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5 Signs You Are Nearing Burnout and Need to Take a Break

When you look at the world, it’s hard to miss the giant strides that have been taken in society as a whole to inspire generations to come. Women can now go to university and become CEOs. People are starting to embrace their entrepreneurial sides by creating side hustles and startups that revolutionize the way things can be done. Some individuals are even able to hustle together research and create a vaccine for a worldwide pandemic at speeds never seen before in history.

But just like Icarus flying too close to the sun and getting burned, there are always unintended consequences to actions, no matter how inspiring they may be. More often than not, burnout becomes the downfall of ambition and hard work. But, by recognizing the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of burnout, you can learn to take the appropriate measures ahead of time or to reflect on if it’s an indicator of something more serious regarding your mental health.

1. You start distancing yourself from your friends and family

Life is all about finding the right balance between the different things in your life, sleep, work, relationships, social life, errands, exercise and other hustles. Sometimes, the best self-care out there is having a quick phone call with a friend or family member or catching up through texts. But when there’s too much on your plate, you might be less inclined to do that. Although not having enough time is the obvious explanation for this, another subtle explanation might be that you subconsciously don’t want to allow yourself to feel relaxed too often when you know how much there is to get done. You might think that being in a hustle mindset 24/7 is what will help you finish your daily to-do list. This doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does mean you might be nearing burnout more than you actually think, which may be worth reflecting on.

2. Your mind is unable to comprehend simple things

You might have noticed in the past that the best solutions to problems were immediately found after taking a break for yourself. Microeconomics teaches us that when you exert effort for way too long, you’ll eventually start to reach diminishing returns. This means that if you consistently keeping working hard nonstop, you’ll eventually reach a point where the output you produce is of lesser quality even though you’re working harder than ever. Once you reach a point where it’s harder for you to understand the simplest of concepts, this might be your brain’s way of yelling at you to take a break.

3. Your patience starts hanging on by a thin thread

If you’ve ever had those moments where you were losing patience despite being a generally patient person, you might be experiencing early burnout. Somehow everyone around you, including yourself, is annoying you in some way, even if it’s something you wouldn’t have noticed had you not been so stressed. A simple explanation for this is that your mind might be so exhausted that you just don’t have enough brainpower to filter yourself or exercise patience. Fostering compassion and patience for others is an important habit to have in life, so if you’re reaching a point where that feels impossible to do despite not normally feeling that way, you might want to ask yourself if this is potentially an indicator of impending burnout.

4. You keep resorting to the familiar

The truth is, it does take a level of effort and energy to try new things and be open to new experiences. This could even be something as simple as starting a new Netflix series and continuing with it. While this is very subtle and might not apply to everyone, if you find yourself struggling to continue with a new series and keep resorting to episodes of shows you’ve watched before, this could be a subtle sign of burnout. When you stick to what’s familiar, it brings a level of comfort and ease to your mind because you know what to expect.

5. You can’t bring yourself to do anything productive during your spare time

Tiktok is filled with individuals that can somehow wake up at 5 am, run a marathon and do an entire self-care routine in 10 minutes before starting their day for work or school. It’s incredibly inspiring but has also fostered this idea that you always need to be using your spare time to do something productive. While it’s a good mentality to have, sometimes you might not have the energy to do that, especially if you’re close to burnout. If you already feel exhausted, trying to make every spare minute in your day productive will exhaust you even further and spiral you deeper into burnout.

The world might be in a place where everyone is encouraged to hustle and do amazing things, both in their career and in life, but the only way you’ll be able to do that is if you learn when you’re being pushed past your limits and take breaks appropriately. The only way you’ll be able to chop down more trees is if you sharpen your axe every now and then.

Melissa Wang

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Melissa is a fourth year business student at Laurier with a huge passion for writing and sharing stories. In her spare time, you can find her running a 5km, taking a personality test for the tenth time, binging a novel when she really should be studying or deeply analyzing everyone around her.
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