Are you often tired, but finding it hard to give yourself permission for a break?
Have you felt overwhelmed with work recently, but decided to ignore it for the sake of personal success?
These are all wake-up calls. Signs that you most likely need to stop — or at least, to slow down.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It gives you many signs that it’s coming. But they are only helpful if you treat them seriously.
I know how hard it is to stop. Your own ambition and the environment’s pressure combined make you feel like a failure if you slow down even just a bit. Everywhere around, you hear success stories of people who worked 80+ hours a week to build a thriving business or get promoted.
Naturally, you think:
If they could do it, so can I.
So you push yourself a little more. You hang on to motivational speeches from great entrepreneurs. You convince yourself that if you only work a bit harder, you’ll manage to keep up with all the demands.
But deep inside, you start realizing that this is a slippery slope, taking you down — not up.
The good news is that you can break the vicious cycle any time you want.
How I Voluntarily Signed Up For Burnout
I know how you feel because I’ve been there. At 27, I spent a summer at a mountain lodge, doing everything from waitressing and cleaning rooms, while also writing content for clients and publishing my own stuff.
I believed multitasking served me. I thought I could develop various skills at the same time. I imagined that the physical hotel work would be a great getaway from writing, and vice versa.
I knew it would be hard, but I thought I was a tough cookie. Some mountain people I knew were working two or three jobs at a time. And if they could do it — so could I.
But as the summer went on, my frustration grew. I was irritable towards hotel guests and my writing quality dropped dramatically. However, slowing down wasn’t an option.
I wanted to feel strong and capable. Admitting that I couldn’t manage the impossible workload seemed like a weakness. So I sucked it up and kept playing the game of proving to myself that I could get through.
And I did — but I was emotionally and physically wrecked when the summer ended. My self-esteem was lower than ever, I was in emotional turmoil, and my body crashed. I got bronchitis and spent three weeks in bed.
Was it worth it? Perhaps, but only because I learned some lessons that will keep me from pushing myself like that again.
I didn’t avoid burnout, but hopefully, with these lessons, you can.
#1: The Sky Isn’t The Limit
The summer season was blowing full out and I started realizing what I had signed up for. I wasn’t just the sheer amount of work. What made it even harder was that the hotel job was unpredictable.
I could never be sure when I’d finish my shift because people tended to turn up last minute. Sometimes, it was fine to serve a few extra guests. But more often than not, I felt exploited.
Working extra hours on a regular basis made me feel like I was always pushing my limits.
I coped with that by feeding on the “sky-is-the-limit” sort of ideas. I made myself believe that I had no actual boundaries as to how long and hard I could work.
The limits only exist in my head, I told myself.
Do you tell yourself that you can always stretch yourself a bit more? Maybe you believe you’re limitless — and all you need to do is “get out of your own way”?
The thing is — yes, you can push yourself beyond what you thought was possible. If you do it occasionally, it may even stimulate your growth.
But if you consistently disregard your limits, this will backfire. There will be physical and emotional costs to it.
If you’re not paying them now, you’ll need to pay them later —much like debt on your credit card. Don’t create this kind of energetic and emotional debt.
Instead, recognize that your resources are limited — and respect your limits.
#2: You’re The Only Person In Charge Of Your Schedule
At some point, I knew I was overworking — but had no clue how to respond to it. It felt like I had to keep going to ensure things flowed smoothly at the lodge.
So, instead of voicing my needs I started blaming everyone around.
I grew resentful towards the owner of the place. Why didn’t she hire more staff knowing how much there is to do?!
I felt irritated by the manager who scheduled our rotas. The shifts she assigned me made it impossible to weave my writing in!
The problem was that I kept all these resentful thoughts to myself. I was quietly hoping for the owner or manager to recognize what I was going through.
All summer, I waited for others to improve my situation. Of course, this never happened. Instead, I agreed to take on extra hours in the middle of the season — and grew even more upset.
When you work for someone, it’s tempting to blame them for not having organized the workplace better. But no matter how much you’ll curse them in your head — it won’t make them read your mind.
You have to voice your needs explicitly. Passively waiting around until somebody fixes your problems won’t cut it.
And yes I know — asking for help feels uncomfortable. You may believe that it makes you look weak. You may worry that voicing your problems comes across as complaining.
But in reality, admitting that you struggle and asking for help is a sign of strength. It means that you’re aware of your needs and know what it takes to meet them.
Saying it out loud is an act of responsibility. Choose to be responsible for yourself — it’s always more effective than blaming others.
#3: Success At Work Can Be Bad For You
My biggest problem began when I attached my self-image to my work. Whether I’d manage everything I set out to do became the make-or-break of my self-esteem.
Smiling and serving customers was no longer just a part of my job. It became the benchmark for assessing whether I was a good enough person.
Keeping all my freelance clients alongside the hotel work was no longer a professional goal. It became an indication of whether I was strong and creative.
In a world where our work seems to define us, this happens to many people. “What do you do for a living?” became a default question whenever we meet someone new.
No wonder why we instinctively tie our self-esteem to professional success.
This is a dangerous avenue because then every failure at work has the power to bring your confidence down. And every achievement puts you at risk of becoming arrogant and cocky.
Luckily, you don’t have to take this avenue. The success or failure at work doesn’t have to determine your self-esteem.
Instead, you can build a healthy self-image first. You’ll have a strong sense of who you are, regardless of how you’re doing at work.
#4: Toxic Colleagues Are A Real Thing
On top of juggling two jobs with close to zero rest time, there was one more issue I had to deal with.
There was this girl working at the lodge whom I just couldn’t stand.
She was one of the chefs and we often did lunch service together. Each time, she’d either make rude jokes of me or complain that the orders I took were too complicated.
Sometimes it was both — and these were the days when her passive aggression felt unbearable.
But guess what I did?
Yep, I ignored that problem too.
It was easier to tell myself that “this is just the way she is” and that her mean comments didn’t bother me. But of course they did.
They added extra negativity to all the hardship I was already going through.
Have you ever told yourself that other people can’t bring you down? If yes, stop cheating yourself. Anyone you spend enough time with has an impact on you.
Pretending you don’t see it won’t solve anything.
Calling a person toxic is not a judgment. It’s an assessment of a relationship between two people. If someone violates your boundaries or brings you down in any other way — you need to respond accordingly.
Usually, you have two options: setting clear boundaries in this relationship or walking away. Whichever you do, make sure you don’t just ignore the toxic person.
When you pretend nothing’s happening, you give them silent permission to keep undermining you. And that can’t possibly be healthy.
#5: Rest Is More Important Than Work
When I think of that summer now, it seems like I could have stopped the madness anytime. All I needed was to claim more time off and just rest.
Except it didn’t seem so easy back then. The more I worked, the more I felt like there was always something important to do.
I would fall for this trap of thinking:
“As soon as I do X, I will take a break. Just this one more thing and then I’m off.”
I got stuck in a mindset where work was always more important. And the only way to break out of this mindset is to… prioritize rest.
Many people believe that in order to take a break, they have to earn it first. Admit it — you often see rest as a reward for good work — rather than a prerequisite to it.
This logic always fails, because whenever your performance drops, you react by postponing rest. You tell yourself that you’ll rest when you get this done.
But the less rested you are, the poorer you do at work. And the poorer you do at work, the less rest you allow yourself.
The only way out of this hamster wheel is this:
You have to make your rest independent from your work outcomes. To keep your sanity, you must be in charge of when the wheel is spinning, and when it has to stop.
Otherwise, you’ll be signing yourself up for burnout — just like I did.
The Time To Avoid Burnout Is NOW
The investment in your work, the hours you put in, the stubbornness to get things done and achieve your goals — all of that comes from a good place.
You want to be successful in whatever you do. That’s a great ambition. But if you push too hard for it, you may harm yourself on the way.
If you feel that’s beginning to happen, now is the moment to slow down. Not after you finish this important project. Not after you get a promotion.
It isn’t easy to press the pause button when the culture of hustle claims you should always be moving. Grinding. Being productive. Aiming higher every day.
But sooner or later, you need to ask yourself one vital question:
Is professional success more important than my well-being?
This question helps you stay on track and keep your priorities in the right order. I’m sure you already have your answer. It’s just a matter of aligning your daily actions with it.
If you do, you can be in a completely different place a year from now.
You’ll feel energized each time you get out of bed. You’ll go to work with delightful enthusiasm in your heart, enjoying your job to the fullest. At the same time, you’ll know that there’s so much more to life than work.
Most likely, you’ll also see accelerated progress on your professional goals. And you won’t have to sacrifice your well-being for it.
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