How to spot – & avoid – an oncoming burnout

Oooooh I was getting close! But, I’m back! And refreshed! And I’m not burned-out. Yay!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been feeling a little emotionally fragile (more so than usual, anyway) and so I took a step back from my various activities and commitments to just do less.

What is ‘burning out’?

burning out

1.”My body hates me”; physical

This is your physical burnout. When you start feeling slower. Mornings are harder. You can’t sleep or you sleep too much. Your throat starts hurting, your muscles ache and you are dragging your feet as you go about life. Perhaps you have a chronic illness flare up, or perhaps you’re doing too much, or too little. Whatever the reason,  your body is not playing ball and it will only get worse if you ignore it.

2.”Everything is the worst”; emotional

Interest in life is edging toward zero. Maybe you’re constantly sobbing or maybe you are completely numb. Or you’re feeling a dip that’s different to your regular dips. There’s no strict ‘you will feel like this’ when it comes to burnouts. For me, my burnouts tend to come when I’m jittery, excitable, and anxious – and doing too much. But, I have also experienced the slow mental deterioration burnout (staring at walls, no appetite, sad/ numb depression kind of burnout). So don’t feel like every burnout is going to be the same.

And, of course, no burnout is going to be purely physical or emotional; there’s always going to be a component of both. You’re likely to feel stressed and anxious if you’re physically sick, and perhaps that anxiety is manifesting itself physically. Your body and mind work in tandem and every burnout is both physical and emotional to some degree. But, when they both go reeeal hard we experience…

The full burnout.


The full burnout is when both your body and mind are being pushed to their absolute limits. It’s not fun and it can often become a fully-blown breakdown, which is why it’s so important to recognise when you’re approaching a burnout before it hits you full force.

How to spot an oncoming burnout:

  • Losing interest

Things you usually enjoy aren’t interesting anymore. You’re not that bothered about spending time with people you usually love spending time with. Life is is feeling quite ‘meh’. Losing interest in your own life and the things/ people around you is a classic sign you’re burning out.

  • Dreading social activities

This can be a burn-out sign whether you’re naturally introverted or a super busy bee. It can be harder to spot if you’re not the sociable type as you could just attribute those ‘fuck going out’ feelings with how you generally feel anyway.

  • Literally feeling poorly

Tickle in your throat? Achey muscles? Last year I ended up having horrendous glandular fever whilst going through a difficult pregnancy, and I ‘just thought it was my body being a bit run down and it would be alright’. It wasn’t alright. I burned out real, real bad. So please, listen to your body.

  • Forgetting things

When you’re burning out your cognitive ability tends to become impaired – you might find yourself forgetting things, making mistakes and making bad (often rash) decisions. This is both a symptom and a serious escalator for burnouts, as if this continues you can fall into a spiral of bad decisions, mistakes and feeling inadequate.

Also look out for: being empty of posi vibes, appetite changes, disrupted sleep, increased irritability, lack of productivity (or, too much productivity?), and low self-esteem. See the end of this article for more links on how to spot when you’re burning out. 

How to stop that motherfucker in its tracks before it devours you

I realise it’s easy to say ‘just don’t burn out’, and that it’s not so simple to go “oh I am feeling a little awful so I’m going to magically recover and not burn out”, but hopefully in spotting some of the signs above, and employing some of the self-care below, you’ll be able to start spotting your burnouts earlier and thus, hopefully, start avoiding their potentially catastrophic affects…



Seriously, you nightmares. Take. A. Day! I know that it’s often difficult, especially if you don’t get paid sick days (I don’t, so I feel you), or if you feel pressured to be perfect at work, but taking just one day pre-burn out can work out so much better for you than if you just carry on ignoring your deteriorating physical and/or mental health and end up having to take a day/ days off anyway. If you’re the kind of person prone to burn-outs, your likely the stubborn type who tries to ‘fortify’ (a better way of saying ‘man up’) and just get through things. Yes, this does sometimes work, but often. IT DOESN’T. TAKE A FRICKIN’ DAY.

  • Listen to people around you (unless they’re a dick. Ignore them if they’re a dick).

Those closest to you can sometimes give you bad advice, but most of the time they’re pretty spot on because they’re, generally, seeing you in a less biased way than you see yourself. If somebody is telling you to slow down, or commenting that you’re isolating yourself, have a think about whether there’s truth in what they’re saying, and come to your own conclusions about how to tackle the issue. – I realise that it’s not as easy as ‘go out and spend time with people’ if you’re suffering with something like social anxiety, but there’s resources available for you to help you get out and do things – or vice versa, learn to slow down.

  • Reflect on your habits

Seriously. Look at your mood swings and your poorly days. Write them down. I’ve noticed I tend to over-do it just after I’ve had my period because I feel more energetic. And therefore I go “WOOOOOOOO LET’S DO ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME, BITCHES!” and then proceed to do way too much and crash. Write your physical and emotional fluctuations down alongside your diet and lifestyle habits. Maybe you’ll find some interesting connections.  And, speaking of writing things down…

  • Organise your shit.


All aboard the whiteboard, google calendar and Trello train. Honestly, for people who might be feeling overwhelmed – or too busy, or whatever – using whiteboards at home and online apps like Trello and google calendar are life-savers. I’m a total scatterbrain, with way too much to do, and so I’ve even started scheduling ‘Night in with Conor’ into my calendar so I can see how much time I realistically have. This is an awesome technique for setting expectations for yourself, and for visually seeing when you’re doing too much, or too little. And, plan your rest times, which leads me on to…

  • One night off (at least!)

self care

Alright alright. People who know me right now will be giving me the most skeptical look because I am definitely not following this rule. But, I should! Having plans all week, every night, is fun and can be energizing, but at some point you’re gonna fall apart because you haven’t given yourself any time to relax and reflect. If you don’t spend quiet time alone with yourself, then how are you going to get to know yourself? One night off, at least! And, if you’re already having seven days off a week, try starting with one night out a week, whether it’s taking your favourite book into a cafe, or joining a Meetup group (10/10 would recommend). Go out and do something ^.^ it’s not as scary as you think.

  • Self-care the the fuck outta yourself.


Both the serious kind and the cutesy kind. Take a two minute shower. Take a three hour bath (watch Netflix in the bath – honestly, try it). Play video games. Hang fairy lights around your room. Buy a cactus and be proud you’re keeping it alive. Watch a movie with your phone turned off. Be uncontactable for a few hours. Go for a jog (I know, but it truly helped me so I’m putting it in here). Do something new ( will totally help you out with that). Dye your hair. Call somebody you love and talk about nothing. Do what brings you joy.

And, talk to people. I know every single article and every single piece of advice tells you this, and you read it whilst rolling your eyes and thinking “I. Don’t. Want. To. Talk!” – I get it, I really do. Because I feel exactly the same, and then I have awful experiences alone because I refuse to talk to people about how I’m feeling. But really, finding somebody to talk to, even if it’s just a little, goes a long way in helping avoid a burnout – especially the emotional kind.

I also realise that it’s not easy to just ‘not burn out’. So many of us are suffering from mental health issues and obstacles that make life pretty damn hard, and make looking after ourselves extremely difficult. Looking after yourself does takes effort, I know, and it can feel like too much effort to even get out of bed sometimes. If you’re at that point, please remember you are loved, bad days, weeks, months, happen, and, even though it doesn’t feel like it, you’ve got some badass and exciting things for you in the near future. So, don’t give up.


You – yes, you – are freakin’ amazing.

bit corny? deal w it.

Also, check out some more awesome ‘don’t burn out’ resources ^.^

7 Easy Ways to Do Self-Care

7 Easy Ways To Do Self-Care

The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout

10 Signs You’re Burning Out (And How To Stop It)

16 Signs You’re Headed for Burnout

11 things to do (and not do) when you’re burned out

25 Self-Care Tips for the Body & Soul

45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body & Soul

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