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How do you know if you’re about to burn out?

On this episode of “Secrets Of The Most Productive People,” we discuss how to identify and combat burnout before it hits you, and why it has become such an epidemic in today’s workplace.

How do you know if you’re about to burn out?
[Photo: Akshar Dave/Pexels]

Did you know that about one in five “highly engaged” U.S. workers reported experiencing some form of burnout? That’s according to a 2018 study conducted at the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence. And as we discovered on this week’s episode of Secrets Of The Most Productive People podcastour obsession with work is largely to blame.

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“There are a lot of messages set up very early for us about what it means to be successful, and what it means to be a high achiever, and what it means to do well in life,” says Paula Davis-Laack, a former lawyer turned resilience expert. “What I’m not hearing are balanced messages around ‘you need to take a break’ or ‘perfectionism should not be your standard.'”

Laack’s own story about burning out in the legal profession and changing her career as a result is one that I have personally experienced. But changing jobs isn’t always the solution for everyone who experiences burnout. For many, it’s about identifying the symptoms before it’s too late, and doing what they can to mitigate them. Here are three of those signs:

Three burnout symptoms and tips to stop it before it’s too late

1. You are chronically exhausted. No amount of good night’s sleep sleep stops you from being tired, and you find yourself getting sick more often. Sometimes the stress will pass, but if you find that you go weeks and weeks with an intense level of anxiety, your body might be trying to tell you something. If this is happening to you, then it’s probably time to rest your brain and your body. The key is to recognize that you might be close to burnout, and step back and give yourself the break that you need.

2. You have become overly cynical. You’re completely detached from your work, and you’re easily annoyed by friends and coworkers. One way you can try to manage this is by doing an energy audit. Ask yourself how you feel when you take part in specific activities or interact with certain people. You can then start to cut back on actions that drain you and leave you feeling depleted.

3. You feel incompetent and unable to be productive even when doing simple things. One way you can combat this is to train your brain and reframe your thoughts. So next time you hear that little voice in your head telling you, “You’ll never be good enough. Don’t even try,” ask yourself, what is the factual evidence for and against this thought? Little by little, you can start to do the same with other unproductive thoughts.

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You can find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts. Have you ever been burned out? What are some tips and tricks that you use to mitigate it? Tell us about your approach using the hashtag #FCMostProductive and be sure to subscribe to Secrets of the Most Productive People so you don’t miss an episode.

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About the author

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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