Once upon a time, burnout was generally reserved for individuals with particularly large salaries who worked in high-risk jobs. Or the people who wanted to be them. But these days, burnout is becoming more and more common amongst younger employees across all industries. Suffering from the symptoms of burnout before the age of 30 is no longer a strange occurrence.
So, what is burnout? Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, the type of burnout we’re talking about is “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. It’s when you’re so exhausted you can’t operate anymore. And not the kind of exhaustion you can fix with a good night’s rest or a couple of days off. Burnout can damage your body, your mind and your emotional well-being. In some cases, it can even ruin your career. The scariest part? It most often comes as a surprise.
You see, burnout is like a car crash. It could happen to anyone at any time and you hardly ever see it coming. One second you think everything is fine and the next you’re hearing the sound of crunching metal. But, of course, your chances of a head-on collision increase if you’re driving at full speed on the wrong side of the road. Which is why, if you’re someone who’s driven by ambition and motivated by success, you should look out for the following signs.
You confuse overtime with work ethic
Working overtime has become something you’re proud of. You come in early and you leave late more often than not. You don’t live your life according to office hours and you judge the people who do. Leaving work at exactly 5pm seems lazy to you and you think of the people who do it as bad employees. In your mind, if you don’t work weekends, it means you simply don’t care. And you can’t believe it when people who only work during working hours are promoted. If you’re honest with yourself, it makes you angry. Job reviews don’t scare you because you’ve got proof of how much overtime you’ve worked.
Your social life is a running joke
Your friends accept “can’t, I have to work” as an excuse for almost every social event. They’re no longer offended when you miss a dinner party, birthday brunch or celebratory drinks. In fact, they’ve come to expect it. Nobody asks where you are anymore because they already know you’re at the office dealing with some kind of crisis or working away on your laptop in what used to be your living room. And on the odd occasion when you do pitch up, everyone makes a huge deal about it. No one even mentions that you showed up late, left early and spent the whole time checking your phone.
You only ever talk about work
When people have a conversation with you, they know exactly where it’s going. They don’t ask how you are, they ask how work is. Your nearest and dearest know all your colleague’s names. They know who you like, who you trust and who you think should be fired. They’ve even started talking trash about Debbie from accounting, even though they’ve never actually met her. All they know is that you hate her, why you hate her and every single detail about her. No one’s counting on you to chime in about current events unless it somehow relates to what you do for a living.
You don’t consider yourself stressed
You deny it when people ask if you’re stressed. And you’re not lying. Well, you’re not lying to them at least. You firmly believe you’re just committed and hardworking. It’s not like you’re pulling out your hair or anything. You’re not running around in a frenzy freaking out. Yes, you have a lot on your plate, but you know what you have to do and what it’s going to take for you to get it done. In your mind, you have it handled. Even if it means working a few hours of overtime and sacrificing a couple of social events.
You’re actually becoming less productive
You probably won’t admit this to yourself, but you’ve started spending more time doing less. Tasks that used to take you five minutes now take you 20. But it’s okay because you’ll finish them on Saturday. And you’re making mistakes, even if they’re just little ones. Things slip by you because you’re unfocused. Which, of course, makes you feel like you have to work harder to make up for it. You’re exhausted and your work is suffering but you can’t slow down because then you’d have no work ethic.
It’s perfectly okay to be driven by success. Ambition is an admirable quality. But only up until a point. It is possible to get a promotion without sacrificing everything you have. Being goal orientated should not mean living your entire life in service of that one goal. And burning out isn’t going to help you land your dream job.