Four hidden signs you're suffering from burnout - and how to recover

Four hidden signs you're suffering from burnout - and how to recover
Feeling Exhausted? You May Be a Victim of Burnout

You spend the week in a hazy state of stress, performing task after task robotically until Friday when you hit your bed and remain there for the next two and half days, attempting to 'relax'. Then before you know it, it's Sunday and you haven't completed your grocery shopping, cleaned your apartment, or called that friend you promised you'd call. You're dreading work the next day and for a few hours, you fall into a state of despair.

Week after week it seems to happen, each time you promise yourself you're going "get your life together" but each week it becomes harder to motivate yourself to do so. Sound familiar? You may be experiencing burnout.

People throw the word 'burnout' around the same way they use 'tired' as an excuse for anything. But by using burnout and tiredness interchangeably, we diminish the seriousness of burnout.

"I think most people assume that burnout manifests as: I’m really tired, I need a break," says Caroline Dooner, author of Tired as F***: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture. "Then you take a break, and you’re back to normal. But usually it creeps up way more gradually, and also takes a lot more time to recover."

In reality, experiencing burnout is far more detrimental than just feeling a bit tired. Burnout is a constant state of high stress which puts your mind and body in a fight-or-flight mode.

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Long-term effects of chronic stress can lead to physical ailments like heart disease, headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, and more according to Mayo Clinic.

Equally important are the mental health problems that can occur like depression or anxiety which contribute to a decline in overall happiness.

Recognizing the early signs of burnout and implementing strategies to combat it are clearly critical but it can be difficult to distinguish tiredness from burnout.

Luckily, as a first-hand expert, Dooner knows what kind of symptoms can manifest as burnout.

In 2016, Dooner took a two-year break from her life in New York and moved to the suburbs of Pennsylvania. Sick of constantly feeling like she was not doing enough or being enough, she packed up her things and mental stress and decided to change it. She simplified her lifestyle, removed arbitrary cultural beliefs from her mind, and choose to be happy without fear of judgment.

But it took some time for her to realize it and there were many manifestations of burnout she passed off as tiredness. She shared with us some of those and the small tactics she recommends people implement if they think they're experiencing burnout.


When we give ourselves too much to do, it can be overwhelming to think about completing everything. Rather than splitting tasks up into smaller to-dos, our brains will avoid tasks entirely in an effort to process and organize our thoughts.

"What on your to-do list is NOT essential?" Dooner suggests people ask themselves. "What things are you forcing yourself to do just because you think you have to? Or just because society says you should? Are there things you can take a pause from, even if it’s a temporary pause?"

Asking yourself these questions and getting rid of non-essential tasks is a good way to ease your day-to-day stresses.

Isolating yourself

For some people, the need for rest manifests as a desire to be alone. Skipping out on social events or avoiding answering your phone are methods your brain may use to try and catch up on rest.

"One big thing, is being more comfortable saying no, even to the little things. Those little extracurriculars that you feel like you have to do, or feel bad saying no to, or were things you once enjoyed, give yourself permission to say no, and to take a break from them." Dooner says.

Freeing up your spare time to do the things you actually want to do or see the people you actually want to see is important in maintaining happiness.

Yes, it's important to talk to people and have friends to lean on. But when we put pressure on ourselves to do it all, we lose the desire to connect with others and treat social interaction as a chore.

FOMO and social media pressure can make us feel like we have to do something or else we're not living our lives to the fullest. But Dooner says you can live your life perfectly full without adhering to what others are saying - especially on social media.

"Our brains are not going to thrive on this never ending notification hell," Dooner says, "Getting out of that mentality that I need to constantly be available, responding, posting, or checking what people are sending me, is something I think is a necessary step in protecting my mental health and quality of life."

Thinking negatively

Comparison is the thief of joy. With social media at our fingertips, it's easy to compare the success of someone else's life to your own and feel like a failure. Feeling constantly stressed, exhausted, and like you're not making progress in your life can lead to a cycle of negative thoughts.

Dooner knows the feeling well and said she had to face the fear she would not be as successful as she craved when she took her two-year break.

"Deep down, I knew that if I just kept pushing through, I might reach external goals faster, but what state would I be in once I got there?" she says. "My new priority was finding a way to create a good life, and go towards my goals at a sustainable pace, where I could actually find joy and peace every day"

It's easy to attribute success and wealth to happiness, but at the end of the day, all we have are ourselves. Changing your mental outlook is difficult and may require professional intervention, but it's important to do so

"If you let yourself take the night off, or the week off, but you feel guilty about it the whole time, isn’t really rest is it? That’s what we keep doing to ourselves, and we keep wondering why we are so tapped out. The way we talk to ourselves, and the way we approach our lives are really important parts of creating a life that doesn’t exhaust us."

Frequent sickness

One major indicator your body and mind are rundown is getting sick more often, or more severely, than usual. Of course, not all illnesses are related to burnout so if you do find yourself sick more often than usual or more severely than usual, go see a doctor.

But our bodies are in a constant state of stress, especially without a nutritious diet and regular exercise, they become susceptible to illnesses.

For more personal stories and advice from Dooner about burnout, you can find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more.

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