10 Ways to Tell You're Burnt Out & How to Reignite

“I’m burnt out,” my daughter said to me the other day as we hurled down the freeway to her second softball practice of the day.

I glanced at her slouched in the seat next to me and felt a dark, deep pang of recognition. I wanted to nip off the next exit and take my baby home, but I also knew that she’d be letting down her team and her coaches, and we were almost there anyways.

So instead, I did the logical thing for an equally burnt out person — I commiserated.

“Yup, I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. myself. I did a few hours work, ran to school to unpack two pallets of cookie dough for the baseball fundraiser, hauled boxes, distributed the stuff, ran home, started dinner, and now after I drop you off, I have to go to the grocery store, finish some editing, answer emails, feed you guys…”

This admittedly dickhead mom move was a classic sign of burnout, which, according to Psychology Today is a “state of chronic stress” that leads to:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion (CHECK)
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment (DOUBLE CHECK)
  • Cynicism and detachment (AKA DICKHEAD MOM)

The “good” news is that we are all feeling it.

The “bad” news is that we are feeling it.

How do I know this?

Well, I asked my friends on Facebook what was on their minds, and the flurry of answers all supported my theory that we’re collectively about to go up in flames.

We had a number of Netflix bingers fretting about not having enough time to power through, say, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, or even more dauntingly, Game of Thrones. Even the word binging sounds uncomfortable and actually not all that relaxing.

Speaking of “winter is coming,” there was a sleigh full o’ peeps fretting about how stores are rushing the season so hard and fast that Thanksgiving has already been gobbled up by Christmas.

Witness the whole dumb-ass Starbucks cup controversy, and you’ll know that everyone’s just about ready to unload a Chestnut Praline Latte-esque frothy hot mess all over the place.

Still others are fretting about bills, getting their kids into school (high school, college, etc.), and the perennial stressor that is youth sports play-off season. And then there was my one BBF whose kids were done with everything and was now staring at a vacant abyss, wondering what shoe would drop next. Hullo, shell-shocked burnout!

And then there are those of us who want nothing more than to slink into the oblivion of a worn, saggy, comfy pair of old gray sweats, but instead we have constant media reminders that we SHOULD be looking at ourselves with pride in our whole being and NOT just how we look physically… and this special pre-holiday message is inevitably delivered by on-camera women who are picture perfect.

Next, cue holiday segments about how you SHOULD cook festive meals, SHOULD decorate your Martha Stewart living spaces, SHOULD take the perfect family photos for the annual card, SHOULD shop for this year’s hottest gifts, and generally how you SHOULD throw it down for the next month so goddamn hard you can’t feel your face or any other extremity for that matter… in a way only the holidaze can.

My bitches, life is shoulding all over us!

‘Tis the preseason for that crushing feeling that the finish line (a winter break, as it were) is close enough to feel it, yet far enough away that you’re pretty sure you’ll never make it.

In case you’re wondering what the 10 signs are that you’re burning out, check da list:

1. Exhaustion/fatigue

2. Sleep issues

3. Lack of motivation

4. Frustration, cynicsism, negativity

5. Forgetful, problems concentrating

6. Slipping performance

7. Conflicts, arguments

8. Physical symptoms (shortness of breath, etc.) and illness

9. Lose or gain weight

10. Anxiety, depression, anger

Any of it sound familiar?

There are loads of ways to reignite, and I’ve talked about a lot of them over time.

Then again, it’s all a bunch of jibber jab unless you actually do something to get your special sumpin’ back.

Herein lies the Catch-22 of repairing your burnt out self, which, by the way, is not a quick fix and usually involves a lifestyle change. You’ve got to get it up for shifting things around just when you feel limpest and most forlorn.

There are a few things you can do that will bring that spark back to your life — just in time for the holidaze:

1. Go outside for 15 minutes a day: Mother Nature loves you! So get the hell away from your desk or house or wherever you spend your days, and go out and smell the flowers (or the rain or sleet or whatever is going on in your neck of the woods).

2. Make it burn — aka exercise: This is the first thing to go when the season gets busy. I signed up for a spin challenge to make sure I don’t let this one slip. That endorphin release is crucial.

3. Make a list of what stresses you out, and commit to eliminating or shifting at least one thing: For example, I’m a Masshole – a Massachusetts driver – and so navigating LA traffic as I do every single day has a way of pushing the stress level to 11. I’ve recently started a playlist on Spotify I call “loud n good” (and if you follow me on Spotify, please, partake!), cuz a little headbanging while driving has really shifted the stress right out of my various commutes. If not made me look like an even bigger Masshole behind the wheel.

4. Say NO. And mean it. This can be a tough one, especially with all the holidaze invites heading your way, but believe you me — a smaller guest list never hurt anyone. You might be paying burnout relief forward!

5. Ask for help. Who among us asks for someone to give us a hand? In that cookie dough delivery scenario I mentioned above, that morning I thought about how I was going to do it myself, and decided I wasn’t. I asked a BBF to join me, and she was a complete lifesaver. Then once I got to school, I asked again for help and it was granted by a very kind baseball coach that could’ve been taking a lunch break, but instead did much of the heavy lifting. Done and done.

6. Take a day. For yourself, for your burnt out babies, for whoever needs it. Don’t hold your breath for a planned vacation — you’ll pass out long before then.

7. Unplug — at least at night. One of my big problems of late are crappy sleep patterns. It dawned on me that buzzing text messages, and also reaching for my phone to play Words with Friends when I can’t sleep just perpetuates the problem. Either power down or at least leave your tiny handheld device from the future in another room.

8. Do the thing(s) that brings you pleasure. This is literal — hobbies, sex, whatever it is you’ve back-burnered is contributing to your burnout — trust me. Take the time to do what you dig.

9. Get some sleep. Even if you need a little aid — whatever it is that floats your boat and lets you sleep, just do it. Cuz I’m tired of being tired — aren’t you?

10. Laugh a little. Or a lot. I’m gonna say the aforementioned Master of None would be a safe bet. But don’t force yourself to binge; just take it slow and let it rip over time. Savor it, even. And before you know it, those burnt out blues will go away with a belly laugh (or two or six).

So if you see me making a quick turn off the next exit, just know that sometimes you have to listen to your Universe and bail on the burnout. After all, there are miles to go, and the world’s a much darker place when the your bright light stops shining.

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