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6 Warning Signs You’re About to Burn Out at Work

What is the first thing you do at the start of every workday? Do you grab a cup of coffee? Do you chat with colleagues? Do you check your mailbox? Or do you scroll the Facebook News Feed?

Wait a minute, is it about your work?

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The successful workday is not about the total number of hours worked; it’s about the amount of job get done. While many people don’t know how to split their time and energy between work and life, they often fail at keeping a work-life balance, so the number of people who face burnout is growing.

No matter what your profession is, you may have heard about burnout (or even experienced it). However, let’s understand what it means scientifically:

What is burnout?

In 1974, the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

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In plain English, burnout is the emotional and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress at work. Working long hours, dealing with tough deadlines, and toxic work environment are just a few reasons for work stress.

The effects of burnout

Believe it or not, anyone can experience job burnout. According to the book The Happiness Track, around 50% of workers burn out. The mental impact of burnout can be serious as it has long-term consequences.

As specified in Kahill report, burnout often leads to poor physical health, depression, turnover, unproductive work behaviors, and reduced job satisfaction. It means burning out can prevent workers from climbing the career ladder.

Another study by Armita Golkar, Ph.D., at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden states that burnout changes neural circuits in the brain and hurts people’s ability to cope with stressful situations.

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The bottom line? Burnout has lasting negative effects on employees’ well-being.

Thus, spotting warning signs about burnout means having a card up your sleeve: you have time to prevent the illness. Here’s the list of signs you’re about to burn out at work:

1. Constant Worrying

No matter what you do, whether you communicate with a client or fulfill a weekly report, you feel stressed. Actually, you don’t know the root of your worrying, but you can’t get rid of this feeling.

The hallmark of burnout is constant worrying about large and small things. When you are burning out, you can’t help worrying. Obviously, it reduces your productivity and affects your job performance which means you can’t work well. As a result, it leads to burnout. And it’s the vicious circles all stressed workers are caught in.

All people know that stop worrying is a must for better productivity, but it’s easier said than done.

While it’s impossible simply tell yourself to stop worrying, you can learn from other people how to spot this sign and start acting against your negative mood.

In 1948, Dale Carnegie published a book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living where he stated: “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”

2. Moodiness

Being confident and satisfied one minute and worrying the next one. Sounds familiar?

Mood swings are in our nature, but having some mental illnesses like burnout can lead to moodiness at work. When you try to deal with stress, erratic moods are normal.

At the same time, your colleagues with mood swings may have an influence on you as well.


Sigal Barsade, Ph.D., claims moodiness affects not only you but your coworkers as well. She has revealed an effect of emotional contagion, and both positive and negative emotions can be contagious. Working in groups, employees are more likely to mirror the same emotions. If your coworker is moody and depressed at work, you can “catch” that mood fell down yourself.

If you have rapid changes in mood, pay attention to your mental health. As it can be a warning sign that you’re about to burn out.

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