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Three Telltale Signs of Burnout that You Might Miss


Nature has perfected the cause and effect method of course correction. If a plant lacks water, it wilts. We see the droopy leaves, and (most of the time) we give the poor thing a drink. If an antelope strays from the pack, it is injured or eaten.

This cause and effect thing is an everyday experience. We overeat; our clothes don’t fit. We over exercise, we are extra sore (or pull a hamstring).

But in the frenetic chaos of our daily lives, we can miss some important signals that could cue us to change our behavior. Simply keeping up for some requires 12 hour workdays. When you add family, school, church, and other obligations, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done. This kind of lifestyle is not sustainable. Something is going to have to change sooner or later. And when we don’t change some behaviors, we risk burning out, putting our health, career, school, and families in jeopardy.

Some of the more common signals are well covered: feeling irritable, depressed, or feeling frequently sick (headaches, digestive trouble, neck or back pain). These are important symptoms. But how well do you know some of the other warning signs?

Here are three of the biggest signs of burnout that can go overlooked:

  1. Exhaustion.Do you ever quip that your daily coffee or soda intake may soon require an IV-line straight to your bloodstream? Exhaustion is beyond just feeling tired. It happens when your body is so fatigued it no longer has the ability to actually rest and recuperate. Nobody should ever need 800mg of caffeine to be able to simply make it through the day. This is a real sign that something is wrong. Consult your doctor.
  2. Inability to focus.Having trouble getting through a family meal without checking your smartphone or texting a colleague? Can’t complete one task – whether at work, home, school or play – without feeling a sudden overwhelming compulsion to start something else right now? Lack of concentration is a sure sign that you need to unplug from work.
  3. Jealousy. Beware when you start constantly comparing yourself to others, wondering why Percy Person has your dream job. Feeling jealous, underappreciated or judgmental toward others isn’t necessarily about others. It’s a reflection of your own self-esteem, however shaky or in need of a boost it might be. It can a signal that you have some unresolved issues and need to take some time to talk these out with a counselor or someone you trust.

If you see yourself in any one of these descriptions, it’s not necessarily a prescription for disaster. It’s probably just a sign you need to evaluate your choices, take a mini-vacation, or find a trusted friend or counselor to help you get on the path to happytown. However, if you are experiencing more than one at once, and they last more than a couple of weeks, please seek the counsel of a physician or contact the veterans mental health hotline at 1-800·273-TALK (8255).

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