How Do I Tell I’m Getting Burned Out

Mark ReaganBurnout, Stress Management0 Comments

How do I tell I'm getting burned out

It’s 2014. March.

Work offered me a promotion and I took it. My employer is increasing my pay to the highest it’s ever been. For the first time in my life I’m getting paid vacation.

Sick days.


You might’ve noticed from my photos I don’t have the best teeth. You should’ve seen them before I had dental!

Life. Was. Amazing.

Little did I know that six months late I would be completely burned out. Worse, a year later I would be having an emotional breakdown from it.

Before my girlfriend left for work that day, she asked, “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine.”

Ever have someone tell you they’re fine and you absolutely know they’re not? It was BS, and when she left I sat on the floor, broke down, and definitely did not make it into work that day.

At first the job was great, but In a year’s time I had burnt to a crisp.

Would it surprise you to know that 53% of Americans are burned out at work?

Every other person in your life – your friends, your family, your coworkers – are burned out or getting there.

Some professions have it worse than others – Doctors, nurses, and teachers have some of the highest burnout rates. – but no matter what profession you’re in, you can burn out.


How can you tell you’re getting burned out?

Once you’re well on your way to burning out (or are already there), you probably know it.

But if you’re not sure or want to watch out for it, there are signs you might be burning out.

In a study by Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North, they theorized burnout could be sorted into different phases. I’m going to group them together a little differently. Here are 7 ways to answer the question: how do I tell I’m getting burned out?

(These aren’t stages that necessarily appear in order, and if you have one of them you might not be burned out. It’s good to be aware of them though just incase)


Signs You’re Getting Burned Out

1. At Work You Have to…

Imagine today you started a new job.

You probably feel like you want to do well, so you throw yourself into your work.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job, but if you’re feeling the initial stages of burnout, you might have a small amount of dissatisfaction that turns into wanting to prove yourself.

Feeling you have to prove yourself, you take on more and more work, until you’re overloaded and have to work even harder.

You have to. After all, you want to show your job that you’re irreplaceable.

You can probably see how this can lead to burnout, because as the ancient phrase goes, you’re burning the candle at both ends.

2. You Don’t Have the Time For…

Working at a hectic pace has an added effect. While you have time to take on everything at work, you stop having time for the person that matters most:


You might stop taking care of yourself because you feel you don’t have the time, or if you’re really burned out, you might feel like “it just doesn’t matter.”

You are important.

I had a client who often put everyone else before her. Well guess what?

If you don’t take care of your own needs, you won’t have the energy to be at your best for your work or the people you care about most.

Your body also needs to have breaks from stress.

Stress can help you be more motivated and perform better, but if you’re stressed 24/7 it’s going to take a massive toll on your health.

You might decide that work is more important than spending times with your friends and doing your hobbies. If that’s you, you might be well on your way to burning out.

3. No Man is an Island

Or so the poem and song goes, right?

It’s true. We need social contact, and spending time with friends and family is a great, positive way to help manage stress.

If you start excessively isolating yourself, you’re in trouble.

In college I got burned out on life which lead to a major depression and almost worse. Part of what lead to that was more and more I isolated myself.

When you start doing that, feeling hopeless and stuck often goes with it. You might cope with heavy drinking and even drugs.

Have you spent time with your friends and family lately?

If you haven’t, get out of your rut by spending time with them.

If you’re an introvert like me, I feel for you. You don’t have to start going out to huge parties or anything – make an effort to sit down for coffee 1-on-1.

It might not seem like your friends care, but if you’re isolating yourself they might not know. For awhile I turned down all their invitations to go out, and they eventually just stopped inviting me. Don’t let that be you.

4. Turning to the Cynical

Getting more cynical at work? Sarcastic? Is your temper flaring more and more?

If it is, you might be getting burned out. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve a situation at work – being nothing but positive isn’t healthy – but watch for if there’s a shift in your behavior.

5. It’s a Classic Case of…

When you start getting burned out, a funny thing can happen.

Problems start cropping up. Your performance might start dropping, your behavior changes and you’re harder to work with, but is there a problem?

Of course not!

You’re just under a lot of pressure. There’s deadlines, bosses are breathing down your neck, there’s problems at home… it’s never you.

You’re in denial.

For myself, I wasn’t the problem, it was the customers at work. It was my managers not doing enough. When I was in my last semester of college and getting burned out on my once-passion of creative writing, it wasn’t me, it was my poor classes I was taking and my classmates.

When we’re getting burned out, we’ll stay burned out longer if we don’t recognize there’s a problem. If we notice we’re actually burned out, then we can start taking action to do something about it.

6. What’s the Point?

Ever feel like you’re a robot, performing the tasks you have to day after day?

If you start feeling like that and no longer think you (and others) aren’t valuable (just another cog in the machine), it’s a good sign you’re getting burned out.

If you’ve hit this point, it’s really only downhill from here.

7. The Worst it Can Get

Feeling burned out can lead to feeling like your life has no meaning. Depression can follow, and from there even thoughts of suicide – that was me in college.

Physical symptoms and illness can come with burnout, and it can lead to physical and emotional collapse, even requiring medical attention.

Don’t let that be you.

What Can I Do?

It can be hard to think of burnout as having a benefit. It feels miserable, especially the later stages (if you’re at the point where you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, you should definitely call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255).

But there is one benefit of burnout: It’s signaling it’s time for a change.

Something isn’t working, and it’s your opportunity to grow. It might be that a behavior you’ve had no longer suits you. For me at the job I wrote about above, it was that my skills weren’t being used and that I was climbing the wrong ladder (even if it that ladder was pretty short!).

It could even be that you’re at a job you used to love, and have to bring back your passion and values into it.

Coaching for Burnout

If you’re starting to get burned out, it might be time for you to hire a coach.

It can be difficult to nail down the change that needs to happen and to implement it. A coach can help you navigate that change.

I’ve gotten burned out more times than I care to think about from being burned out on work, my passions, friends and family, and even life itself. It’s not something I want to go through again – and if I can help it, I don’t want anyone else to, either.

If you’re feeling burned out (or know someone who is), I invite you to call me at 720-382-0223 for a free consultation to see if I can help you.

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