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Burn-on: 15 signs that indicate chronic fatigue

Burn-on creeps up slowly and often remains unnoticed for a long time. From the outside, burn-on sufferers seem to have everything under control but inside, they’re drained, lacking in energy, and empty … they’re not only exhausted periodically, they’re exhausted all the time. Early symptom recognition is essential to avoiding chronic fatigue build ups that could make you ill. Watch out for signs and don’t let it progress very far – this list will help.

You can read more about burn-on and how it comes about in the blog article “Burn-on: how does chronic exhaustion come about?”

Alt text A woman is lying on her stomach on the sofa, dressed. Her full face is sunk into a cushion so she can no longer see anything or breathe. She lets her arm hang next to the sofa so that her hand, which is holding a notebook, touches the floor. The woman is visibly fatigued and clearly feels drained, lacking in energy, exhausted, listless, and lethargic. Inside, sufferers of burn-on often feel like an empty shell.
As soon as work and family responsibilities are complete, sufferers of burn-on feel drained and exhausted.

15 signs that point to burn-on

  1. You seem to have everything you need to be happy, but you’re not

  2. You are always tired or chronically fatigued

  3. You are constantly tense and feel stressed by everything (as if everything is too much)

  4. You perform well on the outside and are successful professionally, but you let things slide and procrastinate in your private life.

  5. You always prioritise your responsibilities and tasks (professional, family, etc.) over your own well-being and health

  6. You feel like you are playing a character to the outside world that does not reflect your true self at all

  7. You do everything you can to maintain the outward appearance that everything is fine

  8. You keep reassuring yourself that everything will be better soon (as soon as X, Y, or Z is done, then I'll be able to breathe again)

  9. You are no longer able to enjoy the beautiful things in your life and have no energy left for what is really important to you in life

  10. Down time is used simply to carry on doing work; proper ‘relaxation’ has become a foreign word

  11. You feel alienated from yourself or the things that used to make you yourself

  12. You feel like you’re lacking in energy, joy, and drive

  13. You often feel sad or depressed

  14. You sleep badly or don’t get a good night’s sleep

  15. You’re just functioning and put off ‘real’ life until later

Even signs that seem harmless deserve attention

Though not necessarily a complete list, all of these signs point towards burn-on and should definitely be taken seriously. Sooner or later, failing to do so will lead to chronic exhaustive depression and have serious health consequences. The more of these statements that apply to a particular person, the greater the need to act.

To read more about the negative effects of burn-on on your body and health, see "Burn-on: how does chronic exhaustion come about?" in the same blog series.

You are in the driving seat

The likelihood that this condition will suddenly improve on its own is zero; particularly so if it has been present for a long time. Even the upcoming completion of a project, reaching of a milestone or finishing of a task don't make a difference – not in the long term, at least. Then, waiting, is the next project, the next presentation, the next task … even more pressure, more expectations to meet, and more things for the to-do list.

If they want to live more instead of just functioning, sufferers of burn-on must take the reins in their own hands.

A man plays street chess outside. Oversized chess pieces can be seen in the foreground, with the man playing standing behind them. This picture symbolises how sufferers of burn-on must act in order to avoid chronic exhaustion developing in a way that could harm their health. Mindfulness, or a mindful approach to oneself, is the first step.
In order to avoid burn-ons developing that may be harmful to one’s health, those affected must take the reins and act.

The first step out of burn-on

If I want to escape burn-on, I first need to admit to myself that I am suffering from it. So, the first step is mindfulness. And if you’re thinking, “Not mindfulness again!” then I sympathise with you … At first glance, mindfulness seems to be an (all too!) simple answer to all kinds of problems. But the fact is: no problem can be solved without first being recognised.

Therefore, a mindful approach to oneself in everyday life is an important – and absolutely necessary – tool to escape chronic exhaustion. Only those who adopt this approach will find their way out of burn-on.

In the same blog series, I’ll give you guidance and practical tips on how this can be achieved simply and effectively, while also saving time. Click here for the blog post: "Burn-on: a step-by-step guide out of chronic exhaustion".

Chronic exhaustive depression has 1,000 faces

Chronic fatigue is not an exact science. There aren’t three well-defined symptoms that clearly and unambiguously lead to a burn-on diagnosis. Each person is unique and deals with life’s challenges differently.

One thing can be said, however: people who always prioritise their professional or family tasks over their own well-being, who carry out their responsibilities with a smile on their face even though they are exhausted inside, and who desperately try to find the ‘reset button’ for their own lives, are very likely to suffer from burn-on. Sooner or later, this condition will have serious health consequences.

In order to avoid burn-ons developing and harming your health, it is worth recognising the signs early on and acting quickly.

In the same blog series, I’ll show you an easy way to escape burn-on. Click here for the article: "Burn-on: a step-by-step guide out of chronic exhaustion".


About the author

As a former burn-on sufferer, it is very important to me to contribute to raising awareness and educating people about burn-on syndrome - that's what this blog series is for. I hope to help as many people as possible to better understand their situation, feelings, or fears, so that they can help themselves or get help. As a certified HeartMath® coach, I also accompany my clients on their individual escape from burn-on.

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