If you’re reading this, you’re probably feeling burnt out at work. We can relate to the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion you may be feeling. We know being burnt out can cause you anxiety and depression. It may affect your relationships and even make you feel checked out from life. Personally, we have been right there with you. We’ve spent a long time in the workforce doing consulting and working in highly regulated industries. We’ve answered the 3 am work calls, done the 6-hour commute and pulled the all-nighters. Since then, we’ve talked with many of our friends, colleagues and mentors to create our personal list of signs of burnout as well as potential responses and prevention strategies. We hope that this gives you some additional food for thought and possible tools to use in your own mental wellness journeys! Let’s start with 3 signs of burnout.
1. You get easily annoyed
The first thing that we always recognize when we start to become burnt out is that our patience becomes almost non-existent. Suddenly, we have no time for idle chat, we’re short in our responses and we speak in more frustrated tones. Personally, when we reach this stage, we do not like who we have become and don’t recognize ourselves anymore. Speaking with colleagues, friends and mentors, this appears to be a similar trend and feeling.
As we grow more impatient, we tend to shorten our explanations and raise our expectations. Normally, during this time we are under immense stress and we find ourselves getting upset at even the most minimal errors. For us personally, we get frustrated when people ask us questions, when we have to attend long meetings or when groups cannot make decisions together.
We also notice that we get frustrated at small things. For example, we get upset when someone is a little loud on the phone, a printer gets jammed, etc. Weirdly enough, we recognize that we are being impatient, but we still get frustrated easily. If you recognize this in yourself, it may be a sign that you have taken on too much and you are starting to feel burned out.
2. Your relationships are affected
Another sign that we are burnt out is when our relationships are affected. When work gets stressful or overbearing, we tend to sacrifice our personal relationships first. Suddenly, we don’t pay attention to conversations, we can’t remember important dates, we can only talk about how unhappy we are at work, etc.
Work becomes the center and forefront of all we are and do. Many times, this also puts stress on your friends and family, because ultimately, they have needs as well. They, in turn, can get frustrated by the situation. This is especially true when our own frustration makes us unwilling to accept any form of solution they propose, after all, at that point, there is nothing they can do.
It took us a long time to recognize how our mood and attitude was impacting those around us. Now we know that when we are burnt out, we need to recognize the impact it has on others and work to resolve the burn out. We also have asked our partner to let us know when they feel stressed out due to us. This way we can have an outside checkpoint on our burn out scale.
3. You're always thinking about work
This one is not earth shattering in any sense of the word, but if you are always thinking about work, then you may be burnt out. In the past, we would sign off at 10pm and then religiously check our work email, to the point where we were waking up every hour just to check email. Then we would start the next day at 5am.
Even worse, when we were in the shower, on drives or long walks, all we could think about was the problems at work and how to resolve them. Even on vacation, we were always on the phone triaging and checking for fire drills. It was a never-ending cycle.
Interestingly enough, the times that we weren’t burnt out or on edge, we were able to not think about work. We were able to step away and truly disconnect. For us, it was in times of burn out that we placed the most pressure on ourselves to think about work the most. If all you can think about is work, this may be a sign that you are beginning to burn out.
Honestly, there are many more ways we personally recognize when we are becoming burned out. However, in the interest of time, we will switch to 3 tips for recovery and prevention. If you are interested in this topic, let us know and we will write about the other ways we experience burnout, along with some additional tips.
1. Set Boundaries
First and foremost, boundaries are something we feel really strongly about here at Tomodotchi. This is especially true for work and avoiding burn out. The reason being, work will never say no if you are offering your time and effort. They will always take more unless you set your own boundaries. In our opinion, this is primarily due to the fact that there is always work to be done and that no one but you understand the amount of responsibility you have.
We used to think that our bosses or co-workers knew how much we had to do, but the reality is they have their own responsibilities and problems. They aren’t so focused on you as to know everything you have going on. This is no slight on anyone else, it is just to say, no one will care about you as much as you care for yourself.
If you’re like us, then you are afraid to say no to people. This can be due to the fear of being seen as weak or not willing to be a part of the team. You likely give and give until you have absolutely nothing left in the tank. This is part of the mental health stigma that we face in the workplace. So, here are some boundaries that we set for ourselves!
First and foremost, we turn off notifications on our phones from 9pm – 6am. This was lifechanging, as people who worked for a global company, the emails would fly all day and night. Without this boundary, we would never stop working or answering emails.
Additionally, we set a boundary of doing a daily work out along with eating family dinner. Regardless of what was going on, this was a non-negotiable to help give us control in our lives. Furthermore, we forced ourselves to take at least a 30-minute lunch per day. We would block off our calendar daily to ensure this happened.
These small changes amounted to us getting time and peace back in our day. It also forced us to not work during non-work hours. It’s important to remember that everyone has different limits and boundaries. Set what is comfortable for you and don’t compare yourself to others!
2. Talk to your mentor, peers and boss
This may seem trivial, and we totally recognize that not everyone has a boss that can be reasoned with. However, something that really helped us was to have real conversations with our boss and peers. We would ask them help us prioritize our tasks.
We always had a running list of tasks and when asked if we could do something else, we would bring the list up on screenshare and ask them to help us prioritize. This served two purposes it managed expectations of when something could be reasonably done and it helped evidence the amount of work we had. Most times, the work would be delegated elsewhere without us saying no because our boss recognized the amount of work we had. Peers and bosses can also help you with the work or take meetings off your plate, allowing you more time to get work done during normal hours.
We would also recommend that you set expectations and boundaries with your boss. Ask them what their expectations for you are. This way, there are no miscommunications for how much you should be doing. Further, personally, we have had many conversations with our bosses to have them help us set reasonably boundaries to live healthier lives. If your boss is unreasonable, it is always good to talk with mentors and peers, preferably outside of your immediate team and group. Mentors and peers can help you understand if your workload is unreasonable. They can also give you advice that is directly relevant to you. If you are looking for an outside group, you can always join our Facebook group. We support one another as peers and are always happy to have you!
3. Recognize you are the solution, not the problem
Chances are that if you are burned out, you probably aren’t the only one. Stressful times come in seasons and usually affect multiple people on the team. It’s easy to feel like you are the problem when people are shouting, angry and frustrated. It’s important to recognize in your mind that you are a part of the solution, not the problem. The work would not get done without you. This being the case, remember to prioritize yourself. Don’t work impossible hours with the expectation of being perfect. You and the team are the solution and not the problem. This can be a good reminder to share with the team as well. If we can recognize that we are all working towards the same goal, then many times we come back to reality to make things work as a team.
This mindset shift has taken the pressure off of us in the past. We would work as much as we could with the time we had. Once the reasonable amount was done, we would recognize that we are helping to solve a problem. Ultimately, even when deadlines are missed or timelines are extended, we know that the world won’t end and we did our best to help. This mindset shift really helped free us from the mental and emotional exhaustion of burnout.
Bringing it home
Ultimately, burn out will likely affect us all at some point in our lives. We need to learn to recognize the impact it has on our lives and relationships. When we are burned out, we need to enforce our own boundaries and limits. You work to live and not live to work. So many times, we forget this and just keep pushing until we cannot push anymore. Be sure to recognize you are a part of the solution and you’ve worked hard. However, you are still a person at the end of the day! Also, as a PSA, it can always help to see a therapist or a professional if you are burned out.
If you are currently feeling overwhelmed, check out our article on overcoming feeling overwhelmed. If you are struggling with your personal or professional relationships, our article on understanding personality types may help! If this is a really hard time for you and you are stressed to the max, we wrote an article on remembering your inner strength. We wish you the best of luck during this time and we hope you know that this will pass. You are strong and you’ve always made it through before and you will again!
Burnout will impact us all at some point in our lives. It can affect us in a variety of ways, but for us we tend to become impatient work machines. It’s important to recognize you are the solution to the work problem and that no one will care for you as much as yourself. Set healthy boundaries and recognize the work will get done in its own time.
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As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 2 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!