Have you ever found yourself feeling less motivated than usual but can’t pinpoint a particular reason why? Or maybe you tire more quickly and feel like you need an extra day of rest to try and regain the energy you are used to.
You may be experiencing burnout. A study at Winona State University found the average professional experiences burnout by the age of 32.1
We live in a culture that continually tries to push through burnout, waiting until things become too overwhelming and challenging before they’re dealt with. While it’s not impossible to claw your way back to health, it is more difficult if you wait too long. So why make things harder on yourself than they need to be?
Jay Shetty experienced a time in his life where burnout had the upper hand.
“I was in bed for 14 hours a day, I was completely energy-less, and I couldn't even have proper eye contact with someone,” Jay Shetty explains. That time in his life allowed Jay Shetty to be in tune with the early warning signs of burnout.
Knowing the warning signs can help you recognize when it’s time to take action before it is too late. In this article, Jay Shetty breaks down the five phases of burnout as described by Veninga and Spradley2, then walks you through the seven early signs of burnout and simple and practical ways to help you heal and recover faster.
Five Phases of Burnout
The Honeymoon Phase. When you start a new project, a new job, or any new adventure you are excited about, you tend to have tons of energy. Adrenaline is the driving force behind a sense of accomplishment. When stress and tension arise, you brush it aside because you are excited about the opportunity and everything that goes with it.
The problem lies in your mind. You convince yourself you will continue and end with the same energy you started with because it filled you with so much passion and energy. Jay Shetty explains that’s not always the case.
“There's a beautiful statement [ascribed to] Abraham Lincoln that says, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe,” Jay Shetty shares. “Lincoln is more focused on sharpening the axe because he knows if his tools are sharper, he'll be able to cut down more trees in less time.”
In the honeymoon phase, you forget to keep sharpening your skills. As a result, instead of moving uphill, you move downhill.
The Onset of Stress Phase. In this second phase, burnout starts. You start to recognize your optimism fading, and you begin to feel the onset of anxiety. Instead of taking it seriously, you assume you just need to sleep it off as you try to push through the fatigue and forgetfulness.
When you ignore the warning signs in this stage, the stress will continue to compound in the background, leading to the third stage of burnout.
The Chronic Stress Phase. As the stress builds, it begins to take a toll on your motivation. Chronic exhaustion may plague your days.
“I've experienced this before,” explains Jay Shetty. “I was in bed for fourteen hours a day. I didn't feel like getting out of bed. No matter how much I ate, no matter how much water I drank, I just didn't feel good. I didn't feel the energy that I needed and wanted to have.”
When you fail to process things mentally, it can manifest into physical ailments like a cold or the flu. The negative effect on your immune system leads to more stress for you. You should seek outside help at this stage if you haven’t already done so.
Burnout Phase. Phase four is when your symptoms become critical. You may experience headaches, upset stomachs, self-doubt or feelings of loneliness leading to depression.
Habitual Burnout Phase. In phase five, you start to experience repetitive chronic sadness and depression. You’re stuck in a cycle of continuous burnout and stress.
Take a minute and write down what phase you are in. Be honest with yourself. Are you in the honeymoon phase, onset of stress, chronic stress, burnout, or the habitual burnout stage?
“I want you to be really aware of what stage you are in,” urges Jay Shetty. “Based on your own diagnosis, seek the help of a friend, therapist, a coach, or a doctor if needed. Tell them what you're going through right now. It will save you from so much more hassle and stress in the future.”
In the rest of this article, Jay Shetty reveals how to be proactive in the early signs of burnout so you don’t reach the habitual burnout stage. Here are his seven early warning signs to check for to keep you from burning out.
Measure Your Fatigue
According to Jay Shetty, knowing how to measure fatigue is essential. There is a difference between just being tired one day and the onset of repetitive fatigue. When you start to feel tired doing things you usually find easy, it is time for you to look at some things.
Perhaps you love to jog and can go for five miles without any fatigue, but on a particular day, you struggle to get in two miles before you are tired. Then it happens again the next day, and you struggle the whole week to find the energy you usually have.
Because you have a way to measure your fatigue, you can sense a pattern of when you are off your game and know when it is time to fix whatever may be hindering you from having your usual energy.
Another product Jay Shetty finds helpful to fight fatigue is LMNT electrolytes. Natural salt has an amazing impact on your body when you feel drained, and the electrolytes in this product give him a needed boost.
Lack of Sleep
Research suggests one in three people don't get enough sleep.3 Thirty percent of the United States said they usually get less than seven hours of sleep per night even though nine hours is the recommended amount for adults.
There are a myriad of factors that can contribute to poor sleep, including
- Room temperature—65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for most people to get the maximum amount of sleep.
- Comfort level—Not changing out of the clothes you wore all day could make you feel uncomfortable in bed.
- Lighting—Maybe there is too much light in your room due to sheer curtains or devices.
- Poor habits—Perhaps you use your bed as a workspace or eat in bed while watching tv before falling asleep. What you watch before you slip off to dreamland has a massive impact on how well you sleep.
Instead of TV, Jay Shetty suggests using pink noise. Pink noise is noise that mimics nature or moves between high and low frequencies. Think steady rain, ocean waves, or meditative music. Pink noise is more balanced and pleasing to the human ear than the white noise of tv or other soundscapes.
Changing your environment to be more conducive to a good night’s sleep is a great start. Practicing breathing techniques before bed is also beneficial. Jay Shetty recommends the four-eight technique. Breath in for a count of four and out for eight. This helps to slow down your body and mind.
Brain fog can be frustrating. If you have ever experienced it, you know the struggle to find clarity in a situation can be overwhelming. The words are there, but they won’t come out of your mouth. It’s like looking into a wall of fog, knowing the thing you’re looking for is there but unable to make it out clearly.
For Jay Shetty, starting the day with a warm mug of Sama tea helps clear the fog.
“Radhi and I have launched our own Sama teas,” shares Jay Shetty. “We found that when we wake up in the morning and look at the color of the tea, inhale it, feel its warmth, and savor the moment as we drink it, it’s so purifying for brain fog and the search for clarity. It's simple and practical.”
Another thing Jay Shetty and his wife love to do is taking a cold plunge and sauna cycle. Each Saturday, they spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sauna, followed by three to seven minutes in cold water. If you’re interested in this, start small. The length of time is based on what you can tolerate, and you have to build your tolerance.
“Before I get into the cold plunge, I don't want to get in, I'm not sure it's going to work,” explains Jay Shetty. “But I promise you as soon as I get out of the cold plunge, I feel like the most alert, most clear, most cleansed person ever. It's truly a remarkable feeling. I highly recommend experiencing a cold plunge. It may sound like the last thing you want to do, but doing a cold plunge is incredible for your body in so many ways.”
Do you ever find yourself agitated by small things that don’t bother you on a usual basis? This can be a sign of burnout, says Jay Shetty—especially when suddenly you find things annoying or agitating you didn’t before.
Listen to this early sign of burnout. Try changing part of your routine, working in a different room, and taking extra breaks. Avoid making big decisions that day. Anything you can do to break up your routine will help you cut down on the amount of agitation you feel.
Communication is always vital in a healthy relationship, especially when you are facing burnout. When you let others know you are dealing with some extra stress, it gives them a better understanding of what’s going on with you if you respond in a way that is not typical of you. It may be hard to communicate that you are not feeling your best, but it helps to avoid misunderstandings.
If you start to make excuses for why you don’t want to be around people, it can signify burnout. Instead, surround yourself with small groups of true friends who don’t expect you to always be at your best. Spending time with people who care about you in all states of your life will help you overcome feelings of avoidance.
We all have moments of indecision. Ongoing, paralyzing indecision, however, is a sign of burnout. When it becomes a consistent presence in your life, it is time to seek the help of a mentor, coach, or someone who can help you through the challenges of making a decision.
Too many people are trying to solve everything on their own. We all need someone who can look at us and say, “I think you deserve to take a break.”
These simple and practical ways to identify and navigate the onset of burnout can help stave off the crushing weight burnout carries. Be diligent in identifying what phase of burnout you feel you’re in, and seek help before it’s too overwhelming. You don’t have to bear the burden when you have the tools to avoid it.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “7 Early Signs of Burnout” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.