Something doesn’t feel right, but you’re too busy to figure out what it is.
You’re stressed and exhausted, but everyone else is too, so you suck it up and push through.
“Just keep grinding, no one cares how healthy I am. They just want me to produce,” you convince yourself.
Those closest to you may spot it first, but they don’t always have the courage to speak up.
Burn out, verb: to cause to fail, wear out, or become exhausted especially from overwork or overuse. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Hopefully, you realize you don’t have anything left in the tank before you end up in the hospital with stress-induced illness, or end up doing something you can’t take back – like cheat on your spouse, steal money from your employer, or fall into substance abuse.
If you’re suffering from burnout or are heading that direction, how can you make drastic changes before it’s too late?
How do you remind yourself that your overall health directly impacts your ability to produce?
Working harder, faster, and longer does not equal more productivity.
It’s time to stop making excuses and make better use of our time and energy, before we burn out.
The first step towards health is to recognize the signs of burnout before it’s too late.
Here are a few ways to tell you’re approaching burnout.
Sign #1 – You’re physically ill more than usual.
Do you find you’re taking more sick days than others in the office?
Some of you have chronic issues or serious illnesses, which is obviously a challenge in and of itself.
However, if that’s not you, consider the possibility that being sick all the time could be a direct result of you working too much and pushing yourself too hard.
Sign #2 – You get irritated or angry very easily.
A few years ago this was me. I was overworked and exhausted and unfortunately very easily irritated. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my wife.
There are more than a couple verses in the Bible that talk about being “slow to anger,” which unfortunately did not describe me at the time.
If other people are frightened or on edge around you, consider it a warning.
You are likely in the midst of burnout.
Sign #3 – You can’t remember your last day off.
By day off, I mean you didn’t check your email or get a text from your boss.
Maybe you had one recently, but when was the last time you had a few days off in a row?
If it’s been a while, it’s time to take a real vacation.
Sign #4 – You’re tired all the time.
How many cups of coffee do you need to stay alert throughout the day?
Are you tired even after your day off?
How much sleep do you get each night?
If you’re tired all the time, it’s likely due to many factors, but if you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, start there.
Next, you can try other things to combat your sleepiness. For example, don’t eat after 8pm, exercise, and eat healthy food.
But start by going to bed early.
Check out this simple chart from the CDC that shows how many hours of sleep is recommended based on your age…
Seeing Signs of Burnout? Take Action
Before I talk about ways to avoid burnout, I want to encourage you to be honest with those around you about what’s going on. Let someone know you’re struggling.
It’s better your spouse, boss, or coworkers find out now as opposed to when you end up so burned out you quit or get fired because you can no longer produce.
Be honest with yourself. Are you approaching burnout?
If you’re experiencing one or more of the signs of burnout listed above, slow down. Don’t ignore it.
How to Avoid Burnout
Now that we can recognize burnout, let’s talk about 3 things we can do to avoid it.
1. Set Boundaries
Many of us work evenings, weekends, and on our days off.
No boundaries = burnout.
Here are some thoughts on leaving people alone during off hours and setting boundaries.
The second way to avoid burnout is to find a hobby.
2. Find a Hobby
Do you regularly spend time doing something you enjoy other than work?
Find a hobby that encourages your mind to create and cultivate. Watching Netflix doesn’t count.
If you don’t have a hobby, you may end up working on your days off simply because you’re bored.
Spending time on a hobby is one of the most practical and powerful things you can do to avoid burnout.
I wrote more on this topic here, where I also included a list of hobby ideas, if you’re drawing a blank.
3. Take Time Off
When is the last time you took a real vacation?
By “real” I mean time away where you did NOT check your email or text a co-worker to see how things were going at the office.
An article in the New York Times said Elon Musk hasn’t taken more than a week off since 2001 – and that was only because he was bedridden with malaria.
Don’t be like Elon Musk.
Let’s stop pretending the world revolves around us and take our vacations.
To recap, if you want to avoid burnout…
- Set boundaries.
- Find a hobby.
- Take time off.
Here’s to recognizing and avoiding burnout, so we can accomplish our goals – without sacrificing enjoying our lives.
P.S. – For more on burnout, review these 10 driving forces behind burnout.