How To Recognize Burnout: 5 Early Warning Signs

Burnout is a growing problem. There is a big chance you are or know someone who has battled with burnout. Some countries report 1 in 7 employees are experiencing burnout type complaints. You will have the best chance of preventing burnout by recognizing the signs in an early stage. Let’s look closer at the types of burnout and the signs.

‘Burnout syndrome’ is the emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from long-term exposure to environmental and internal stressors and inadequate coping skills. This study differentiates three subtypes of the burnout syndrome.

  • Frenetic subtype
    This is what most people think of when they hear ‘burnout’. It’s the employees who work until exhaustion or the people who are overloaded by a crazy amount of work.
  • Under-challenged subtype
    This is the type that falls into a burn-out caused by a bore-out. This happens when you are not challenged enough or experience a lack of development.
  • Worn-out subtype
    This type copes with stress by completely losing motivation and giving up. Although goals are set and motivation was once present, in the face of stress this is not strong enough to power through.

Since we can already specify at least three different types of burnout, you can imagine that there are also different types and combinations of symptoms. Here are the most common signs of the burnout syndrome.

1. Exhaustion

Feeling physically, mentally or emotionally exhausted is a clear sign of burnout. You may wake up without feeling resting, you may feel tired all day, you may not have the energy to work and so on.
Chronic stress can also cause you to have trouble falling or staying asleep, which eventually tires you out even more.

2. Cognitive Problems

From an evolutionary stance, when our ancestors had to overcome a threat (or: stressor), our brain would fully focus on it. By giving our full attention and concentration, it helps us to successfully deal with a threat.
This is a good thing when we face an acute and short stressor. But when we are chronically stressed, we may experience problems with this. It can cause us to become unable to divide our attention and remain focused on our everyday activities. You may also experience problems with your memory, problem solving and decision making.

3. Lack of motivation and satisfaction

Are you experiencing decreased motivation? Do you feel like your work is without purpose? Do you feel dissatisfied by your work and/or home life? Almost everyone dreads going to work once in a while. But when you feel like this for a longer period or in an intense way this may be a sign of getting burned out.

4. Other negative emotions

Are you dealing with feelings of frustration a lot? Are you becoming more cynical with regards to the work you are doing? Are you having more pessimistic thoughts that normal?
Study shows that chronic stress diminishes our neurological ability to handle negative situations, resulting in even more stress in the end.

5. Physical aches and pains

Chronic stress can lead to numerous physical symptoms. Frequent headaches, backaches, neck pain or stiffness are common first signs of stress.

Everyone is different and that is why it’s important to know what is normal for you and when behavior becomes different than normal. That’s when you should pay attention in order to prevent a burnout.