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How to Detect Early Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a common occurrence among many of us and is a state of mental and physical exhaustion that can have serious impacts. Continual exposure to stress and frustration, like work issues, caring for a family member, or experiencing a traumatic situation can lead to burnout. And it’s no secret that burnout is a main cause of stress in this country.

While burnout is extremely common, it isn’t always easy to recognize. Sometimes burnout can take years before you realize the effects it’s had on your life. With that in mind, below is a guide on how to spot burnout before it’s too late, and how it can affect you mentally and physically. But first, a recap.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is defined as the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually because of stress or frustration over long periods of time. The phrase was first coined by Herbert Freudenberger, a psychologist in the 1970s. Eventually, burnout would become so prevalent that the World Health Organization would add it to the International Classification of Diseases in 2019. Burnout is much worse than ordinary fatigue and can make it challenging for people to handle day-to-day responsibilities. In addition, burnout doesn’t go away on its own, and if left untreated, can lead to serious psychological illnesses.

What Are the Early Signs of Burnout?

As mentioned previously, the early signs of burnout are not always easy to detect. The symptoms can be emotions and feelings that we feel every day just from small stressors. However, when combined, you can be sure they are the early signs of burnout. The most common signs are as follows:

Exhaustion. This is when we are feeling physically and emotionally depleted, and can include headaches, stomachaches, and appetite or sleep changes.

Irritability. Burnout can cause people to become more irritable with their friends, family, and co-workers. It can become more tiresome and annoying to deal with work meetings, driving the kids to school, or even tending to household tasks. Even worse, when things don’t go as planned, these tasks start to feel insurmountable.

Isolation. People who are experiencing burnout tend to feel overwhelmed, and as a result, they stop socializing and seeing their loved ones.

Escape fantasies. Those who are going through burnout often fantasize about what it would be like to be rid of all the stress. Dissatisfied with never-ending frustration, people begin to think about running away or going on a solo trip. In extreme cases, they turn to drugs as a way to escape reality.

Frequent sickness. Burnout and other long-term stress can give your immune system a serious hit, making you more susceptible to colds, the flu, and insomnia. It can also lead to depression and anxiety.

Burnout Prevention

Stress may be unavoidable to some, but burnout can be preventable. Exercising daily, eating a balanced diet, and getting good rest every night can be beneficial to giving you some peace of mind. Ultimately, setting boundaries, whether that is in work or in your personal life, is crucial to help prevent burnout.

Source: Queensland Health (2022) Sings You Might be Experiencing a Burnout and How to Regain Balance in Your Life

Source: Juli Fraga (2029) A Guide to Burnout

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