These Are The Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For – And When It's Time To Call It Quits

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern resigned because of burnout – should you?
Jacinda Ardern
Kerry Marshall via Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been championed for her bravery and honesty after quitting her job due to burnout.

But while it is a feeling nearly all of us will probably experience once in our lifetime but the symptoms aren’t always clear.

In her resignation speech, Ardern said she doesn’t have “enough in the tank” to continue with her job, explaining how “challenging” the past six years have taken a toll.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple,” said Ardern, who has become a global figure renowned for her progressive politics and ability to cut through to the public.

While most of us will never be a prime minister, every job has its challenges, and psychologist Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo tells HuffPost UK it is important to recognise the symptoms early.

What are some symptoms of burnout?

  • Tired/fatigue (most of the time)
  • Feeling of lack of control / helpless /defeated
  • Negative view of the world
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastination
  • Concentration/processing issues
  • Loss of enthusiasm for work/study
  • Lowered performance
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood changes/irritability
  • Loss of interest- friends/family/social

Some of these symptoms aren’t always synonymous with burnout, however.

More specific signs of burnout include...

  • Overwhelm – bury or drown beneath a mass of something
  • Overwhelm with emotions such as anxiety/stress or lowered moods
  • State of emotional and physical and mental exhaustion
  • Mounting deadlines and missed deadlines
  • A decline in emotional health

When should we make the decision to quit?

When you’ve acknowledged that you’re burnt out it can be confusing to know what you’re next steps should be. Dr. Quinn-Cirillo says you should put your needs in the spotlight.

“What are the risks of continuing this way of living to your emotional and physical health?” she asks. “Of course, you need to balance things such as income, etc but you can consider a number of options such as talking to HR, professional help such as a therapist, basically creating some space to address the situation.”

It may be beneficial for you to be signed off whilst you support your own needs and consider your long-term options. “It doesn’t have to be a big bold move. “You may want to consider your employment options and any other triggers for your overwhelm,” Quinn-Cirillo adds.

“These can be outside of work too. Consider things such as perfectionism which may contribute to burnout too.”

Things you can do to begin to address signs and prevent possible burnout are:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Letting go of perfectionism
  • Seeking support
  • Talking to others
  • Sleeping
  • Connecting with nature
  • Having hobbies and valued activities
  • Targeted time out
  • Limited media consumption

How to deal with feelings of guilt over quitting due to burnout

You need to be kind to yourself and prioritise your well-being. “Recognise the pattern of overwhelm and burnout and the risk of continuing in this manner,” Quinn-Cirillo says.

She continues: “What are your values about your own health and well-being? How will you achieve a balanced life if you push yourself to the point of risking your health and mental health?”

Quinn-Cirillo also thinks you should be aware of the opinions and actions of others. “There can be toxic work cultures that can impact our views on looking after ourselves and perpetuate staying in an unhealthy work/life pattern.

“Consider the fact that other people may make you feel possible guilt for stopping things such as work, projects, voluntary work, and other commitments,” she adds.

“Be aware of those ‘I should’ thoughts. These can add to the guilt. They can lead to resentment, and anxiety and lead to more overwhelm and less valued living.”

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