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Warning Signs of Burnout

The Burnout Gauge

What are the warning signs of burnout ? Many of us are bad at recognising when our minds and bodies are overloaded and trying their best to get us to STOP! Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, it creeps up on us. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. If we pay attention and actively manage our stress, hopefully we can prevent a major breakdown. Sadly, most of us just power through….

It’s often the case that people around us spot it before we do…listen to your work colleague, your GP, your best friend or your partner – even your children “Mum, you are always cranky!”  They may be telling us things we don’t want to hear, but have our best interests at heart!

What kind of gauge would help us realise that our reserves are running low? What are the warning signs of burnout? The following can be indicators that our burnout gauge is running on empty and we are in danger of hitting the wall – NB burnout affects everybody differently – some of us may have only physical aches and pains, others emotional symptoms:

  1. Feeling low or emotionally numb

We often feel more detached from what we usually engage with. Because of this, sometimes, we’re unable to react. 

  1. Overreacting emotionally

The opposite to no 1:  Every little thing triggers our anxiety, our anger, our tears… We are different to how we normally are and people around us are feeling the effects. 

  1. Mentally blank, slow and confused

Brain fog: We are unable to make sense of things. We sit and stare at the page or screen unable to concentrate. We can’t make clear decisions, even for the simplest things such as what to eat or which route to drive.

  1. Hypervigilance

We are, watching all the time for signs of things going wrong –  jumping at sudden noises, unable to cope with small changes of plan. 

  1. Poor appetite or sugar/fast food cravings

Grabbing whatever is quick and easy but not necessarily healthy and nutritious. Perhaps, we feel like we don’t have time or energy to plan meals and shopping.

  1. Smoking more or drinking more alcohol

Looking forward to a glass of wine in the evening – which turns into every evening. Smoking more tobacco or weed.

  1. Physical exhaustion

The smallest tasks feel too difficult, leading to jobs piling up and creating more distress.

  1. Self-neglect

Not taking care of our own personal needs, even the basics. This may be accompanied by feelings of low self-esteem and hopelessness.

  1. Avoiding social activities

 Sometimes, we may decline social activities with our friends and family even though deep down we would love to join. We may not feel like we can be our true authentic self around them anymore, because internally we feel so low. 

  1. Getting ill when we stop

Adrenaline can keep us going but when we stop and take a break, the feelings of stress catch up with us and we can spend our weekends or weeks off with a heavy cold or flu.

  1. Procrastination

Burnout usually comes with an element of procrastination. We put off doing things that need doing because we feel so overwhelmed – “I don’t know where to start. There’s too much to do. I just can’t think straight.”

  1. Physical indicators

Aches and pains, including headaches and migraines, IBS and other digestive issues.

For more information, listen to/watch/read the eccellent advice from Emily and Amelia Nagoski:     for the Burned Out, Fried and Exhausted    Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, D


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See also: What is Burnout?Stress and BurnoutPrevent Burnout