15 Weird Signs You May Be Burned Out At Work

Illustrated by Ivy Liu.
Just like "synergy," "drill-down," and any of the other phrases you hear all the time at your office, "burnout" is a common term that gets thrown around at meetings, on Slack, and during office happy hours. But burnout means different things to different people, and the symptoms are not so clear cut.

One thing that is common: We're all likely to experience it at one time or another. A study conducted last spring by Refinery29 and Secret of 1,000 millennial women found that 74% of women are stressed out by work. But the stress may not manifest in ways you might think. We spoke with women who self-identify as victims of burnout to hear their biggest, most unlikely symptom.

If you also think you might be getting burned out, taking proactive steps — such as making sure you use your vacation days — is an essential start. So is having an honest conversation with your manager (if you believe she can help you prioritize your to-do list), researching for alternative jobs or career paths, or making a conscious decision to leave work at work and pour your passion into your personal life. But whatever next steps you take, the first sign is figuring out if you're burned out.

Click through to read some bizarre symptoms of burnout. Obviously, burnout varies for everyone — if you're seriously feeling stressed out, it may be a good idea to talk through your concerns with a physician, therapist, or other mental-health professional — but these are good red flags to watch for to nip burnout in the bud.
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"I remember the moment my boss came to my desk and literally started cleaning it as I watched. He threw a plant in my trash because he said that the plant had grown moldy. He was right — and I literally hadn't noticed until that moment," says insurance analyst Jamie, 33. "Surrounding myself with that all day was a sign I was just over it."
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Illustrated by Ivy Liu.
"When I'm overwhelmed with work, I find myself always going to the office fridge. I feel like it's one thing I can cross off my to-do list. Like, okay, I've got thousands of things to do? I can get a snack and feel productive," says Alli, 32, a grants administrator.
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Maybe you're reaching for your debit card on the regular. Maybe you find yourself making "I deserve it" spontaneous purchases on Zappos. Whatever the case may be, seeing your finances get off track could be a sign that you're burned out at work.

Amanda Clayman, a financial-wellness expert, says that the way we spend money can be indicative of what's going on in our emotional life. "We live in such a consumer culture, where we automatically assume that to feel good, we need to spend," says Clayman. If you find your daily latte habit morphing into several coffee runs, it could be a sign that there are bigger things going on in your life.
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"When I was burning out, I would find myself buying stuff online. It was really soothing and made me feel like I was doing something. It wasn't until the mailman at my office dropped another package on my desk and asked me if I was stressed out that I figured, okay, maybe this is a sign that I need to take a vacation," says Kathryn, 34, an editor.
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"I knew it was time to look for a new job when I wasn't sharing any of the things I had written on social media," says Amanda, 32, a writer. "I realized that in the jobs I had been happiest in, I would share work stuff with whoever would listen!"
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"My partner would ask how my day was, and I'd get so defensive. Instead of leaning on her, I found myself feeling resentful and angry — even at home. We went through a really rocky period before we realized just how much my resentment at work was seeping into my home life," says Kelly, 33, a technology coordinator.
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"I'm a teacher, so I'm always surrounded by germs. But I was one of those never-get-a-cold people until my seventh year teaching, when I had a really tough class. All of a sudden, it felt like I was sick every day," recalls Erin, 32, a middle school teacher.

The National Institute of Health flags physical symptoms — such as stomach pains and digestion problems — as one sign of work burnout. Obviously, you should check with your own doctor, but if you feel like you just can't shake an illness and tests come back clear, it may be time to take stock of your work life.
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"I knew that I was over my job when the barista at my favorite coffee place started asking if everything was all right," says Jen, 30, a business analyst.

Obviously, it's always annoying if someone asks an unsolicited query about your behavior or appearance. But if someone is doing it in a well-meaning way, it could be a sign that you're burning out.
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"I knew I needed to look for a new job, but even doing the tiny things like updating my résumé — or even finding my résumé file — felt so incredibly overwhelming," says casting associate Casey, 23.

Updating your LinkedIn takes less than 10 minutes, but when you're in the midst of burnout, one more thing on your to-do list feels like a lot.




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"I realized I was burned out at work when my friend called me out over text. She said she loved me, but just like me, she also hated my job. She said it with love, but I was mortified. I realized that I had been taking out my work drama on all my friends. When I looked back at my texts, I realized I'd been talking about how much I hated work to all my friends, but hadn't done anything about it," says Sarah, 32, a former investment analyst who used the wakeup call to begin researching grad-school programs.
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TGIF, right? Not really. When you're burned out at work, even a to-do list of events, including brunch, birthday parties, and yoga classes, can feel overwhelming.


"When I felt burned out at my job, I didn't want to do anything on the weekends. Even watching a movie felt like too much," recalls Jess, 39, an attorney. While an occasional weekend spent doing nothing can be absolutely restorative, if it's every single weekend, it could be a sign that you need a break. (This can also be a sign of depression, so please consider seeking professional help if you sense the feeling goes deeper than work.)
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"I put my headphones in and listen to Spotify all day because I can't stand my job," says Caitlin, 29, a nonprofit administrator. "I guess it does symbolize that I'm burned out, because when I started, I loved hearing conversations around the office."

Yes, sometimes you need to wear your headphones to get stuff done. But if you're wearing them to drown out the noise of your office, it could be a sign that you need to get out.
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"I remember the day I realized I needed to book a vacation was the day I realized that my cubemate's throat-clearing literally made me want to take her by the shoulders and shake her. I am not a violent person, and she and I were friends! But for me, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back," says Erica, 34, a social media strategist.
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"This is so weird, but I know when I'm burned out when I can't make the effort to bring my clothes to the laundromat," says Cecily, 27, an editor.

Again, when the small things seem like a major deal, it could be your subconscious telling you just how much you need a break.
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Illustrated by Ivy Liu.
Happy hour or after-hours team-bonding events used to be fun. Now they're ugh. Obviously, it's NBD to skip happy hour in favor of hanging out with your IRL friends, but if it happens on the regular, it may be a sign you're over your current job.

"I knew it was time to look for a new job when I began making excuses for not going out with my team," says Ellen, who works in medical administration.
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