Several years ago, you started a job that, for all intents and purposes, was your dream job. At least, it’s what you spent four years of college and two years of internships preparing for. A big break you were not willing to squander.
While you admit that you may not be the smartest or most talented person in the room, you resolved to earn your spot at the table with your impressive work ethic. So, you got in early to your office job, stayed late, worked weekends—all the while obsessively worrying about your performance and your future.
As time went by, any semblance of a balanced life went out the window. You had no energy or desire to hang out with your friends, you were neglecting your health and you became disillusioned with your work. There wasn’t one single catalyst—it wasn’t that you stopped liking the kind of work you did, generally speaking.
Instead, it was a classic case of burnout: multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time left you totally drained and no longer performing at your best. In a few short years, you went from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to seriously burnt out.
From a psychological point of view, job burn out is “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”
“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. Ballard, the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”
Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. In order to catch burnout and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for.
These are 9 signs you may be experiencing burn out.
A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.
2. Lack of Motivation
When you don’t feel enthusiastic about anything anymore or you no longer have that internal motivation for your work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout. Other ways this manifests? It may be harder to get going in the morning and more difficult to drag yourself into work every day.
3. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything. You might notice that you feel more generally pessimistic than you used to. While everybody experiences some negative emotions from time to time, it’s important to know when these are becoming unusual for you.
4. Cognitive Problems
Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate. When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat. In the short term, this helps us deal with the problem at hand, Dr. Ballard says, “but our bodies and brains are designed to handle this in short bursts and then return to normal functioning. When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues for a long time and we have difficulty paying attention to other things.”
This “fight or flight” tunnel vision can negatively affect your ability to solve problems or make decisions. You might find that you’re more forgetful and have a harder time remembering things.
5. Slipping Job Performance
Not sure whether you’re burnt out? Compare your job performance now to your performance in previous years. Because burnout tends to happen over an extended period of time, taking this long-term view might reveal whether you’re in a temporary slump or experiencing more chronic burnout.
6. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work
This tends to play out in one of two ways: (a) You’re having more conflicts with other people, such as getting into arguments, or (b) you withdraw, talking to your coworkers and family members less. You might find that even when you’re physically there, you’re tuned out.
7. Not Taking Care of Yourself
When suffering from burnout, some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough or not getting enough sleep. Self-medication is another issue and could include relying on sleeping pills to sleep, drinking more alcohol at the end of the day to de-stress or even drinking more tea or coffee to summon up the energy to drag yourself into work in the morning.
8. Being Preoccupied With Work … When You’re Not at Work
Even though you might not be working at a given moment, if you’re expending mental energy mulling over your job, then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stresses of your day. In order to recover, you need time to yourself after the actual task stops … and time when you stop thinking about that task altogether.
9. Generally Decreased Satisfaction
This is the tendency to feel less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life. You might feel dissatisfied or even stuck when it comes to whatever is going on at home, in the community or with your social activities, Dr. Ballard says.
Read also: How to deal with job dissatisfaction.
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