Burnout or mental overload happens when you lose yourself in mind-made concepts, thoughts and worries for too long and too deep.
When you are truly lost in those, you begin to confuse them with reality. But you don’t get to that point without many warning signals along the way. I think it is very helpful to become aware of such signals.
Your body is usually the most reliable “touchstone” in such situations, because it sends you the clearest warning signals. Understanding them can be difficult, since your mind speaks a different language than your body. And the more you are lost in mental constructs, the less you are able to see (or willing to acknowledge) such signals. Let alone try to understand, honour and act on them.
Becoming aware of the Warning Signals
The first time I really became aware of this was years ago, when I was still working in a full-time programming job. The longer I worked, the more restless and tight my body would become. But the warning-signal that made me aware of these signals, was a slowly developing eye- and head-twitch.
I would sit in front of the screen and occasionally but regularly twitch my head to the side, while quickly closing my eyes for a millisecond. At some point I simply sat back and wondered: “What is happening? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean?”
And when I slowed the movement down, the message became quite clear:
The closing of the eyes and the turning of the head was a physical representation of:
“Enough! Stop staring at the screen! Leave this place and move!”
I think it is very important that we become aware of our own individual “Burnout Language”.
Especially if you want to be a healthy human being in such a terribly “efficient” society.
How to discover your own Burnout Language
There is no shortcut to this. I can’t do it for you. You can only discover your own burnout language yourself.
To do so simply watch yourself in times of stress. Watch your physical reactions as well as your emotional ones. Then write them down to create a dictionary to your own burnout language. This way you will always have a physical reminder that you can go back to. Especially when you feel truly lost.
To give you some ideas, here are some of the warning signals from my own burnout language dictionary:
- Lying about how much I work
- Hiding the time I spend in front of a screen
- Trying to hide moments on the smartphone
- Being annoyed when my girlfriend is talking
- Finding speaking and using my voice generally difficult
- Feeling a need to watch porn or drink alcohol
- Having absolutely no sex drive
- Developing skin-issues and rashes
- Developing issues with my gums
- A tight jaw and strangely painful teeth
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling a tightness in my belly
I hope this can give you some ideas what to watch for.
Make sure you understand your own burnout language. And if you see such signals honor them no matter what! No job or project is worth this much.
Don’t shake the foundation from which you can be powerful.
Take a break.