At one of my former jobs, there was a running joke in the Marketing Department that you knew you were overworked when you developed the “famous eye twitch.”
It’s a symptom of stress or lack of sleep, but in the office the twitch was best known as a badge of busyness for my fellow high-achievers. I thought the whole concept was hilarious, especially because I couldn’t imagine ever being so stressed about work that my body would show physical signs of melting down.
Until it happened to me.
I was at my desk scheming about how to get more people to eat chopped and formed “meat” snacks when—boom!—the first twitch happened. And for weeks my left eye kept right on twitching.
Which made perfect sense when you consider the most common causes of eye twitch: Stress. Lack of sleep. Caffeine. Alcohol. Eye strain. Nutritional imbalances. In other words, what busy professionals like me spend every waking minute doing.
But the thing is, you don’t have to wait until the twitch persists to address burnout. The sooner you recognize the signs, the better your chances are of avoiding it to begin with.
Here are four other signs that you are staring burnout in the face:
- Fatigue bordering on narcolepsy- Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement. But not by much. When you’re on the verge of burning out, you don’t just feel tired sometimes. You’re exhausted all the time! You may also have trouble falling or staying asleep, most likely because you’re obsessing about some work details that seem all important but are really probably silly in the grand scheme. It’s probably not uncommon to fantasize about napping under your desk or in the supply closet.
- Edginess- You may be more irritable than usual, leading to more frequent outbursts and arguments at home and at work. Your moodiness can cause you to take things more seriously than you normally would, basically becoming a wet blanket. If you find yourself pummeling the water cooler because someone “forgot” to replace the empty container, it’s probably safe to say you’re beyond your maximum stress capacity.
- Distracted- When we're super tense, we narrow our focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat. It’s part of our biological design and it’s meant to help us concentrate on what’s most critical in the short term. The only problem is that many of us stay in this state of tunnel vision for a long period of time when we’re under chronic stress, and that keeps us from being able to concentrate on everything else. This glitch in the “flight or fight” mechanism can turn you into a space case.
- Weakened immune system- When your body is rundown from stress, you’re more susceptible to experiencing infections, colds, flu, and the like. You also might start to experience other not so fun physical symptoms, such as stomach aches, insomnia, or headaches. If you suddenly find that your immune system doesn’t seem as strong as it used to be, during times of excess stress, consider that it’s your body’s way of saying “mercy”.
The best way to avoid burnout is to keep your lifestyle balanced.
That means making time for relaxation, self care and hobbies. Whether it’s a warm bath, a soak in a hot tub, meditation, a hike with friends, a vacation or just diving into a book you’ve been dying to read, we all need some time to chill out, recharge and have fun.
And if you happen to live in the Seattle area, you can do it all at once! I invite you to check out the retreat I am co-hosting. You’ll not only get some time to catch your breath and enjoy all of the above mentioned activities, you’ll head home with an arsenal of practical, healthy survival tools designed specially for busy people.
Click here to learn more about Healthy Survival Skills: A Retreat for Busy Badasses.