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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

The Insidious Side of Burnout—and Seven Fixes

Man leaning against the office window

Most people have heard about the symptoms of burnout including:

  • Extreme exhaustion.

  • Irritability.

  • Disinterest.

  • Over-indulging in everything from food to alcohol.

  • Lack of concentration.

  • A feeling of hopelessness.

Burnout takes time to develop and may look a little different for everyone. But what if there are more subtle clues that it’s time for self-care?

Consider these other potential signs of burnout:

  • Work haunts your dreams. Nightmares might be about drowning in “something”, being chased by an authority figure, or being in a room without a door!

  • Bad habits become worse. Perhaps you’re biting your nails more, eating lots of chocolate or—as one client said, she started pulling out her eyelashes. (Ouch!)

  • Sleep is hard to come by. From restlessness to an inability to fall asleep, from finding it impossible to get out of bed to wandering the house at night, you’re aware that these patterns are not normal.

If you are recognizing these and other symptoms in your life, it’s time for immediate measures.

First: Write down everything that you are noticing, feeling, and doing in your life that seems to be very unlike the “before burnout” you.

Second: Add a star to the things that appear to be in your control, and which are external prompts. For example, where have you over-committed by saying “yes” too much? What food or substances can be eliminated from your diet (chocolate, fast food, alcohol, etc.)?

Third: Have a candid conversation with your manager, your partner, your family. Be very clear what you are asking for and where you intend to draw the line. In many cases, a manager has no idea how much is being asked of you. In fact, the more competent you are, the manager may think your workload is easy. Our self-image often keeps us back from holding up our hands and saying “stop”. A partner might not know what you are experiencing and thus doesn’t know how to help.

Fourth: Seek counseling. Whether a therapist or trained counselor, talking about these symptoms opens the opportunity to verbalize as well as internalize what is happening.

Fifth: Exercise. As trite as this might sound, our body is the engine that drives our locomotive. Aerobic exercise—of ANY intensity—benefits our brain, muscles, and heart. Research shows people who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to keep it up rather than those who wait until later in the day.

Sixth: Create a sleep routine. Specifically, stop using all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Yes—no email or text messages. Generate a no-call time span on your phone. I set mine so that no calls or texts (except for family) can come in between 7pm and 5am.

Seventh: Start small. Maybe it’s with exercise. Maybe it’s with calling a halt to too many work/home demands. Give up perfection, too. Remember, when God created the world—biblically speaking—God pronounced it good not perfect. Good enough is a great mantra.

Lastly, if confusion and career direction still swirl, it might be that I can help you clarify your purpose and core values. With clarity comes consistency and control.

©2023, The Resiliency Group.

Eileen McDargh is an award winning author, professional speaker, coach and consultant. To learn more about burnout read her book “Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters.” You can also sign-up for her newsletter The Resiliency Report.

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