Stress is a funny thing, isn’t it? In small amounts and certain situations, it’s actually good for us. I know, it’s hard to believe that horrible feeling you get when you’re racing against the clock to meet deadlines could actually be a positive thing. But biologically, the body’s stress response was created to keep us safe by alerting us to the presence of danger in our immediate environment. So, when you hear those stories about women who experienced a surge of adrenaline that allowed them to fight back against an attacker—you can bet your bottom dollar it was the ‘fight or flight’ response at its best.
But as we all know, chronic stress is definitely not a good thing. Sure, it’s one thing to be a little on edge before a big meeting or job interview. But what if you’re exposed to constant stress for so long that it becomes something other than just stress? What if instead of relying on adrenaline to get you through your busy days, you barely have the energy to get out of bed at all? This condition of complete physical and mental exhaustion is known as burnout.
Burnout is when your body essentially goes into shutdown mode after a period of prolonged stress. People who are experiencing burnout tend to feel drained, unmotivated and uninspired. While when they were stressed they may have been worried about getting all their work done, when they’re burnt out they may not care at all. As you would imagine, this can wreak serious havoc on your work performance, relationships and overall health.
The thing about burnout is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Like a candle, your energy fizzles out over time. The good news is, your body has many different ways of sending you warning signs that you’re on the verge of burnout. And as always, prevention is better than cure! Here are some to look out for, so you can employ some self-care strategies to help get you back on track.
1. You’re having digestion problems
Okay, so there are many different things that can cause tummy troubles. But if your digestion is usually pretty on point but you’ve recently been experiencing cramps, nausea or excessive bloating, it could be a sign that you’re on the brink of burnout. Your gut is essentially your ‘second brain’, so stomach issues can indicate that your mental health requires some attention. As always, see your GP to rule out anything serious.
2. You’re exhausted
While it’s normal to feel a bit sleepy after a few late nights, being constantly exhausted can be a sign of imminent burnout. This is especially the case when you feel like you can barely keep your eyes open during the day, but as soon as you get into bed you struggle to doze off.
3. Your body is going nuts
I know that when I’ve taken on too much, my body is really good at letting me know. First, comes the twitchy eye, then the headaches from grinding my teeth, then the peeling skin on the side of my nails. Keep an eye out for these common signs of excessive stress so you can get on top off it before it’s too late.
4. You keep getting sick
When your stress levels soar, your immune system plummets. When this happens, you’re more susceptible to catching every bug and flu that’s going around the block. So, if you’ve been calling in sick to work more often than usual lately, it may be cause for greater concern than just a common cold.
5. You’re irritable
Have you been snapping at your partner, friends or colleagues a lot lately? Don’t take this the wrong way, but it could be you, not them. When you’re on the verge of burnout, it can be hard to find the energy to be patient with the people around you.
6. You can’t concentrate
We all have those days where we’re not quite as on the ball as usual. But if you’re constantly finding it difficult to stay focused on even simple tasks, it can indicate that you’re either overwhelmed or mentally drained. These are both signs that you’re on the brink of burnout.
7. You’ve stopped going out
Every now and again, it’s nice to have a quiet weekend at home to recharge your batteries. But if you find you’re constantly turning down invites from friends to do fun things, there’s a good chance burnout is around the corner. Rather than forcing yourself to go to the events, spend the time practicing self-care — so you can go back to feeling like your usual fun-loving self sooner rather than later!