9 Burnout Signs You Should Never Ignore
Geraldine Fitzpatrick, 65, spent 28 years as a front-line child protection worker. It was a consuming profession, and witnessing turmoil took a real toll. “I was helping all these families with their crises, but I could not cope,” she says. Her job was so demanding that she lacked the energy to take care of herself or her family. She was gaining weight, felt easily frustrated, and her emotions spilled over on the weekends—to the alarm of her kids. “Nobody wanted to be with me on Saturdays, because Saturday was a crying day,” she says. Fitzpatrick now recognizes she’d been operating on fumes since at least 1995, when she began having work-related nightmares.
Burnouts can have widespread implications for our health, well-being and ability to function. There’s no official clinical diagnosis for the condition, but it’s typically signalled by three key symptoms, says Robert Paul Juster, a researcher who earned his Ph.D from McGill University: “a loss of professional efficacy, emotional exhaustion and feelings of detachment or cynicism.” The condition doesn’t only affect those in the workforce. Unlike run-of-the-mill fatigue, burning out involves a pattern of overexertion that feels beyond your control, and extreme exhaustion that isn’t helped by sleep.
“Unfortunately, some people don’t seek help for burnout, because they don’t realize they’re suffering from it or they’re worried about the stigma,” Juster says. But there’s no need to soldier on: there are some telltale emotional, physical and behavioural red flags to watch out for. Read on to determine whether you’re running on empty—and learn how to shore up your reserves again.