Lesser-Known Signs of Burnout – And What To Do


C’mon, just one more email. One more chapter. One more cup of coffee. One more call. When you’re working into your vacation time and not taking time for yourself, it’s not a shocker to clash head-on with burnout in the impending time to come. Dun dun dun.

We can all see its physical signs – frequent yawning, drowsiness, and an overall lack of energy. But how about the warning signs before the great implosion? It could be the unknown pain hidden behind every “I’m fine”. Whether you see some signs in yourself or in someone else, it’s never too early or too late to reach out.

1. Bursts of anger and short temper/

You’re snappy. Every little thing that doesn’t go according to plan sets off a short fuse. And people have started to call you out for having a little attitude.

It’s not the season or the bad day to blame. It’s the workload, the overtime, the weekend email sneak-ins. Solution?

Find a (safe) outlet: exercise, puppy hugs, real human hugs, creating something artsy, trying all of the cheesecake samples at Costco — whatever floats your boat.This way your pent-up energy can be put to good use – essentially navigating your way around those unintentional emotional outbursts.

2. Sleep quality plummets

Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Take more power naps? Feel tired (and the exact same) after catching 3 or 8 hours? Inconsistency is a huge indicator that your brain’s networks are going flat-out haywire. This has the potential to spiral into something dangerous.

Over time, it can also become a breeding ground for more serious mental health conditions such as anxiety. Sleep is not for the weak. Oversleeping, believe it or not, is also a thing. Headaches, higher risks of obesity, and increased inflammation are all possible consequences.

There is no overnight solution to adjust your sleep schedule or quality. But, fret not! There are many little techniques to work your way up to a sound slumber. From white noise machines to nature soundscapes and guided meditations, the options are endless. Other methods include drinking decaffeinated herbal teas (chamomile — highly recommended) or doing stretches. It’s often a trial-and-error process to determine what works. The tricky part is staying open-minded and not giving up when nothing seems to work.

3. Robotic answers when questioned about work

It’s as if certain questions set off automatic responses in your brain.

“…how was work to—”

Boom. “Fine. As always.”

“What did you do at—”

Not again. “Same thing, mom.”

“Just think positively!” or “Good vibes only!” are phrases you’ve probably heard of (and may or may not be tired of hearing) before. Actions speak louder than words in this case. Volunteer and give back in some way. Even trying something new (such as food) can rejuvenate the flow of those mental juices. Again, you can never imagine the impact of any action until you actually try it.

4. General Apathy

If “#NoCaresGiven” has become your new tried-and-true motto, maybe it’s time for some re-evaluation.

Doing the dishes? Meh. Heaps of dirty laundry? Double meh. Another inexplicable papercut? Eh, whatever. This is often the final stage of burnout, when your body decides to shut down to a state of exhaustion in order to preserve energy, after being put under stress for too long (see point 1).

Burnout is more common than it seems. However, it hides in plain sight through smiles and jokes. When overworking begins to feel like a badge of honour instead of a huge red flag, take action! Actually, scratch that—more like inaction. Go for a breather and have a break. Even a short but sweet 10-minute coffee run can do wonders for your sanity. Go get some fresh air. Again, it doesn’t have to take up a huge chunk of time, but taking advantage of small windows of opportunity really do add up in the long run.

Remember: You’re fully capable of overcoming burnout — you got this.