One of the most obvious symptoms of burnout is tiredness and this is usually fairly easy to recognise. Here are 5 more signs that you may be burning out and top tips for dealing with them.
1. Irritability or tearfulness over small things
Have you ever bitten someone’s head off over something small?
Found yourself crying over a mug you just dropped and broke on the floor?
Felt like it would only take one more thing to ‘tip you over the edge’?
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy we often use the analogy of a ‘stress bucket’ when this kind of thing is happening. The idea is that we have a certain capacity to deal with stress. If you have a lot in your bucket already, you have less space for daily hassles so it takes less to ‘spill over’.
Usually, you are able to contain the small things but when you are burning out you have less room to deal with them.
The reaction you have – usually shouting or crying – is not just in response to the small thing that has just happened, but to the build up of all of the things in your stress bucket.
A metaphorical release valve on your stress bucket.
This may be having some ‘me time’, engaging with activities you enjoy, eating well, exercise, being around people you feel connected with or relaxation or meditation.
Whatever it is, it should be something that helps you to feel re-charged. It should free up some space to cope with the day to day hassles that life throws your way.
2. A boom and bust pattern of activity
Are you running around like a headless chicken all week, then feel absolutely worn out and unable to do anything at all by Friday?
Then you may be in a boom and bust pattern of activity.
A boom and bust activity pattern is often associated with chronic conditions.
When someone has a good day, they can often try to cram everything in. Unfortunately, people can then feel like they are paying a heavy price for the next few days.
However, it doesn’t only apply to chronic conditions and anyone can fall foul of boom and bust.
If you are burning out, maybe you are trying to fit in as much as possible on any given day to feel on top of things. Then at the weekend, you feel like you need to do ‘nothing’ to recover.
It is all about balance.
Aim to do a little less on your boom days and a little more on your bust days.
Dialling it down may feel counter-intuitive when you have a lot to do but consistently working at 80% may actually be more productive than working at 100% one day then 20% the next.
Of course, if you do have a chronic condition, there can be more to it than this. It may be helpful to ask your GP if they can refer you for additional support.
Many Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services can support people with long term conditions using CBT and CBT-based techniques.
3. Putting things off
On the flip side of over-working to catch up or feel on top of things, you may be procrastinating.
Are you putting off opening your post because you don’t want another thing to deal with?
Are you ignoring that e-mail you know you need to reply to?
There could (and will be) a whole blog about procrastination.
When we procrastinate, we are really trying to avoid the anxiety we are anticipating the task will cause.
Here’s the thing – you feel anxious about it anyway and it is lasting longer.
Try to ask yourself why you are avoiding the task and whether putting it off it going to make it better or worse in the long term.
If it is a large task, break it down into manageable steps and aim to do just one step to get you started.
Notice when you are doing the task or once it is completed if it was as difficult as you expected and give yourself credit once it has been done!
When you think about going back to work on Monday morning, do you get a sinking feeling?
Do you dread going back into the office and facing the next working week?
Everyone feels this way from time to time but if this is a regular experience for you then maybe you are at the point of burn out.
I think this one really comes down to a question of values.
Maybe your job really doesn’t fit with your values or maybe your values have changed since you started working in your role.
In which case, maybe it is time for a change.
Maybe you do still value certain aspects of your work but you have been bogged down by other aspects of what you do. If this is true, then can you re-connect with your values?
If, at the heart of your job you are helping someone and this is what you value, can you keep a journal of the good that is coming from your work?
If your values are linked to learning and development, can you apply for training courses or get into a good book or podcast about your subject area to re-connect with your interests that steered you towards the job?
Can you proactively bring your personal values and passions into your job role?
On a more practical note, if you are bogged down with other tasks – can you say no to any of them? Can you delegate any of them? Can you ask for help?
5. Numbing out or distracting yourself.
Are you consistently numbing yourself or distracting yourself to avoid how you feel?
Are you spending way too long scrolling through social media?
Do you need to collapse in front of Netflix with a bottle of wine to numb yourself from your emotions?
There is nothing wrong with social media, Netflix or drinking wine (in moderation, of course) if these things connect you with genuine interests and enjoyment. But if you are using them to get rid of something bad, rather than to gain something good, then maybe it is a sign that you are burning out.
The same as point number 1!
Regularly caring for your wellbeing by using relaxation or meditation practices, connecting with your emotions and learning how to self-soothe effectively, connecting with the things you value and enjoy, spending quality time with people important to you…
Don’t know where to start?
Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing is here to help.
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