Recognizing the Warning Signs of Burnout
Many of us have grown so accustomed to keeping up with our daily lives while handling tremendous amounts of stress that we don’t recognize the warning signs of burnout until it’s too late and we’re already suffering. We’ve learned how to function and maintain the regular operations of our lives. We manage to keep a smile on our face so that people won’t worry about us. We’ve decided to conceal how we really feel to try to keep ourselves from falling apart. Burnout can be prevented, and an important step is learning to recognize when we’re approaching it.
When we’re burned out, we experience major declines and even breakdowns in our mental, emotional and physical health. One of the warning signs is mounting stress that we feel increasingly unable to cope with. We might start feeling more anxious, worried or panicked than normal. We might be more emotionally reactive than usual. We might cry, yell, scream or lash out more than normal. We might be easily triggered and more frequently overwhelmed. We might feel as though our lives are becoming even more burdensome and harder to manage. We might feel physical pain and tension. We might feel totally exhausted and nearing collapse.
Along with the increase in our stress comes a steady decline in our health as evidenced by changes in our sleeping and eating patterns. We might suddenly suffer from insomnia which can exacerbate our depression and anxiety. On the other hand, we might start sleeping more than normal as a form of escapism because we find being awake so depressing and overwhelming. We might develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. We starve ourselves out of a need to control any aspect of our lives we can. We deprive ourselves because of deep emotional pain. We might start compulsively overeating or binge eating, another common anxiety response.
Sometimes burnout leads to changes in our appearance and behavior. We might stop taking care of ourselves and start neglecting self-care altogether. We stop being able to function normally. We might not socialize anymore and find interaction more difficult than usual. We may start isolating ourselves, out of fear, social anxiety and even paranoia. We might feel our minds racing more than usual. We might feel plagued by our inner demons and not know how to silence their harsh, cruel voices. We might struggle to feel any sense of peace within ourselves. We might start drinking or using drugs more than usual. We might engage in risky and dangerous behaviors.
Knowing some of the signs of burnout is an important step in combating this very destructive phenomenon and preventing further decline and relapse.
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