Burnout: 13 Symptoms and Solutions

Posted by Jack Warren, Chase Oaks Chief of Staff, on May 29, 2024

Burnout: 13 Symptoms and Solutions

A few years ago, I learned about the term quiet quitting. It describes a worker’s mindset when they’ve lost their passion, drive, and commitment to their company, but still appreciate the paycheck. Quiet quitters aren’t looking to make a difference or take on any extra work. They’re still physically present in the job, but they’ve mentally checked out. Sound crazy?  It’s not. Some sociologists say we’re in the middle of a quiet-quitting epidemic. This may be a symptom of a bigger and more widespread problem: burnout.

We’ve all seen people sell their soul for their organization, working 70+ hours a week and giving their all for years before eventually hitting burnout. It’s a condition that slowly works its way into us… and once it has taken hold, it requires some significant action to overcome. 

I’ve had a couple of close calls related to burnout. I love my job, enough that I tend to work more than I should. 

I’ll never forget a mentor telling me to take a two-week vacation and read a book called “Running on Empty.” He warned me that if I didn’t slow down, I would crash and burn. Initially, I thought he was weak, until he shared that he had been in a similar state and had damaged some close relationships as a result.

He had let his love for work overcome his love for life—and for the most important people in his life. 

13 Symptoms of Burnout 

So what’s burnout look like? According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout can show up in things like low motivation or value for work, or a lack of energy or focus on your job. Burnout can also manifest as shifts in behavior (like sleep habits) and physical symptoms with no known cause. 

Just as a car’s warning indicators light up when there’s a potential problem, we can look at certain life indicators to see if we are nearing burnout. Think through the categories below to see whether areas in your life need adjusting. Whether or not you’re experiencing these symptoms, this is a great exercise to discuss with a close friend.

1. Isolation. We can be surrounded by people and yet be isolated physically, emotionally, spiritually, or relationally. 

Solution: Connection. To combat isolation and stay connected, we need to invest time in others. That includes having intentional conversations, like identifying and expressing our emotions and relational needs. 


2. No margin for rest. All work and no play make Jack a tired, grouchy, no-fun boy.

Solution: Schedule rest. Often the only way to create margin for rest is to put it in your calendar, share it with the people closest to you, and ask them to keep you accountable. 


3. Unprocessed pain. Running fast for a long period of time is hard but doing it with a 50-pound backpack is even harder. Carrying unprocessed pain, both past and present, has the same effect on our productivity and well-being.

Solution: Commit to working through your pain. Unsure if you have any unprocessed pain?  Ask a few people who know your past and present.  It helps if they are high in emotional intelligence. 

 

4. Lack of boundaries. Are you a person who is quick to take on others’ problems? Many helpful people feel responsible to take on the weight of the world, but a boundaryless life is an exhausting life.

Solution: Learn and practice some personal boundaries. One great place to start: read “Boundaries” by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud.

 

5. Caring for too many others. I know parents with 8+ kids and I wonder, “How do they survive?” I also know people who have 30 direct reports or lead many-member small groups. Wanting to care for others is admirable and good, but we must be realistic about our limits.

Solution: Narrow your span of care. I am not encouraging you to get rid of your kids.  I am, however, encouraging you to evaluate how many people you can care for, and to be intentional about allowing others to help.

 

6. Ongoing care for high-needs individuals. This is a hard one. Caring for a chronically ill family member or having older parents move in with you can be a huge energy burn.  Helping a close friend with a health crisis can also take a disproportionate amount of energy. 

Solution: Unload ordinary responsibilities whenever possible. We aren’t superhumans—we are humans with limitations. Ask for help with things beyond your limits.

 

7. Proximity to harmful people. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “toxic people.” It can be misused to describe people who just disagree with us, but some people are truly harmful (knowingly or not). For example, they might be emotionally unhealthy, irresponsible, or disrespectful of boundaries.

Solution: Set some very strong boundaries with these people. See this article on boundaries for a starting point.

 

8. Poor rhythms. Life is meant to be lived with a healthy rhythm. When we don’t have that for a prolonged period, we can get out of sorts and need help to recover. Dr. Bessel van er Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps the Score” explains how our physical body reflects what’s happening in our mental and emotional world, including stress and the lack of good rhythms. 

Solution: Find a good cadence for healthy practices. Engage in restorative things like silence, meditation, rest, hospitality, and community. Enlist loved ones to help.

 

9. Unrealistic expectations at work. Some companies will use you to reach their goals or quotas. As long as you say “yes,” they will keep demanding more. Companies that care more about their bottom line than the health of their people will have a huge turnover rate. Don’t stay there. 

Solution: Communicate your needs and limits. If your job is unrealistic, address it with management.  If supervisors aren’t responsive, work hard, but work hard to find a better place. 


10. Unhealthy regulators. Having lost my wife almost a year ago to cancer, I joined a grief group and learned about unhealthy regulators.  These are pain-relieving behaviors that give us a quick hit of dopamine but do long-term damage to our souls and our bodies. Abusing alcohol, shopping, extreme working out, eating, and sex can all provide a sense of relief and happiness, but they can also have a very dark effect on us.   

Solution: Pursue happiness, but do it according to God’s design. Seek out healthy, helpful regulators that replenish your soul and body.

 

11. Untreated depression. It’s one thing to have a bad day, but another to have a bad month or year that steals our joy and fulfillment.  Be careful with persistent sadness, apathy, and unhappiness.

Solution: Seek help. Take these things seriously; courageously address them before they take hold long-term. 

 

12. Resentment/anger/bitterness. An angry heart can become hardened with long-term bitterness, resentment, and contempt.  This can occupy too much of our headspace and move us towards burnout.    

Solution: Forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't easy, but it’s necessary to achieve freedom and peace. The more hurtful the offense, the more challenging forgiveness will be. This process takes time. I have found that it helps to walk through this journey toward forgiveness with a guide (like a mentor, pastor, counselor, or wise friend).

 

13. Ongoing relational tension. Have you ever had a small pebble in your shoe and decided to just push through it?  It doesn’t go away—in fact, left unattended, it can cause a bruise or blister and make it impossible to keep moving.  Unattended relational tension in marriage, family, and friendships is the same. 

Solution: Address the tension. Slow down, take off the shoe and get rid of the rock (address the issue), and enjoy moving ahead. 

 

Questions To Consider: 

  • Are you experiencing any of the above symptoms? 
  • Who can you talk to about those symptoms?
  • What action can you take to move back toward fulfillment and joy?

Why am I so passionate about helping you avoid burnout? It’s because you are too important to burn out. You are needed! The world is better with you in it. Your company is better with you fulfilled. Your family is better with a healthy, rested, passionate you.

 If you sense you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, please don’t wait until the crash.  Address the symptoms with the right people and practices.  

 Looking for more to help with things like burnout? Check out our Care page which includes resources for counseling, support groups, and more. 

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