Here’s How You Know You’re Officially Burnt Out

A couple years ago, I experienced my first burn out. 

I was in my mid-twenties. I thought it was just feeling tired and drained and I just needed rest. But really, it was an entire state of being. No matter what sleep I had, I still felt depleted; there was no motivation or passion. I felt sad and unproductive. It was like jogging in place – moving yet feeling like I was getting nowhere. Then I would beat myself up for feeling these things. I “should” be able to keep going. I “should” be able to handle everything that was happening in my life at that time. I “should” be able to keep it together. I mean, I have before, right?

Then one day when talking with a mentor, she said four words: you’re burnt out, Judith. 

It was at that moment when I hit the proverbial brick wall: Is this what everyone keeps talking about? Is this the trade off for the glorified “hustle”? When I finally started to process what I was going through wasn’t just some fleeting feeling or a thought I could just shrug away, I immediately pressed pause on my business, stepped off the hamster wheel I was running, and for the first time really gave myself permission to stop being responsible for everything and everyone—a specific flavor of martyrdom I grew accustomed to as a first generation daughter of immigrants (isn’t it wild how insisting we need to take care of others can actually be a distraction, or maybe excuse, to not take care of ourselves?). 

As I took inventory of what I was giving my time, energy, and commitments to in my life, it became less of a mystery why I was burnt out. I started to get curious about my habits and mental conditioning. Sure, I knew you couldn’t pour from an empty cup. Just like I knew all the inspirational quotes about self-love, self-care, and the common sense to “take care of yourself.” But how much common sense is common action? And what does it really mean when we say or hear things like “foster self-care and self-love”?

Now having just turned 30 this year—bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and more energized in my life than I can remember—I realize back then I only knew self-care as a reactive necessity versus a form of preservation to be and do what I love. Choosing to live a healthy life is a form of self-respect. And I am ongoingly learning self-respect grows in tandem with self-care and self-love.

Ever since then, I made self-preservation—my journey of defining for myself what self-care means to me—a top priority. 

Questions and reminders I have made a habit to reflect on that help me do that:

When working on my business:

This thing that needs to get done. What’s more important: that I’m the one who does it or that it gets done? Delegation isn’t weakness. It’s growth.

When thinking about opportunities or invitations:

Is this reciprocal? Do I also gain from this situation or am I the one just giving? If it’s not mutual, there’s no space for it.

When assessing my relationships:

How does this person or situation make me feel? Do I feel enlivened or down after my experience? It’s okay to let people, opportunities, and things go.

Burn out is something we each can experience more commonly than not. It’s also an opportunity to see an invitation to reassess our lifestyles, from our daily work, our closest relationships, to what we say “yes” or “no” to.