How to spot the six signs of burnout – and get your mojo back

Do you feel like you’re running on empty? Often feel exhausted and resentful? Discover the six signs you might be burning out, and find out how to get your mojo back.

Sometimes we can be so busy trying to keep all the balls we’re juggling in the air that we don’t notice that life’s not working for us.

And while most of us can deal with short term discomfort or stress, over time a lifestyle that depletes, rather than revives us can start to have a significant negative impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. And left unchecked, can lead to burnout.

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Six signs you may have burnout

You may have head the phrase ‘burnout’ before, but not be sure what it means. How can you tell if you have it or not? And when do you need to step in and take action?

To help you assess whether you’re managing to cope with life or are on track to (or already in) burnout, here are six signs you may have it.

1) Insomnia

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for physical and mental wellbeing. Yet as many as one-third of us experience mild insomnia – a common early warning sign for burnout.

So if you’ve noticed a change for the worse in your sleeping habits, if you struggle to fall asleep, or wake in the middle of the night and worry for hours, it could be a sign you need to take action.

2) Lack of motivation

While it is normal to wake up some days and struggle to find motivation, it’s not normal to feel this way every day. If you find it hard to get going in the mornings  – if it all seems pointless depressing or hard, you may be experiencing burnout.

3) Cynicism

While no one expects you to be permanently positive and optimistic, a pervading sense of cynicism about life and work is a big clue that all is not right.

4) Feeling anti-social

Another symptom of burnout is social withdrawal – feeling less willing to socialise and not wanting to meet or talk to family, friends and colleagues.

So if the thought of drinks after work, or calling a friend feels uncharacteristically like too much hard work, and you find yourself making excuses to avoid people, it’s worth checking there’s not something more serious than just needing some time alone going on.

5) Loss of appetite

When you’re living in a state of constant stress, it’s quite common for your body to respond by shutting down some functions, including digestion. So if you’ve suddenly gone off your food, have to force yourself to eat or are frequently skipping meals, you may be on track to burnout.

6) Illness

While we can all succumb to the occasional cold, if you always catch any bug going round, it’s a sign your immune system is under stress. And it’s not just coughs and colds, stress can lead to or irritate a number of health conditions, including heart disease, asthma, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

How to get your mojo back

The first step to dealing with burnout is to recognise that you are either in full-on burnout or are on the road to it. So if any of our six signs above have flagged up any worries, here’s some advice on how you can tackle burnout and get your mojo back.

1) Look for the root cause

Sometimes burnout can creep up on us simply by not taking care of our basic emotional and physical needs (you can read a list of them here). But other times it’s triggered by an external caused that needs to be fixed.

This could be as life-changing as resigning from a job you no longer enjoy or is causing undue stress, or leaving an abusive relationship. Or it may be cutting toxic people from your life or reassessing your career options (find out how our Career Audit can help).

Whatever the cause of your burnout, simply ignoring it won’t resolve the situation. You need to identify what needs to change and start taking positive action – even if it’s just small steps to begin with.

2) Take a break

Often as mothers we give and give until we are depleted. We give to our employers and customers, to our partners, to our children, to our family and friends – and rarely prioritise our own needs. The result is a creeping sense of resentment, exhaustion, unhappiness and, ultimately, burnout.

The solution to this is quite simple: you need a break.

A break can be a physical break – escaping for a holiday (even just a weekend) to recharge and get a new perspective on your life. Or it can be a psychological break – carving out time in your day just for you, and rediscovering activities you used to enjoy but have let slip.

Even just a solo walk at lunchtime, or a coffee with friends can be a reviving tonic if you’re used to packing every minute of your day with chores for other people.

3) Get some exercise

If you want an instant shot of feel-good endorphins (the perfect antidote to burnout) then get some exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon – just start going to the gym, running in the morning, join a local sports team or even walking to work. Every little bit of exercise helps.

Struggle to find the motivation to start working out – or to keep it up? Read five strategies to help you.

4) Reduce your responsibilities

Sometimes the simplest way you can halt burnout is just to start saying “no”:

  • “No I can’t help with the PTA fair.”
  • “No I can’t have your child after school.”
  • “No I can’t stay late at work tonight.”

Saying “no” (without apology or excuse) sets firm boundaries, and helps you to better manage your workload – and the balance between work and family. It also frees you up to say “yes” to the things you really want to do, and spend more time on them.

It also – very importantly – helps give you a sense of control over your own life. And prevents a creeping sense of resentment and exhaustion from leeching joy from your life and relationships.

Read more advice on burnout

Burnout can have devastating effects on your health, happiness and your relationships. So it’s important to take action if you spot the signs. Here’s some more advice and tools that can help:

Jock is a busy entrepreneur and founder of his own business, Digital Exits. A self-proclaimed workaholic, he has experienced burnout and its damaging symptoms in his life. He wants to spread positive messages of success through self-care and motivation.

Photo by Silvestri Matteo