Have you ever found yourself irritable, snapping at your partner, indulging in sweet treats, battling sleepless nights, or caught in an endless cycle of sickness? If these symptoms sound all too familiar, you’re not alone. Recently, I polled my Instagram followers with a simple question: “What is the first thing you notice in yourself when you start to move into burnout territory?” The responses painted a vivid picture of the toll that burnout takes on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Why the interest in burnout, you ask? Well, the symptoms often serve as the tipping point that propels individuals to seek therapy. Many women I work with reach a pivotal realization: “I just can’t do this anymore. Something needs to change.”
Before we dive deeper, let’s clarify what we mean by burnout. It’s not just feeling tired or stressed; burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from prolonged stress. It’s accompanied by a decreased sense of accomplishment and motivation, akin to falling into a heap after a prolonged period of cracking the proverbial whip.
One of the earliest signs I notice when approaching burnout is an unexpected surge of irritation towards my partner. I know that if I don’t take action promptly, my nervous system may shift from a constant fight-or-flight state to shutdown—the core of what it means to experience burnout. Motivation dwindles, feelings of failure intensify, and getting out of bed becomes a daunting task.
The women I work with are formidable individuals—gifted business owners, community workers, mothers, and leaders of all kinds. However, when burnout sets in, these incredible qualities become overshadowed, limiting their ability to share their gifts with the world. It’s a struggle I understand all too well.
Preventing burnout is a proactive effort, and developing awareness of Early Warning Signs is crucial. These signs are the subtle inklings that burnout is on the horizon, making intervention far more effective at this stage than when deep in the muck of shutdown.
Consider the following prompts to identify your own Early Warning Signs of burnout:
- Body Awareness: What physical sensations do you notice first? Tension, upset stomach, headaches, or other signs?
- Cognitive Awareness: What thoughts dominate your mind? Are negative thoughts about self-worth and abilities creeping in? Do you experience confusion or brain fog?
- Behavioral Changes: What new behaviors emerge? Do you find yourself binge-eating, spending excessive time scrolling, or lashing out at loved ones?
- Behavioural Withdrawal: What activities do you stop doing? Do you abandon your regular exercise routine, neglect self-care, or withdraw from social interactions?
So, take a moment to connect with yourself. Visualise the last time you experienced burnout and explore the provided prompts. If you find yourself at the precipice, remember: identifying Early Warning Signs signals a need to establish or adjust boundaries, seek help, delegate responsibilities, and prioritise rest.