Workaholic. Hard worker. Overachiever. So many of us wear these terms as a badge of honor in the workplace, and they’re words we use to describe the professional women we look up to the most. And while a job well done is certainly satisfying, we have to question if the hustle culture is actually deteriorating to our mental wellbeing. Is working tirelessly just leaving us tired? Is burning the candle on both ends actually leading us towards burnout?
Burnout is defined as, “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Let’s break that down.
Burnout is a deep, underlying feeling of stress that has the potential to overwhelm the sufferer and lead to more serious issues. This typically happens to someone after they’ve exerted exhaustive amounts of mental and physical work, have experienced high demands from school or the workplace, or are so consumed by tasks that a work/life balance is nonexistent. It’s a worrisome result of giving everything we have to our work– “putting our noses to the grindstone”–no matter the cost. And when we exert that much energy, what we end up sacrificing is wellness, and many find that what we gain in exchange is not worth the emotional toll.
Signs of burnout
Now that you know what burnout is and how it’s caused, let’s talk about the signs to lookout for. Burnout shows up and impacts everyone differently, but some of the most common “symptoms” include:
- You feel emotionally exhausted. Your tank is empty, your brain power feels limited, and you feel like any energy you once had to give has been spent. You notice that you don’t feel as excited to contribute to new projects at work, and any passion you once had for your job has fizzled out, leaving apathy in its place.
- You’re getting sick more often. Our physical wellbeing is tied to our mental wellbeing, and when you’re burned out, your immune system may become weakened. You might notice sleep is hard to come by or you suddenly experience little appetite, making you even more susceptible to colds, the flu, infections and more.
- You feel frustrated and detached. When we put so much work into school or our jobs that it starts to take over our personal lives, it’s easy to feel a sense of frustration and negativity start to brew. This might lead to putting less effort into your tasks, isolating yourself from friends or coworkers and feeling like no matter how hard or how much you work it will never be enough. Even when you take PTO, you dread coming back to the office because you know the issues will still be there waiting for you when you return, and that is frustrating.
- You catch yourself thinking about work… when you’re not at work. When you do catch a bit of free time, is your mind still thinking about class, homework, the office or that big project you’re working on? Do you find yourself thinking about work before going to sleep at night, or talking about it nonstop to family and friends? That’s a sign you’re expending way too much mental energy on work-related things. We all need to give our brains a chance to slow down and recharge.
- You’re not taking care of yourself. Burnout and stress can lead us to engage in a lot of unhealthy behaviors and habits like not getting enough sleep, unhealthy eating, drinking, self-medicating and more. And slipping into these unhealthy habits does not make you weak. When we’re experiencing intense burnout and stress, we can often resort to methods of coping that we wouldn’t normally choose if we had more mental clarity. However, healthy habits rooted in self-care will serve your mental and physical wellbeing in the long run.
It’s important to remember that feeling burned out or nearing burnout isn’t your fault–you’re giving all that you have to give, and that’s more than enough. If any of the signs above resonate with you, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek support from a friend, family, your boss, a coworker or a professional. Your wellbeing matters.
These are just a few of the telltale signs of burnout, but there are many more. If you’re curious about learning more, you can find additional resources from the opens in a new windowMayo Clinic, opens in a new windowHelpGuide and BetterHelp.