A mining inspector, on the lookout (for burnout warning signs)In this book sneak preview, we share how and why you can learn to identify your own personal burnout warning signs, so that you can act on them as soon as they appear.

Before the days of carbon-monoxide sensors, miners used to bring canaries in cages down with them, when they went to work underground.  When the canary began to die, the miners knew that oxygen levels in their miles-down workplace had become dangerously low, and they must leave immediately.  This is how the “canary in the coal mine” became a potent metaphor for an early indicator of potential danger or failure.You can can save yourself significant further stress, by teaching yourself to take specific positive action when one of these warning signs crop up . You can think of these burnout warning signs as your personal canary in the coal mine of burnout.

Today, as well as this helpful excerpt, I've got a fantastic freebie for you: a brief quick-start workbook you can download and keep, that will get you moving into burnout relief in just a few short pages. Read on!

Book Excerpt: Your Personal Burnout Warning Signs

We wrote this book for two reasons, to help you recover from burnout and to help you stay recovered.  Without understanding these two important parts, as we each discovered to our own personal distress, burnout can be cyclical: recovery happens because you get out of the situation that was causing it (for instance, you graduate from your professional school or program) and you get some significant rest and care. Then burnout sneaks up on you again some years later.

As we dug through the medical research and built our system described in this book, we began to be very intentional about walking our talk, so that we wouldn’t fall back into burnout again. After all, since life continually presents challenges and difficulties, were we remembering to apply our new skills

The first step, we realized, was to recognize the signs. We wondered how we could notice we were beginning to lose it (just a little) under stress. For Beth, major signs included spraining her right ankle yet again, as well as many less-traumatic falls and scrapes.  Once Beth had her burnout more under control, she was able to identify personal warning signs that occurred earlier in the process: snapping at her children and husband, resentfully wanting extra-special coddling and concentration becoming difficult. Marnie’s warning signs included swearing in traffic, getting sick more frequently, and crying (for no apparent reason) on her way to work.

Here is a useful list of types of behavioral warning signs from the Harvard HelpGuide about burnout:

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Interactive: What Are Your Warning Signs?

As you read about warning signs, what personal behavioral indicators have you become aware of, which warn you that you’ve been dealing with too much stress for too long? Write them down, now.

(c) Marnie Loomis and Beth Genly, 2017

When your personal burnout warning signs crop up in your life, it is most definitely time to take a breath, take a break, and re-evaluate your self-care, your commitments and the pace at which you're moving.  What are your warning signs? To avoid getting even more stressed and exhausted, what specific action will you resolve to take the next time one crops up in your life?


For  many more suggestions on how to quickly and simply design your own Burnout First Aid Action Plan, click to download our free Handbook, “Burnout First Aid: What to Do First.”