This prevents you from thinking clearly and being fully invested in what you're doing. Not only will you always find something to worry about (because the future never arrives), but you'll also waste a ton of energy along the way. Think about dedicating time to a meditation practice or building mindfulness habits into your routine. This will help you focus more on the present and less on what will or will not come to pass at a later date.
4. You're often irritable or quick to anger.
Are you finding that you're more irritable than usual? Do you get angry over the smallest things? Are you overly critical when it comes to your work or your team's performance? These might be signs you're on your way to burnout. Your patience, much like your attention span and productivity levels, often dwindles on the way to burning out.
5. You haven't had more than five hours of sleep in weeks.
If you're waking up with your heart racing or with deadlines on the brain, you're probably not getting much sleep. If this is a recurring pattern for you, it's a red flag that something is going on in your life. Humans need sleep. Although some need less than others, you'll know what's right for you. If you find you're getting much less of it than normal, you need to reevaluate your priorities and figure out a way to get more rest.
6. You've forgotten what joy feels like.
Stop and think about the past few weeks and months. Sure, you might be accomplishing all of your goals, but you also might be headed straight for burnout if accomplishing those goals isn't bringing you any joy. Work isn't always fun, but it does need to offer you joy most of the time. If yours isn't, figure out why that is and see what you can do to change that.
By paying attention to these six red flags, you'll be better positioned to prevent yourself from getting burned out. This will save you headaches in the future, as well as keep you healthy and happy in the present.