- While healthcare professionals are at high risk for burnout, it can happen to anyone.
- Even questioning if you are burned out indicates that you need a break.
- Being more tired than usual, experiencing increased aches and pains, irritability, and sleep or appetite changes are often signs of burnout.
The stress of the past few years of a pandemic, coupled with the violence and trauma that plagued our cities, many report experiencing burnout or compassion fatigue in their jobs. Even though it feels like we can finally breathe after experiencing an almost three-year pandemic, many report feeling more stressed than usual—and more stressed than they did during the pandemic itself—most likely due to job-related burnout.
Read on for 15 signs that you might be experiencing burnout.
- You are more tired than usual. When not related to sleep disorders or another medical issue, feeling tired all of the time is usually due to stress or burnout.
- You feel more critical of work tasks. Maybe everything is annoying. Every. Thing. That email or text from a coworker. The phone call from the office secretary. The knock at the door.
- You feel bored or unchallenged. When we do not feel challenged, it can feel like our job is more work than normal.
- Things feel tedious. From clocking in to answering calls, basic mundane tasks start to feel like they take more energy and effort than usual.
- You skip lunch or breaks. Although it might seem counterintuitive, those who are burned out might find it easier to just sit at their desk instead of leaving for lunch or break.
- You take more time off, come in late, or call in more often. You are desperate for a break and find you have less motivation for the job.
- You are getting sick more often. Our bodies tell us everything we need to know about how we are doing.
- You fantasize about different career fields or jobs with less responsibility. A client of mine who is a teacher knew she was burned out when she was looking for jobs, "anything but teaching!" She just knew she could not do it anymore. She had nothing left to give.
- You resent the customers or clients you serve. Few people love dealing with angry or resentful customers, but when interacting with even non-angry customers makes you feel overwhelmed, and you might need a break!
- You feel your work doesn't matter or is not making a difference. This is a huge sign of burnout, especially for healthcare and teaching professionals.
- You self-medicate. Many cope with stress and burnout by using more alcohol, cigarettes, or unhealthy eating to cope with the stress.
- Your sleep is affected. If you are struggling to fall asleep or feeling like you can not stay asleep, it might be due to the stress on your body.
- You struggle to pay attention or concentrate. If this is something new for you, it might be worth looking into whether this is due to stress at work.
- Your medical issues are worse. People under more stress often find that their blood sugars are higher, their blood pressure is elevated, or other medical concerns are exacerbated.
- You're reading this. If you are asking yourself if you are feeling burned out, this is usually one of the first indications that something is going on- even if only partially.
What You Can Do
- The first step is to admit to it, because you can't heal if you do not recognize there is something to heal from. We can sometimes feel as though we have to be “bigger” than our feelings, like we have to “push through it” and just "grin and bear it" or even ignore our feelings and experiences until they go away. But this can easily become exhausting, difficult to maintain, and worsen the feelings. Give yourself permission to slow things down for a moment and acknowledge your feelings and experiences of them.
- Take a break. Instead of powering through or distraction, slowing down and allowing the feeling to run its course will result in greater healing. This might mean taking a vacation or a long weekend away for some. For others, it might mean stepping away from the desk and going out to lunch or leaving work on time today.
- Grounding and mindfulness. Grounding is self-soothing by orienting ourselves to the present moment and can help with stress. Focus on taking a few deep breaths to help regulate the body when you feel overwhelmed.
- Positive self-talk. Remind yourself that what you feel is a normal reaction and that nothing is wrong with you.
- Empower yourself. For many, this might mean looking for a change, whether it's a change in shift, hours worked, or even looking for different jobs. For some, who have experienced burnout for long periods, it might even mean a career change.
Bray, B. 2018. American Counseling Association: The battle against burnout. https://ct.counseling.org/2018/03/the-battle-against-burnout/. Accessed 11/17/2022.
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). 2021. Job burnout: How to spot it and take action.