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How to Recognize the Signs of Burnout and Get Your Life Back

You wake up every morning already exhausted and dreading the crushing workload awaiting you. Your job feels unsustainable—the demands never stop, the deadlines keep piling up, and it seems like whatever you do is never enough. If this sounds like your reality, you may be experiencing burnout. 

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is not a formal mental health diagnosis. Rather, the term is used to describe a state of chronic, unmitigated stress that leads to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon characterized by feelings of depleted energy, negativity, and reduced productivity.

Burnout is very common, with 59% of workers reporting at least moderate levels of burnout—a rate that increased significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic. Millennial and Gen Z workers report the most severe levels of burnout, perhaps due to the challenge of balancing work and family or the difficulty of managing a soaring cost of living. 

Burnout occurs in people in all occupational groups but is more common among those with high levels of job-related stress. For example, health care workers and first responders often deal with intense emotional demands, long shifts, and life-or-death situations. On a similar note, teachers—especially those in underfunded school districts—often face heavy workloads, classroom management challenges, and a lack of resources that contribute to high levels of burnout. Retail and customer service occupations are also prone to burnout because of the combination of low pay, difficult customers, repetitive tasks, and performance pressures.

A Short Quiz to Help You Recognize the Signs of Burnout

How can you tell if you’re just having a rough patch or suffering from full-blown burnout? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel physically and emotionally exhausted—even after time off from work?
  • Do you have little motivation or energy?
  • Have you been feeling cynical, negative, or disengaged from your job? Do you have trouble getting inspired by your work?
  • Have you been more irritable and prone to frustration, anger, or impatience with co-workers or clients than is normal for you?
  • Have you had more frequent headaches, stomach issues, or been getting sick more often due to a compromised immune system?
  • Have you had difficulty concentrating or a lack of attention span? Have you had trouble being productive?
  • Do you no longer derive any enjoyment from your work accomplishments or achievements?
  • Have your sleep or eating patterns changed? Are you either sleeping too little or too much? Do you have a loss of appetite or are you overeating?
  • Do you have the sense that there is just no way to ease your excessive work stress or demands? Do you feel trapped?
  • Do you feel detached, disconnected, or numb?

The more questions you answer “yes” to, the higher the odds become that you’re experiencing burnout. If these symptoms persist for several weeks, it’s time to take action.

A 5-Step Plan to Get Back on Track

You don’t need to struggle with burnout forever. Here’s a step-by-step plan that can help you address your symptoms and start feeling more like yourself:

  • Step 1: Identify the Causes of Your Burnout. Take an honest look at the factors contributing to your burnout. Is it an excessive workload, unclear expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, or a mismatch in values? 
  • Step 2: Prioritize Self-Care. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. Set boundaries and learn to say no to additional responsibilities that may overwhelm you further.
  • Step 3: Seek Support. Reach out to your support system, whether it’s friends, family, a therapist, or a support group. Talking about your experiences and emotions can help you feel less isolated.
  • Step 4: Reevaluate Your Work-Life Balance. Explore options such as reducing your workload, taking a leave of absence, or setting firmer boundaries between work and personal time. Consider seeking professional development opportunities or a job change if your current role is no longer fulfilling.
  • Step 5: Implement Stress Management Techniques. Incorporate stress-reducing practices into your daily routine. This might include mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, or spending more time on a hobby you enjoy. 

Seeking Professional Help in Garner, North Carolina

Lifestyle adjustments can help alleviate burnout in many cases, but it’s OK if you need a little extra support. At Raleigh Oaks Behavioral Health, we help men and women struggling with burnout learn to manage their mental health and find a way to move forward with confidence. 

Contact us today for a free, confidential evaluation to begin the path toward restoring your well-being and rediscovering the spark that’s gone missing from your career.

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