Screaming, absolutely screaming at my six and four-year-old’s, Ethan and Reese, because they left socks in the middle of the family room floor. Saying no every single Friday night to invitations to have dinner and drinks with friends. Blaming my boss for giving me a promotion. Feeling drunk during the day, because I’d only been sleeping a few hours every night.
I thought those were the signs that I was on the verge of burnout, but turns out those were the symptoms of absolute burnout. I mean I was on fire, already burned out to a crisp beyond recognition. Yet, it is your responsibility to recognize the onset, the early signs of burnout. So, what are those?
It’s funny, I was recently thinking back to when I accepted a promotion that became a little bit of the catalyst of me experiencing burnout. And only three months after I accepted that promotion, my husband, Matt must have already started to see my own signs of burnout, because I remember he surprised me by getting my girlfriends together for a day of wine tasting.
Now, it should have been really apparent! I mean, for my husband to say, “Oh my gosh, let’s get her out of the house to go with girlfriends for wine tasting,” three months into my promotion, yet I didn’t acknowledge it for another 10 months – 13 months total.
What are the signs of the early onset, so that you can change course, change direction, to help mitigate that burnout? Now I’m going to share some of those signs with you, but please also know that everybody carries and has symptoms and signs of stress and anxiety and burnout in different ways. So really, the most important thing is for you to listen and pay attention, physically and mentally, to your own body. But here are a couple of things that you can watch out for.
Physically, where do you typically hold onto stress and anxiety? For me, I usually hold on to it in between my shoulder blades. So I’ll feel tightness when I’ve had a little bit of extra stress, but back then I should have recognized it was extreme; it felt like a cinder block in between my shoulder blades. So bad that I had already started to schedule massages. That was sign number one.
Now, I took a course of action to say, “Let’s go have some massages to start to take care of that.” I also realized I started carrying tension in my hips, but I didn’t recognize that early onset until it became so extreme, I thought I had arthritis in my hips in my mid-thirties. Turns out, I was really stressed out. Sleep is another one. How are, how tired do you feel? Look, we all have days where it’s a little bit harder to get out of bed or at the end of the day, we feel exhausted.
But how frequently is that happening? Are you starting to notice a consistent behavior where you never want to get out of bed, or every single day at the end of the day you just throw yourself down on the couch and physically and mentally can’t do anything? That’s a sign at the early onset, when the frequency starts to increase. Or the frequency of taking sick days, or the frequency of contemplating taking sick days.
So pay attention. Do you get headaches, do you have stomachaches? What’s the frequency that it’s happening, what’s the elevated degree? When you start seeing things and experiencing things more often and in different situations – for example, are you starting to feel conflict or get agitated with friends, family, co-workers in situations that you typically wouldn’t have felt that way?
Those are the signs; we have some increased frequency, consistency, or really new, unusual places and times that it’s happening. That’s when you need to stop and say, “I am on the verge of burnout. I need to change course and start taking care of myself,” to mitigate that burnout, before you reach the absolute breaking point. So start writing down, start acknowledging, reflect on those situations, your experiences, how are you feeling today, and over the course of the next few days and few weeks.