Today, I want to start off by saying it does not matter if you have an existing mental illness or not. We are all at risk for burnout.
Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
Are you burning out?
In Canada, billions of dollars (yes, billions) are spent related to mental health problems in the workplace. This accounts for over 75% of short term disability claims.
It’s an epidemic.
I have fell victim to burnout before. In hindsight, I feel I could have prevented it had I paid more attention to the signs. I would like to go over some of the signs today in the hopes that if you’re reading this, you can catch and prevent burnout before it’s too late.
1. Sleep Disturbances:
I place a lot of importance on this one. Proper sleep is crucial for our mental and physical wellbeing. Sure, we all have a night here and there when a full eight hours just doesn’t happen but definitely keep an eye out for insomnia and on the other end of the spectrum, chronic fatigue.
Neither one is healthy and if ignored in the early stages, it can become a vicious cycle that becomes very difficult to break out of. When your brain won’t shut off or refuses to turn on, this is the first sign something is not right. Do not ignore this!
2. Lack of Concentration and Forgetfulness:
Once your sleep patterns are off you will start to notice you just can’t seem to focus at work anymore. Simple tasks become daunting and that is if you are lucky enough to remember those tasks in the first place. This too becomes a vicious cycle. You may notice your boss is on your case more..
“Why isn’t this done already?…We talked about this yesterday…remember?”
You start to miss deadlines, memos, lunch and breaks because you are trying to make up for your lack of organization which in turn, just adds more stress to the existing problem…
3. Loss of Appetite:
Since you have been missing lunch and breaks trying to catch up on your work, your appetite starts to go off the rails. You may find you don’t have an appetite at all anymore or you may find yourself going without food most of your shift only to come home and eat one giant meal…and since you can’t sleep, you might as well turn on Netflix and eat that bag of chips and drink a gallon of pop…
4. Anxiety and Depression:
As you continue down this rabbit hole, it is not long before you find yourself on edge about your work. Not only are you having trouble getting out of bed in the morning but you are seriously not looking forward to your day anymore.
At this point, you have most likely spent sleepless nights stressing over what has to get done the next day. It makes it harder and harder to walk through those doors no matter how many cups of coffee you drink.
Coworkers who used to brighten your day just don’t cut it anymore. You look around and see everyone going about their workday with relative ease. You start to feel isolated because you feel you are the only one who is not able to keep up with the pack.
5. Physical Symptoms and Increased Illness:
Your brain rules the body and when your brain is not happy, the rest of your body will follow suit. You may notice chest pain, stomach troubles, headaches, tense muscles etc. This takes a toll on your immune system making you more susceptible to illness. You find yourself going from perfect attendance to using up those sick days at a rapid rate.
You have now gone from being a ray of sunshine at work to a dark cloud of cynicism. You’re snappy, detached, resentful, and ultimately start to not give a flying (you know what) about whether or not you return that email or finish that project on time.
After all, you’ve been coming into work early and leaving late to make up for the fact you cannot complete your work during your regular shift. You’re working overtime (and most likely not getting paid for it). In your mind, you have done more than anyone else at work and you start to resent your boss and your coworkers because none of them seem to be appreciating the extra effort.
Nobody else cares so why should you?
Once you have reached the anger stage, consider yourself done. It will officially not get any better from here on in unless you take action. Your boss and coworkers at this point would rather avoid you as your state of mind is now considered to be a liability to the rest of the team which only fuels your resentment.
Although it may not feel like it, you do have some options here. I highly recommend taking stress leave. If that is off the table for you than consider switching to a different department and then there is the option no one likes to admit, leave your job.
I know what you’re thinking right now…
“I can’t do that! How will I pay my bills? How will I… (insert one of your many excuses not to save your mental and physical health here.)
The thing is, if you do not acknowledge this for what it is and continue down this path of destruction, pretty soon you will not have a choice. You will either be fired or in the emergency room suffering from a full blown nervous breakdown.
That’s the reality should you choose to ignore all of this. It will not be a matter of if but when.
On top of that, it’s not just in the workplace, your home life will suffer miserably. The people who truly matter will be pushed away.
If you have a partner or spouse, I can assure you this will lead to arguments and fights. It can even lead to more serious complications like divorce. If you have children especially, why risk their well being because you are refusing to take care of your own?
Is it really worth it?
I sincerely hope that if you are reading this and relate to even one of the signs I have listed, take action before it is too late. Talk to your doctor, talk to HR and perhaps give yourself a talking to.
Your mental wellbeing is worth taking care of! Not just for yourself but for those you love. If you put yourself on the backburner you will burnout.
Take Care & God Bless ❤