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  • Judy Sims

Constantly Drained? 5 Signs You Might Be Burnt Out at Work

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Years ago, when I was a corporate vice-president, I used to fantasize about being a coffee barista. I loved the idea of crafting drinks while listening to jazz music, having little chit chats with customers and coworkers, and then going home and forgetting about it all until my next shift. It’s not that I had any specific attachment to coffee. It could have been working in a flower shop or fertilizing lawns all day (after all, the grass is always greener…). I just wanted something different, where perhaps, there was a little less daily pressure.

Around this same time, I suffered from stomach issues, stress acne, insomnia, and frequent headaches. Lying in bed one morning, I looked at my schedule for the day, and was overcome with a deep sinking feeling. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t get myself up and out and into a series of soul sucking meetings. I couldn’t answer one more email. I couldn’t look at one more spreadsheet.

I called in sick.

What might be obvious to you as you read this, had only just come into my consciousness.

I was burnt out.

Feeling exhausted at the end of a workday is normal. But when that exhaustion bleeds into your days off, impacting your mood, health, and overall well-being, it might be a sign of burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress.

While burnout can happen in any field, it's particularly common in fast-paced, high-pressure environments. Recognizing the signs of burnout is crucial to addressing it before it significantly impacts your work and personal life.

Here are 5 key signs you might be burnt out at work:

1. Relentless Exhaustion: You constantly feel depleted, regardless of how much sleep you get. Even small tasks seem overwhelming, and the idea of work fills you with dread. This exhaustion can manifest physically through headaches, muscle aches, or changes in appetite or sleep patterns.

2. Increased Cynicism and Negativity: The job you once enjoyed now feels meaningless. You find yourself cynical about your work, colleagues, and even the organization's goals. This negativity can spill over into your personal life, affecting your relationships and overall outlook.

3. Decreased Productivity and Performance: Burnout significantly impacts your ability to focus and concentrate. You might struggle to meet deadlines, make careless mistakes, or experience decision fatigue. The tasks you once completed efficiently now feel like a burden.

4. Emotional Detachment and Withdrawal: You start to emotionally distance yourself from your work. Previously engaging projects feel tedious, and you find yourself withdrawing from colleagues and avoiding work social events. This detachment can also extend to your personal life, leaving you feeling isolated and numb.

5. Increased Irritability and Frustration: Burnout can make you short-tempered and irritable. You might snap at colleagues, have trouble controlling your emotions, or become overly critical of yourself and others. This can damage your work relationships and create a toxic work environment.


What to Do If You're Burnt Out:

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: The first step is admitting you're burnt out. Don't ignore or downplay your feelings. There is no shame in feeling this way. You have been trying your hardest. It's okay to admit that it's become too much.

  • Talk to Someone: Confide in a trusted friend, family member, colleague, coach, or therapist. Talking it out can provide support and a different perspective. If you believe your burnout is affecting your health, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

  • Identify Stressors: Pinpoint the specific factors contributing to your burnout. Is it workload, lack of control, office politics, or something else? Identify what steps you can take to reduce your stressors. What boundaries do you need to set? What can you delegate? How can you make time and then take time for yourself?


Remember, burnout is a real problem, but it's not insurmountable. By recognizing the signs and taking steps to address them, you can reclaim your well-being and find renewed passion for your work. If you're struggling to cope with burnout on your own, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or physician.

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