There is a big difference between feeling tired and feeling exhausted. When we are tired, it is relatively easy to fix: we take a nap, or go to bed early. We put our work aside for the evening and watch some TV instead, and by morning, we feel refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Exhaustion is a bit more extreme. Here are seven signs you need to watch out for, before burning out has negative lasting effects on your life.
1. You aren’t thinking clearly
If you are having trouble making simple decisions, are becoming more forgetful than usual or find yourself staring off into space when you could have sworn you were just focusing hard on a task, this could be your body, your brain in particular, telling you to slow down and get some rest.
Our brains run on glucose and oxygen. When we’re overtired, we are low on energy in general, which means there isn’t enough to adequately supply the brain. Our brains use energy to think, which is why the longer you work, the longer it takes you to complete tasks. The solution? Take frequent breaks, and always give yourself down time.
2. You still feel tired after waking up from sleep
When we are tired enough, not even a good night’s sleep can completely fix the problem. Eventually we get to a point where we have no other choice but to stop what we are doing and rest, and this isn’t the kind of rest one night of sleep can satisfy. It might take days, even a week, to start feeling completely rested again.
If you are feeling this exhausted, it is probably time to decide what needs to stay and what needs to be put to the side for awhile. You might think that more hard work will eventually lead to greater success, but if you are still tired even though you are making time for sleep, you are going to crash and burn, and it’s going to hurt.
3. You aren’t sleeping well even when you do
Have you ever felt too tired to even fall asleep or stay asleep? You’re probably exhausted. It isn’t necessarily sleep deprivation that makes you exhausted, though it does work that way in some cases: it can go the other way, too. Insomnia can be a result of many factors, but things like stress and anxiety often lead to problems sleeping.
If you are exhausted because you are working too hard, it might be time to take a break. Make it a priority rather than a possibility. Sleep might not even be all you need. You just might need to step away from work for an evening or for a weekend. It isn’t going to make all your problems disappear, but it will help you put things into perspective and might give you the opportunity to rearrange your priorities.
4. Your muscles ache
Your body uses glucose the same way your brain does. The more energy you expend, and the less time you spend allowing yourself to replenish that energy, the less energy you will have left over. This causes physical fatigue, which often manifests itself by giving you achy muscles that don’t stop hurting right away.
This kind of fatigue makes it difficult to concentrate and get work done. If you are both mentally and physically exhausted, your productivity levels have probably already started to plummet. We’ve said it a few times already and we will say it again: get some rest. Seriously. Stay off your feet for a little while, if you can. Give your body some time to re-energize itself.
5. You feel more anxious than usual
Exhaustion can hit you hard when you are stressed, and this makes dealing with that stress a lot harder than it might otherwise be. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to feelings of anxiety and make you feel completely out of control, even if you are usually a calm and positive person.
The worst part about exhaustion is that its signs make the exhaustion itself even worse. If you are feeling overwhelmed, maybe there is something on your plate that you can live without. Consider handing off a task you were planning on doing to someone who is qualified, and has the time, to take it over for you. Always remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own, even if you think it’s the only way to be productive.
6. You aren’t doing good work
Maybe you have tried to start on a project with a quickly approaching due date and you just haven’t been able to get yourself moving. Maybe the person you work for has sent your completed work back and told you to revise it, or worse, do it all over again. That puts even more stress on you, which makes exhaustion symptoms even worse.
If you are normally on top of deadlines and generally do great work, and all of a sudden aren’t conforming to your own routines, exhaustion might be taking more of a toll on your life than you initially realized. Take some time to think about what is more important to you: doing so much work that it completely burns you out, or doing fewer, but extremely high quality, projects?
7. You are experiencing abnormal mood swings
Have you recently accidentally snapped at someone you usually tend to get along with? Have you burst into tears over something that would not normally trigger that kind of response for you? These are the kinds of things that happen when we are exhausted. Our hormones go all out of whack, and our emotions follow close behind.
Feeling exhausted can make it extremely difficult to remain aware of how we as well as those around us are feeling. If you suddenly feel completely out of control of your emotions, you need to step back and schedule some relaxation time. Exhaustion is not worth an emotional breakdown (or multiple).
You can, and must, avoid total burnout at all costs. Taking a break might seem like the end of the world to you now, but it is something you will thank yourself for in the long run.