Busy season in the accounting world is tough on the best of us. This is especially true when 60-80 hour work weeks become the norm including a few weekends at the office with weeks to go. Even the thought of it makes me tired. It’s important to distinguish tiredness from burning out as maintaining a sustained effort for a long period of time will make you tired. Here’s how you can tell if the busy season is causing you to run on fumes and signs that you are burned out.
What is ‘burning out?’
Burning out is “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal job stressors.”
Put simply, it means that you don’t have the resources to cope with that stress anymore after a long period of running on fumes. You’ve burnt out.
Burning out is burning through all of your resources so that you can’t replenish them. It is not like tiredness which you can replenish after getting adequate sleep,
When you’ve burnt out, you won’t be able to keep soldiering on in the same way that you can’t continue to drive a car that’s out of fuel. Therefore, it’s essential that you recognise when it’s happening so that you can start to put some preventative measures in place.
14 signs that you are burned out
It’s easy to dismiss tiredness when it’s a busy season. However, if you are displaying a mixture of these signs in your daily life, you may be burning yourself out.
- Feeling emotionally, physically, and cognitively exhausted.
- Feeling completely depleted of energy.
- Difficulties with sleeping or not feeling replenished after sleep/time off from work.
- Getting sick more often than usual.
- Frequently getting angry/irritated over little things.
- Cynicism towards the people your job requires you to interact with.
- Detaching yourself from others and alienating yourself (including loved ones).
- Inability to concentrate, focus or think straight.
- Reduced productivity and performance (such as an inability to accomplish tasks that used to be easy for you).
- Feeling ineffective and hopeless.
- Loss of passion, motivation, satisfaction, and happiness.
- Worrying constantly (especially about work when you’re at home).
- Physical problems (headaches, severe abdominal pain, panic attacks, etc).
- Self-medicating (overeating, overworking, drinking, drugs, etc).
Don’t dismiss tiredness just because it’s a busy season
Yes. You can get tired on the busy season (unless you’re a superhero with unlimited energy and motivation). You may feel disheartened and stressed and overwhelmed and this can all be normal. It can be your body’s natural response to long hours and high-pressure.
The problem comes when you feel this way constantly and when it starts to affect your daily life negatively.
Burning out can lead to severe consequences for your health. It can lead to hypertension, depression, anxiety, increased alcohol and drug use. It can also come at a high cost to your partner, family and friends, and your employer too.
Feeling not just tired but exhausted, the feeling that everything and everyone drains what little energy you do have, and feeling on edge and overwhelmed all the time are signs that you are burned out. You need to do something about it.
Do you display signs that you are burned out?
If you feel tired, don’t dismiss it. Take a long hard look at yourself, your habits and your daily work life. Then, start to put self-care first if you identify any of the signs that you are burned out above.
Start to implement strategies to help you cope with stress such as mindfulness and meditation. Prioritise sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Reduce your exposure to certain job stressors. Surround yourself with people who energise you, and seek additional help if you feel that you need it.