People Are Sharing The Burnout Red Flags They Wish They'd Spotted Sooner, And It's Eye-Opening

    "Waking up and immediately wishing the day was over so I could be sleeping again."

    Warning: This post contains mentions of suicidal ideation.

    Work-related burnout is certainly nothing new, but it's being talked about more and more as reported cases have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. But even though burnout is getting more attention, it can actually be kind of tough to spot when it's happening to you.

    So we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who've experienced it to share what their personal burnout red flags and symptoms were. Here's what they had to say:

    1. "For me it was the combo of not enjoying the parts of the work that normally recharged me and completely losing my sense of humor. Forget just not finding things funny or crying at puppy commercials — I'd cry during a knock knock joke about bananas because the punchline seemed 'too mean' to the bananas!"

    Woman crying while watching tv

    2. "Waking up and immediately wishing the day was over so I could be sleeping again."


    3. "I worked in retail, aka hell on earth. My warning sign should have been when I woke up in the middle of the night and even though my room was dark and I was horizontal, my brain figured I must be on the floor grabbing something, so I instinctively reached my hand up to move something across the scanner."


    4. "I work in a hospital and found myself wishing I was one of the patients. To be lying in bed, with nothing you need to do but rest, no work or responsibility. It is a very common feeling among my coworkers. We all know it is ridiculous but it's often the first sign of burnout for us."

    Woman resting in a hospital bed

    5. "When I experience burnout I notice these changes in my body and mind: Decision making becomes very difficult for me. I’m not normally indecisive but even something as simple as deciding what to eat becomes a challenge. I become irritable. My eating habits go all over the place."

    "I get nightmares and experience night terrors. Things I enjoy doing, like running or reading, don’t bring me joy because I can’t turn my mind off so I’m thinking about my kids (I’m a teacher) when I’m doing these things. I become very tired. I can sleep my normal eight hours and still feel like I haven’t slept at all. My sex drive decreases significantly because I can’t think of anything else but my job or the effect it’s having on my life."


    6. "Being too scared to take time off because I was afraid of all the work I would come back to. Every morning when I woke up, I’d calculate how many hours it was until I could be back in bed. Refusing to make weeknight plans because all I wanted to do between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. was be asleep because it was the only time I didn’t have work on my brain!"


    7. "I had no motivation left in me while I was at work. I started HATING getting up in the morning. I was falling asleep before 8 p.m. every night and still felt exhausted as soon as I woke up. The breaking point was having body aches so bad that my skin hurt if I touched it. I was so overwhelmed and stressed that my body physically rebelled against me. I am now only giving 70% at work and I'm okay with that."

    Man waking up feeling groggy and achey

    8. "I ignored how bad I was feeling. I was in pain, depressed, and losing my hair, but I kept working because I had to. I also couldn't sleep and my family was worried about how snappish I was being towards them. I knew it was bad when I had a panic attack at Target. I couldn't breathe or talk, and it took 20 minutes for me to calm down. I quit a month later and had no regrets."

    "Nearly two months later, during a training, I realized the feelings and moods I had been experiencing matched symptoms for burnout and secondary traumatic stress. If your body and brain is yelling at you about something, it's gonna make sure you listen."


    9. "I was so exhausted that I couldn't even be bothered watering my plants when I got home from work. I saw them but kept saying, 'I can do that tomorrow when I have more energy.' I now recognize that neglecting to look after my plants is a sign I'm not looking after my personal life."


    10. "Thinking I never had time for a break, and therefore never took any that I didn't feel extremely guilty about. TAKE. PROPER. BREAKS. Even if you think you don't have time for it, DO IT. Even just 30 minutes helps. Work out, cook, nap, watch a show... whatever it is, just do it. You'll realize when you return to your task how much it helped."

    Man eating lunch at his desk while working

    11. "Forgetting to do things or doing them badly on autopilot, then being frustrated with myself for messing up — causing more mistakes and more self criticism. I normally don’t get headaches, but I started needing painkillers every day. Bursting into tears when someone asked me to do even a small extra task. Dreading my phone, which was pinging constantly with messages from colleagues."


    12. "It got to a point where I couldn't sleep in my own bed. I'd been working so many 15–18 hour shifts in a row, and I was so completely exhausted, that I would fall asleep sitting up in my recliner, still fully dressed with work shoes and a tie on. If I managed to get showered and crawl into bed after work, I'd lay there wide awake and completely unable to turn off my brain for hours."

    "Eventually, I quit my job for a better paying, lower stress position. Seven years later and, as much as I miss what that job was at the beginning, it was the best decision of my life to leave there."


    13. "I usually love going to bed. The entire process: shower, face mask, cuddle with my partner, watch a movie. When I started to burn out, I dreaded going to bed because I knew I had to go back to work. I couldn't wait until it was Friday evening to enjoy my bed again. Friday and Saturday where the best nights. But by Sunday, I was just trying to stay away from the bed as much as possible. The moment I resigned my job, I loved going to bed again."

    Woman laying awake in bed looking anxious and sad

    14. "It can be difficult for me to focus at work sometimes already. But I realized I'd hit a brick wall when I would stare at my computer and there were so many tasks and projects that were falling behind that I just sort of became paralyzed by it. I could stare for hours without actually progressing on any of the work that had piled up. This turned out to be a huge sign that I missed. I watch out for this like a hawk now."

    "Also worth noting is that I feel extremely lucky and privileged to be able to work from home right now and am even luckier to have a manager I could comfortably communicate my panic to. He was super understanding and was just like 'yeah, have you seen the world lately? We're all just trying to do our best right now, don't stress about this stuff because we're not saving lives and it can wait.'"


    15. "I stopped eating as often and as well. I was so exhausted that making and eating food became a chore. I didn't really recognize it until I was down to 700 calories a day and coming back from that to normal eating habits takes a lot of work, patience, and dedication. A year later, I was still dealing with the health repercussions of basically starving myself for four months."


    16. "I was so angry all the time. Didn't matter at what, who, whatever, I would snap at the littlest things. Work was making me so damn angry. On the first day of an actual vacation, a calming peace washed over me. I didn't have to work, check emails, take calls, do anything but relax, and I did. My husband noticed the change right away and said that he hadn't seen me not angry in months. That broke my heart. Now we know, me angry when it's not PMS or for any legitimate reason? I take a few days off. I know this is a luxury not afforded by many. I can take some days off to just chill and not be consumed with work."

    Woman screaming in rage and throwing papers around her desk

    17. "I was told at work that I’d been too curt with customers. I’m usually told that I’m kind and sweet, and I do try to be. I felt so awful about it at the time that I had to fight back tears for the rest of the day. Now I realize it was an early warning that I was heading towards a breakdown. Two months later, I was off work for stress and taking antidepressants. Personality changes are a red flag! If someone’s being rude when they usually aren’t, maybe check what’s up first."


    18. "I worked for a toy company, and part of the company's efforts involved trying to remind you how much fun your job should be, even when it's not. So it was really hard to see coming, but I got sicker and sicker, to the point where I had partial loss of motor skills. Yet my mood was still somewhat normal. Your body doesn't lie."


    19. "I've never been suicidal before. Never even considered it. When I started thinking that maybe if I didn't wake up the next morning, at least I wouldn't have to go to work, that was the breaking point. When my therapist started telling me at every appointment that he would be willing to help me get approved to take a leave of absence because I was deteriorating so badly, it hit me that I had essentially lost all joy from my life due to that place. I didn't feel like I had a reason to live anymore because I was so miserable."

    "I also stopped eating most food and survived on vodka and maybe a frozen pizza because it was all I could bring myself to make. Thankfully I'm almost a year sober now and I am in a much better place, but I will never allow a job to make me feel like it would be okay to stop living if it means I don't have to go back."


    20. "Bruxism. Woke up every morning with my jaw aching because it had been clenched all night. I used to have dreams where my mouth would lock shut and just keep clamping down until my teeth shattered."

    Man holding his jaw in pain

    21. "I work in a medical clinic and about five months into COVID I just shut down. I would either feel nothing or feel everything in excess. I would also go home, start dinner, and start crying over the tiniest inconveniences. I was such an empty shell after work most days. I have a new role now, but there are still days I come home and wonder how much longer I can tolerate this job."


    22. "I used to have a job that made me so angry when I left... because I knew I had to come back in the morning. Nothing gave me joy. I'd go to bed with a sense of dread, and I'd wake up angry the next morning. I kept trying to find another job but nothing was out there (this was 2014, so not jobs for days like now), so this went on and on for months until I finally just put in my two weeks and signed up with a bunch of temp agencies. I couldn't take it anymore."


    23. "This is horrible, but at one point I was so stressed and unhappy that part of me wished I’d get sick with COVID so I’d have a guiltless excuse to stay home and not work for a while. Then our office notified us we don’t get any sick days and would have to use PTO if we got COVID. And that wish went away and I just got even sadder."

    Woman feeling sick in bed

    24. "I’ve always been an overthinker but when I worked at my first corporate eight-to-five job, I picked up more anxiety induced tendencies: picking the skin on my fingers, flare ups in my face where it was hot to the touch, and high blood pressure. There was a lot of turnover, which I thought was normal, but it seemed like we could never keep the good employees and I was happy to step in when those people left."

    "I would wake up thinking about work, spend my entire commute thinking about what I had to get done, then go to sleep thinking about what I had to do the next day. My days would be full of meetings and I realized I was burnt out when I couldn’t remember what I actually accomplished that day because there was so much on my plate."


    25. "I know I'm burnt out when I start spacing out random moments of the day. I'll just stare out the window and think over and over again, 'I should get back to work.' I always thought the more stressed out I was the more productive I would be, but the truth is the opposite."


    26. "When I stopped being hungry. I was still adjusting to new tasks in the position and would just work through breaks and wouldn’t notice I hadn’t eaten. I’d get home and be too tired to even consider doing anything but laying in bed. I didn’t listen to my body at all and it led to throwing up from anxiety every morning, sometimes during work, constantly crying, and having extreme stress dreams. After I quit, I had to take a month to literally just recuperate mentally and physically. You are replaceable in any company, but not to yourself or your loved ones."

    Exhausted woman sitting on her bed

    27. "I kept wishing for bad things to happen. Like when I’d get in the car in the morning, I would wish that it wouldn’t start so I had an excuse to be late or not show. Things got much worse. I would wish to get hit by a car crossing the street or to get into an accident on the way to work. I’m in a much healthier place now and realize how awful it was that I let it get that far. If you’d rather be injured than go to your job, that’s a major red flag."


    28. "Feeling panicked every time I got a new email, because I felt like every single request from a client was a 'we need this ASAP' kind of thing. At the time, my company didn't have any way of letting us set boundaries with clients and gave very little guidance about how to prioritize or push back on certain requests. My company is working to change this, but it's slow and I'm considering switching jobs in the meantime."

    "Also, not having the mental energy to do things I normally love doing, like listening to podcasts or music during my commute home. Normally, I listen to podcasts and music all the time. But when I was REALLY burnt out, most days I wouldn't have the mental energy to do anything except sit on the subway and stare at nothing."


    29. "I noticed that I was approaching burnout (again) when I was only making myself instant or freezer meals and wasn't playing with my cat. Usually, I only eat those things maybe two or three times a week. And I play with my cat for fifteen minutes at least every morning and evening. I'd eaten ramen and frozen burritos five times that week, had skipped all my breakfasts, and my cat was literally dragging me toys and begging for play."

    Person taking a tv dinner out of the microwave

    30. "Working in healthcare during COVID, I couldn't sleep but I was exhausted! My memory and attention were shot. For example, I got into the shower with my glasses on, and I forgot to bring a fork to work so I ended up eating my lunch with my hands. Every sad song would make me cry. I couldn't let go of the day's negativity and I would get angry at the tiniest things. I had lost my motivation to help others. I had to see the doctor and take leave because I couldn't be effective with patients anymore. I'm better now and working again."


    31. "Feeling apathetic toward everything, even interacting with colleagues I used to look forward to meeting with. Routine tasks that I used to feel capable of handling became overwhelming and unimportant, as if none of my work really even matters. This carried over to other daily tasks like sending a birthday card or even walking to Starbucks — things I enjoyed just became too much."


    32. "It started off with massive insomnia, and then I just stopped sleeping. I was so sleep deprived that I kept ordering stuff on Amazon and had no memories of it. It was the weirdest feeling at work. I couldn’t be alone but I also couldn’t be around people either. I would just burst out crying on the shop floor (I was a retail manager at the time). I ended up staying at home for a few weeks and got my treatment."

    Man laying in bed awake while his partner sleeps next to him

    33. And finally, "Not being able to turn off work. Even when I wasn’t working, I was always stressing about it. Being irritated by the smallest things and reacting like that to my colleagues. Crying over little things and things I would never cry about before. Sitting behind my computer and staring at it, but not being able to do anything."

    "Can we do a post on what helped you get out of it? I am still struggling."


    Now it's your turn. If you've experienced burnout at work, what are some things that actually helped you feel better? Share your experiences and what works for you in the comments.

    And for more stories about work and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts