Have you been feeling exhausted, disinterested, and overwhelmed lately? If so, you’re not alone. Burnout is a common problem affecting many professionals and caregivers who juggle work and personal life demands. A recent study found that 89% of American workers experience burnout, and 77% are currently experiencing it. But how do you know if you’re on the road to burnout, and how can you prevent it? In this article, we will explore the warning signs of burnout and provide actionable tips for self-care to help you break the cycle and achieve a state of blissful well-being. So, let’s dive in and learn how to transform from burnout to bliss.
Comparing Burnout to Bliss
Before we move on to the warning signs that you’re experiencing burnout and not bliss, let’s first take some time to compare and contrast these two states of being.
Merriam-Webster defines burnout as “the cessation of operation of an engine” or “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
The following story illustrates what burnout might look like in your life:
Every morning when Di woke up, her first thought was, “I don’t want to.” But still, she drags herself out of bed and to the coffee pot to brew artificial energy. She walks the dog before it makes a mess on the carpet, but while they’re outside, she fails to notice the warmth of the morning sun on her skin or see the new spring buds beginning to bloom.
Di used to be a fashionista. Her motto was “when you look great, you feel great.” But these days, when she dresses for work, it’s all about being as casual as she can get away with while not getting in trouble for violating dress code standards. She no longer has the energy to care about her clothing and appearance or many other things that used to excite her and bring her joy.
Her supervisors have yet to notice that Di doesn’t participate as much in meetings because she’s still a top performer. They don’t see that the light has disappeared from her eyes, and her brilliant smile flashes far less often than it used to. But her friends notice, and they often ask, “are you okay?”. Di always answers yes. It’s easier than trying to explain the emptiness inside.
Although she manages to meet, and even exceed, expectations at work, her personal life is a mess because she spends hours every night disassociating from her stress in the form of binge-eating salty and sugary snacks, doom-scrolling social media with the tv on Netflix binge in the background, and drinking too much wine.
Eventually, when the wine kicks in, she feels tired enough to attempt to sleep. She heads to bed and spends the next six to eight hours tossing, turning, and sweating profusely, thanks to anxiety dreams. In these dreams, she has an important task to accomplish. But everything goes wrong. It’s like slogging through mud, and no one cooperates, so she never achieves her aim.
The sound of her alarm going off rips her out of the so-called dream, and her first thought is, “I don’t want to.” With that, the cycle begins again.
Back to Merriam-Webster, their definitions of bliss are “complete happiness,” “paradise,” and “heaven.” That sounds more desirable than exhaustion and cessation of operation.
Unfortunately, that definition of bliss isn’t entirely accurate. You see, it implies that bliss equals a lack of challenge or struggle. The truth is that bliss is the ability to feel at peace even during challenges.
Here’s a more realistic example of what bliss can look like in your daily life:
Gage wakes up before their alarm feeling the sunlight on their face. Immediately, a smile appears as Gage wonders what adventures might be in-store today. Then, humming as they fill the coffee pot and dance with the dog while putting on the leash, they head out into the refreshing morning air for a walk. While outside, they bask in the beauty of spring flowers blooming in the soft morning light.
No matter how stressful life gets, Gage knows that moving their body every morning makes them feel happier, so they make it a non-negotiable part of the morning routine. After work, they avoid electronics and focus on spending time with people that make them laugh and pursue the various hobbies that bring them a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Gage has a demanding job, the type where unanticipated emergencies tend to blow your plan for the day out of the water on a regular basis. But, they face the constant chaos with an attitude of adventure and curiosity. They perform well, but their confidence and sense of self-worth are not tied to their performance. Instead, they know they are a worthy and valuable team member even when they fail.
Because of this mindset, Gage can leave the day’s stresses behind when they leave work. As a result, their sleep is restful, rejuvenating, and free of anxiety dreams. That may explain why they often awaken before the alarm shrills and why a smile appears on their face the moment they do.
So… which of those cycles would you rather have on repeat?
Warning Signs of Burnout
Below are some of the red flag warning signs that you may be experiencing burnout. Of course, if you see one of these signs in yourself, something besides burnout may be to blame. But, if you see two or more of these, you’ll want to continue to the section of questions to help you diagnose if you need more self-care in your life so you can transform burnout into bliss.
Feeling Drained and Exhausted
A common warning sign of burnout is feeling drained and exhausted. If you lack the energy and motivation to tackle even the simplest tasks, this could be a sign that you need to take a break and practice some self-care. It’s essential to prioritize your physical health by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly. You don’t have to eat like a health nut or live in the gym, but taking care of your body benefits your mental, emotional, and physical health. Additionally, taking a mental health day or practicing mindfulness can help refresh your mind and restore your energy levels. Don’t let burnout consume you – take action and prioritize your well-being.
Losing Interest and Motivation
It’s also common to feel a lack of interest and motivation when experiencing burnout. For example, you may find activities that once excited you now feel like a chore or that you don’t feel motivated to complete anything. This disinterest and lack of motivation can lead to further stress and exacerbate burnout symptoms.
If you’re experiencing this warning sign, take some time to evaluate what activities or tasks are draining you and identify any underlying reasons for your lack of motivation. For example, you may take on too much at once or feel overwhelmed with work on top of your other commitments. On the other hand, it could also indicate that you need to engage in more activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
To combat this, consider taking a break from your usual routine and engaging in activities that bring you happiness and relaxation. This could be something as simple as reading a book or walking outside. Find ways to reignite your passion for your work or hobbies, and take the time to prioritize your interests and well-being.
However, if your lack of motivation persists, seek support from a mental health professional or trusted friend, or colleague. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support as you work towards managing your burnout symptoms.
Experiencing Physical Symptoms of Burnout
Experiencing physical symptoms can also be a warning sign of burnout, so taking note of how your body is feeling and prioritizing self-care accordingly is essential.
It’s easy to forget that our bodies are just as important as our minds when it comes to self-care. Suppose you notice you’re experiencing physical symptoms such as:
- poor sleep
- headaches (including migraines)(btw – breathwork can help soothe tension headache pain. Click here to learn how.)
- back or hip pain
- skin problems
- digestive issues
In that case, taking a step back and re-evaluating your priorities is crucial. Ignoring these warning signs can prolong your burnout and even lead to more severe health issues.
When you aren’t listening to what your body needs, it can exacerbate these physical symptoms and lead to even more stress and burnout. Therefore, it’s important to practice self-awareness and intentionally prioritize your physical health as much as your mental health. This might mean taking breaks throughout the day, getting enough sleep, or engaging in regular physical activity. Remember, taking care of yourself is essential to manage your burnout symptoms successfully.
Increased Anxiety or Depression
Burnout has mental health symptoms as well as physical ones. For example, if you notice that you worry a lot more than before or are anxious and have trouble being still, resting, or sleeping, you may have burnout-induced anxiety.
Another sign is burnout-induced depression. For example, suppose you perform well enough at work but can’t complete simple household or personal hygiene tasks regularly. Or, you may perform okay in your personal life but not at work. In that case, you could be experiencing this kind of depression. It feels like extreme apathy, an inability to care about things that once mattered to you. You go through the motions, but that’s it. There’s no energy for anything else.
You can often exist in burnout-induced depression for weeks or months without noticing. For me, it usually took someone coming over and seeing the state of my room or apartment to make me realize I was there. So, if that sounds like you, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone, and it can get better. But, to be honest, it can sometimes get worse before it gets better. So, if you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself or other people because of mental health challenges, please call 988 in the United States, or reach out to a mental health hotline or caregiver in your country. Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Are You Ignoring Your Self-Care Needs?
Since most people don’t consciously choose not to take care of themselves, how can you tell if you’re neglecting your needs and failing to prioritize yourself? First, try asking yourself these questions:
- Are you setting aside personal time for yourself but then feeling guilty for taking it? Or worse, skip personal time altogether?
- Are you taking time to nourish your body with healthy meals and stay active, or have you been skipping meals and not getting enough exercise?
- Are you getting enough rest, or are there nights when you struggle to fall or stay asleep?
- Are you intuitively honoring your feelings and needs, or do they seem to go unnoticed?
Consider these questions thoughtfully and then make the changes to your daily routine that will help you better prioritize self-care.
Next, let’s explore how to transform from burnout to bliss with self-care.
Breaking the Cycle of Burnout
Breaking the cycle of burnout with self-care is how you prevent burnout from recurring. Start by identifying the causes of burnout and your warning signs since every person has different red flags that indicate they need to include more self-care in their lives. Then, set realistic goals and establish boundaries to balance work and personal life. If you need help with this, read my article from last week for some helpful tips.
Prioritizing self-care by engaging in activities that promote relaxation and enjoyment can also help. This can be practicing mindfulness, spending time with loved ones that make you laugh until your belly hurts, or pursuing a hobby that lights you up inside.
Self-care can also involve seeking professional help, whether it is through therapy or counseling. It is important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You can improve your well-being, work performance, and personal relationships by addressing and managing burnout.
Incorporating self-care practices into your daily routine is crucial for preventing burnout and improving your overall well-being. You can take small steps toward breaking the burnout cycle by recognizing the warning signs of burnout, such as feeling drained, losing interest, experiencing physical or mental symptoms, and ignoring your needs. Then, set boundaries, practice mindfulness, and prioritize your health to ensure you take care of yourself. As the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup,” so start caring for yourself today. Remember, self-care is not selfish. It’s essential.
Last Words on Transforming Burnout to Bliss
In conclusion, breaking the burnout cycle with authentic self-care is crucial for leading a healthy and fulfilling life. It requires prioritizing physical and mental health, setting boundaries, pursuing enjoyable activities, and seeking professional help if needed. By practicing self-care regularly, individuals can prevent burnout from occurring (or recurring) and improve their overall quality of life. In other words, regular self-care is how you transform from burnout to bliss.
Until Next Week,
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