Don't ignore the symptoms of burnout.
If you're racking your brain trying to think of the last time you went on vacation, you're long overdue for some time off.
Unfortunately, a large number of workers forego their paid time off — if they're fortunate enough to receive it — because they feel guilty about it. A survey conducted by travel insurance firm Allianz Global Assistance in August 2017 found that 48 percent of millenials do not use all their paid time off. In an earlier survey, Allianz revealed that 53 percent of Americans had gone a year or longer without a vacation, and 37 percent had gone more than two years without one.
A 2017 survey by U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off further explains this idea of vacation shaming. Fortune reported that two-thirds of surveyed employees stated that their “company culture is ambivalent, discouraging, or sends mixed messages about time off.”
However, the importance of vacation cannot be understated. Psychology Today cites research showing how vacation can reduce stress levels, and 81 percent of managers agree that vacation alleviates burnout, which can cause serious physical and emotional health problems if ignored.
Luckily, burnout can be avoided if you learn to recognize the signs. Here are nine of the most common symptoms of burnout.
1. You're feeling negative.
You are feeling bored and are having difficulty mustering up motivation to get your work done. Everyone and everything about your job annoys you, and you are feeling neither satisfied nor fulfilled when it comes to the daily grind and your overall career path. If these negative thoughts seep into your personal life, it's time for a break.
2. You're in physical pain.
When you feel anxious or overwhelmed at work, your brain releases stress hormones as a “fight-or-flight” response to whatever is causing the stress. Over time, the less benign physiological consequences of this chemical reaction – increased pulse rate, blood pressure, sweating – can lend themselves to more severe symptoms like chest pain, back aches, eye strain, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, dizziness, and fainting. The exhaustion that comes with a heavy workload can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to cold viruses, the flu, and infections.
3. You're struggling to sleep.
Those same stress hormones may also make it difficult to unwind before bedtime, fall asleep, and even stay asleep. The American Psychological Association reports that a third of millenials do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night because they do not have time, while another third cannot fall asleep because they have too much on their minds.
4. You're making mistakes at work.
The “fight or flight” response does more than harm your health and ruin your ability to sleep, it also gives you tunnel vision. The American Psychological Association’s Dr. David Ballard, PsyD, told Forbes: “When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues for a long time and we have difficulty paying attention to other things.” Your performance at work may start to slip as this narrowed focus impairs your memory as well as your problem solving and decision making skills.
5. You're using unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If you find yourself regularly reaching for a glass of wine to relax, or looking for comfort in junk foods and sugary snacks, you may be suffering from burnout. At the end of a long day, you might also be too tired to exercise, and end up just watching TV.
6. You're engaging in counterproductive work behaviors.
You may not actively try to undermine your company's best interests, but if you are feeling stressed, you might subconsciously engage in behaviors that can negatively affect your productivity or job performance. Whether you are having difficulty pulling yourself out of bed in the morning and getting to the office on time, or you are feeling so irritable you find yourself getting into tiffs and arguments with co-workers, it might be time to take some time off to recharge.
7. Even the smallest problem seems hard to overcome.
Projects that used to be easy to tackle may not seem so easy anymore, and your co-workers' little quirks might morph into major annoyances. Michael Kerr, international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage” told Business Insider: “A lack of healthy perspective on issues can definitely be a sign you need to recalibrate your mental settings.”
8. Work has become your life.
You work all day and then you go home and think about work some more. You have given up your favorite hobbies and activities because you have allotted all your time to work and you're too exhausted to do anything else. Because of this, conversations with your friends and family tend to revolve around work.
9. You're having interpersonal problems
You are so stressed, you might be taking your frustrations, annoyances, and grievances out on your friends, family, and coworkers. On the other hand, you may be withdrawing from everyone in your support system, and your work may keep you from the very people who can take your mind off work.