Burnout is a word we hear often. You might associate burnout with work-related stress, but it is also caused by other factors, exhaustion towards the responsibilities you have in a relationship, or imposter syndrome. Experiencing burnout can lead you to feel depressed, cynical, or pessimistic about goals or tasks because you no longer feel like you are in control. You may feel frustrated since things are not going as planned.
Unfortunately, burnout can lead you to have mental and physical problems such as heartburn, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, and a propensity towards alcohol, food, or drug misuse.
Below are seven signs you are feeling burnt out and need a mental break.
- You feel tired most of the time.
Although fatigue is caused by many different things, it can usually be repaired with a good night’s sleep. However, when you experience emotional burnout or depression, fatigue persists regardless of how many hours of sleep you get. As a result, you find that it takes you longer to perform a single task, which may lead you to feel frustrated.
Instead of feeling angry at yourself, recognize that you need to take a step back and take the time you need. If it is a time-sensitive task, give yourself enough time to get it done.
- You are constantly feeling sick or unwell.
Burnout is just that–stress. Technically, it is prolonged chronic stress that feels like it will not subside. However, prolonged stress not only affects your immune system but also affects your perception of pain.
One solution would be to talk to a doctor about supplements to boost your immune system. Also, consider eating food rich in magnesium since magnesium can help with anxiety and stress.
- You don’t have the energy to be sociable.
Emotional burnout not only robs you of your ability to perform tasks. It also drains your energy and will to socialize. You may find yourself dreading weekly Zoom calls or even texting a friend. It’s fine. I know that it may seem like you are failing in some regard, but you are not. If you are concerned about what your friend or partner might say, tell them what is going on with you. Hopefully, they will understand.
- You lack enthusiasm or motivation.
Another sign that you need a mental break is displaying a lack of motivation or enthusiasm. The endless stream of tasks and to-dos can drown your motivation to accomplish anything.
In some cases, though you are working and functioning, you may not be excited about what you are doing (kind of like the broken vending machine that still works). This feeling may resonate with you if you are working towards a goal but are not seeing results. If that is the case, find a way to remind yourself why your goal or dream has meaning to you.
- You are neglecting yourself and your body.
A physical sign that you are emotionally burnt out is that you have stopped caring about yourself. This can present itself in various ways– skipping meals, not grooming, not sleeping, etc. I understand that it can be hard to set time aside for yourself, especially if you are swamped with work, but you need to try. You will be able to complete your tasks more efficiently and effectively when you are mentally rested.
- You are easily irritated.
Another sign that you may need a mental break is if you get irritated easily. Prolonged periods of stress can make you hypervigilant, which makes you sensitive to environmental and mental stimuli. Hence, anything can make you irritated.
- You are finding it hard to be present.
Forgetfulness can happen from time to time, but if you find yourself zoning out during meetings, classes, or conversations, you might have a lot on your plate. Zoning out is how your brain takes a break. If it happens frequently, it is a sign that there are too many things going on simultaneously.
- You feel like quitting.
One last sign that you need a mental break is if you feel like quitting. This point I can relate to. From personal experience, it can be easy to forget or not notice the psychological and physiological signals of impending burnout. Or, once you notice them, it may be difficult to stop. But, your body can only take so much. Eventually, the exhaustion will weigh heavily, and you will just want to stop. I do not recommend that you get to this point, as it brings grave consequences to your mental and physical health.
If you are struggling with burnout or are starting to feel off, please reach out to a medical health professional for assistance. Try meditating, grounding, develop a spiritual practice, or find a healthy way to self-soothe. Try not to crowd your to-do list and unplug. Breathe and reach out to a therapist for additional support.
American Psychological Association. (2006, February 23). Stress weakens the immune system. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.
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Lamothe, C., & Brito, J. (2019, October 31). I need a break: 12 signs of burnout. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/i-need-a-break#takeaway.
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Psychology Today Staff. (2020). Burnout. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/burnout#what-causes-burnout.
Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological bulletin, 130(4), 601–630. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601