Here are the early warning signs to watch for:
1. Disaffection and snark about your work, colleagues or relationships
If you catch yourself reacting poorly to things you would normally take in stride, or suddenly showing a ton of snark or contempt for even minor announcements around the office, you’re suffering from the first, earliest signs of burnout.
Don’t get me wrong—a little snark about work is normal. When the boss starts talking about “synergizing core competencies,” it’s normal to roll your eyes. But if you’re rolling your eyes more than you think about what’s being said, it’s time to step back.
2. Creeping exhaustion
If you’re just dead tired from when you walk through the door to when you leave, and never feel like at any point during the day you’re getting into “the zone” and firing on all cylinders? You’re probably getting burned out. Feelings of stagnation, as though you’re just not getting anywhere?
In the same vein, if you feel like you’re doing a ton of work and it just never stops (even if the nature of your job is one that’s never-ending), you’re also probably starting to feel burned out. You should be able to take some solace in finishing something before picking something else up, even if it’s the bite-sized chunks of a big project.
If you’re so heads-down you’re missing those smaller points of accomplishment; it’s safe to say you need a break.
3. Higher-than-normal levels of procrastination
Everyone procrastinates a little. In fact, it’s good for you. Too much, however, shows you’re trying to get away from your work. Maybe you just dislike it, or you’re not inspired, or not motivated for whatever reason. If it’s work you’d otherwise do easily, it’s time to step back and take a breather.
4. Mysterious illnesses and above-average stress you can’t seem to shake
Keep an eye on your health. If you find yourself coming down with mysterious, often-stress related illnesses, like stomach discomfort, insomnia, or headaches when you normally don’t suffer from them, stress is probably getting to you. This is different than just catching a cold: Everyone gets sick from time to time, but if your body is reacting to the stress and lethargy that you experience because of your job, something is wrong.
The last thing you want is your overall health to suffer because of work. The realization that you’ve never taken time off. If you’ve never taken a vacation from your job, or you have a ton of leave lying on the table you haven’t taken, it’s a sure sign that you’re starting to get burned out, even if you don’t feel like you are.
Everyone needs a break from time to time, and if you’re not taking them, even if you think you feel great, you’re probably burning the candle at both ends. Even worse, you’re struggling to get through the day thinking “I really need to take a vacation,” you’re definitely burned out. Don’t let it get to that point.
All of these are some of the early physical, psychological, and behavioral signs of burnout. They’re not the only signs, just the ones that might creep into your day-to-day without you realizing what’s really happening. As you get stressed, it’s natural to get a little snarky about your work, or put off the unpleasant tasks, or struggle through a few headachy days.
If they’re one-offs, that’s fine. But if they become the norm, as Psychology Today explains, you’re should try to cut them off before they threaten your mental (and physical) health, not to mention your relationships!