I'm normally a morning person, even on the weekends, so when I realized I had been dragging myself out of bed around 11:30 AM for the last few Saturdays in a row, I knew there was a problem.
But I haven't always been so good at recognizing the signs of burnout. At one point (as my good friends will tell you), I was basically a zombie who didn't want to do anything except work, but wasn't very effective when I did. I couldn't concentrate, couldn't focus, and really couldn't enjoy anything I was putting my energy toward (or, well, attempting to).
The problem then, and the problem in general, is that burnout tends to sneak up on us--we don't realize it until it's too late. Our jobs, our clients, even our friends and family will push us to our limits if we don't actively stop them, and we'll just keep going and going, saying, "I just need to get through this busy season, and then I'll slow down," or "I'm just tired--I'm sure a vacation will take care of it." So time goes on, and eventually we find ourselves sick, tired, irritable, unable to do much beyond take care of our basic survival needs, and in denial that any of it is happening at all.
And anyone who's been there knows how dangerous burnout is for your work and life. So, the question is: How do we prevent it in the first place?
Adam Dachis of Lifehacker recently put together a comprehensive list of what true burnout looks and feels like, which is helpful for diagnosing the condition once you're there. But how to tell if you're headed in that direction? It’s equally helpful to browse the list and see if you're experiencing even two or three of the symptoms. It's probably a sign that you're going the way of burnout--and that it's time to take actions that'll turn the ship around.
The Symptoms of Burnout
- A generally negative attitude, often paired with the feeling that nothing is going to work out
- Inability to concentrate
- General apathy toward your work, chores, and other tasks
- Feelings of stagnation
- A lack of interest in social activities and being with others
- Difficulty with healthy habits like exercise, diet, and regular sleep
- Feeling like you're never doing enough
- Neglecting your own needs (and putting the needs of others ahead of your own)
- Personal values and beliefs have lost their importance
- Short temper
- Constant exhaustion
- Feelings of inefficacy
- Feelings of detachment from people and things you care about
- Frequent boredom
- Psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, lingering colds, and other issues with a cause that's difficult to identify
- The denial of these feelings
Courtesy of Lifehacker
If you do recognize some of these signs in your own work and life, you can avail yourself of tips from Dachis for undoing the effects of burnout. Or try the four-step program from Creative Boom to get on the path to recovery.
Ideally, before you really need it.