When does stress cross the line into full-blown burnout? In today’s “work hard, then harder” culture, it can be difficult to tell if you’re in the middle of a crazy season, or if your responsibilities have become detrimental to your health and overall wellbeing. That’s why it’s more important than ever to notice the signs of burnout and implement strategies to recover before it’s too late.

Although it’s a hot topic today, it isn’t a new one: burnout first became a term in 1974 when psychologist Herbert Freudenberger referred to it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

A study of more than 11,000 employees at 30 of the biggest tech companies revealed that burnout is a very real challenge. The findings showed that 57.6% of tech employees were burnt out. No wonder Arianna Huffington, who experienced burnout herself, calls this stress-induced challenge an epidemic!

Signs of burnout

How do you tell if you are really burnt out, or if you’re just temporarily overwhelmed? If you are dealing with burnout, you may find yourself with:

  • A cynical outlook on work and life — Not quite as positive as you use to be? Negativity may be a sign that your mind is burnt out.
  • Fatigue — Feeling tired and feeling burned out often go hand in hand. Exhaustion throughout your whole body may be a sign.
  • Lack of sleep — Does your mind run in circles as soon as you turn out the light? What may seem like insomnia could actually be caused by stress at work.
  • Headaches – Some people have had burnout-induced headaches for so long they think they have migraine problems. Not so! Your headaches may be a sign of unhealthy work habits.
  • Emotional numbness — If your emotions are shutting down and you can’t really feel much at all, it may be your body’s response to too much stress.
  • Less effectiveness and efficiency — Getting the results you desire from your work is a lot harder when you are burnt out. When you’re turning your wheels but not getting anywhere, your confidence drops too.
  • Loss of purpose — It isn’t hard to tell when that motivation you rely on to propel you through hard work disappears. Losing your sense of purpose doesn’t just happen overnight. Burnout could be the cause!
  • Loss of passion — Every job has a few lackluster tasks, of course, but the majority of our work should bring us joy. When that passion wanes, there’s a good chance you’re burned out.

Strategies to overcome burnout

Changing your work habits can be difficult, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms above, it will be worth it. Choose at least one of the following strategies to begin your burnout recovery. You deserve all the creative energy, purpose, and determination in the world! Use these strategies to recharge and get your mojo back.

1. Focus on the Basics

If you’ve been going through a bad phase of burnout, chances are you haven’t been taking care of yourself. Start with the basics. Make sure you’re feeding yourself good food, getting the sleep you need and exercising. You need to begin taking care of your body in order to kickstart your recovery. It’s tough to get your passion back if you’re not taking care of yourself. The smallest things can seem enormously difficult under the lens of burnout, so ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable and check in to make sure you’re properly taking care of yourself.

2. Pinpoint the problem

Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter recommends taking an inventory of all the situations that make you feel stressed and burnt out. Then, next to each situation, write at least one way to make a change that will reduce your stress. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Once you’ve brainstormed ideas to improve your situation, implement one immediately.

Even if it’s a small change, taking steps to reduce stress can help you uncover parts of your life in need of a shift. Things aren’t as bad as you think you are when you take advantage of the control you do have — even if it’s just changing your mindset.

3. Make empowering connections

It can be empowering to know you aren’t alone. That’s one reason why meeting like-minded women and making valuable connections is so beneficial to your personal and professional wellbeing. Joining a professional organization will not only be an investment in your career, but will also uplift you in many areas of your life.

At Central Exchange, we’re proud to be a collective of women who can help you find the tools you need to elevate your career and achieve your greatest potential. Many of our members have overcome burnout, career changes and other challenges, and today, they’re stronger than ever. You’ll find encouragement and motivation in a group of like minded individuals. See what we’re all about — you’re invited.

4. Overachieve where it counts

Women in particular tend towards overachievement. And there’s no shame in the hard work game! But hyper-conscientiousness and over-working isn’t always imperative for good outcomes. In actuality, that “extra credit” mentality could be driving us towards burnout. For just a week, try an experiment: resist the urge to overwork and outperform in every aspect of your job. Pour yourself only into projects that count the most, like areas that directly impact revenue and your organization’s strategic priorities. So, for example, focus on excelling during the big client pitch — but if you don’t reach Inbox Zero for a few days, cut yourself some slack. After five days with this mindset, you may be pleasantly surprised.

5. Look forward to fun

When you’re overwhelmed at work, play will often fall by the wayside. Workplace expert Ron Friedman recommends that instead of focusing on avoiding your work after hours, set a goal to do something you enjoy. It’s actually easier to focus on having fun than not checking your email!

Make a little tweak to your after-work schedule and set a goal to do one thing you enjoy each week. Whether it’s painting, crafting, playing a sport, or whatever hobby or activity you really love, put it on your schedule and focus on feeling passion again.

As a member of Central Exchange, you’ll find women who’ve been through challenges just like you and are committed to lifting others. Take the first step toward your best career. Be our guest today!