Burnout Part 2: A Litmus Test

I feel like I have so many things to say about burnout that it’s hard to cover everything in a single post! So this week I wanted to elaborate on last week’s Burnout post by talking about how I “litmus test” for burnout, and how that links to other topics I’ve covered in this blog.

I’ve recently started to notice some pretty consistent indicators that I’m burning out, and I thought it might be useful to say what those indicators are, in case that’s helpful for anyone reading.

Not having time to cook

As someone with a longstanding Deliveroo subscription, I order takeaway on quite a regular basis. However, things used to be even worse: I used to order takeaway, I’m not even joking, almost every day. The reason behind this was that both my husband and I were so stressed out that we’d be too busy to cook, and so not having a microwave, we’d often resort to ordering in.

As a result, I now associate ordering in with quite a negative state of mind. I’d much, much rather cook, and I’d even go as far as saying I enjoy cooking. Not feeling like I have the time or the energy to cook is now a surefire sign for me that I’m close to burnout and need to slow things down.


Not having time to tidy

Similarly to “not having time to cook”, when I’m burnt out I don’t have the time and energy to look after my home properly. This is actually why I’m so keen on housework, and why I’ve chosen to focus my blog on these topics; I started enjoying them when I realised that having time in my life for these things makes me a much happier person, and I really feel like I have control over my life when my house is clean, tidy, and sorted.

I’m someone who gets incredibly stressed around mess, so this one is a bit of a double whammy – not only is this a sign that I’m burnt out, but on top of that I have the added stress of a chaotic environment. I think this is what initially drew me to the 50’s Housewife experiment – I wanted to “switch off” and focus on the here and now.


Not having time to take care of my appearance

When things are at their absolute worst, I sometimes don’t feel like I have time to shower. That’s a massive, massive red flag for me now. But I also flag smaller appearance-based activities; not having time to put on a face mask or repaint my nails for long periods of time can be a problem, not because these activities are particularly important within themselves, but because I do like to look fairly “groomed” and so for me, not having time to do these things regularly is a sign that I have too much on.


Having unread emails in my inbox

This is a really big one. I should also add that it doesn’t only apply to emails; unread messages in my social media profiles also fall into this category.

I generally like to reply to messages straight away. When things are going well, and I feel in control of my life, my inbox is always empty, minus perhaps one or two emails relating to “bigger” things that I need to sit down and deal with (for example applications I need to send off, and so on). As soon as my inbox starts to regularly have 10, 20, sometimes more unread emails, it starts to feel incredibly overwhelming. You really need a good chunk of free time to “declutter” your inbox at that point, and it’s no longer something that’ll just go away on its own by chipping away at it.

Conversely, when my inbox is completely empty, I feel more than capable of responding to fresh emails almost as soon as they come in. It makes a huge psychological difference. Putting aside time every week to do “life admin” is extremely important, and something that’s often neglected, which is in my view why some people seem more “reliable” than others. When you’re burnt out, it’s much, much harder to stay on top of life admin – so I recommend bearing that in mind!


Not having energy to wear a fresh outfit

This is a bit of an odd one, but when I’m really stressed, I’ll often spend the day either in pyjamas or a bathrobe, or in very plain “indoor” clothes. Having time to pick out an outfit, and actually committing to wearing it without feeling stressed that “this just means I’ll have to wash it – what if I don’t have time and then I want to wear it out?” is a really big indicator for me. Days when I feel “on top” of life are days when I can wear fresh clothes without worrying that I’m “wasting them” on a “non-day”.

This also goes for relaxing days – if I’m on holiday, or if I want to spend all day watching Real Housewives followed by dinner with some friends, I’ll of course make sure to wear something nice. It’s important to feel good about yourself, and even if it’s something comfortable, like a loose summer dress with sandals and no makeup, it’s still a dedicated outfit for that day.


Not having time to read

Reading isn’t really something I generally do very much of. Because of that, when I have a desire to read, yet it feels like I don’t have the time to do so, it’s often a sign that I need to slow things down. Reading is quite a “slow” activity in my view, so when I have limited free time, I’ll often pick activities that I can accomplish in a faster space of time, such as watching a TV show.


Not exercising

Exercise isn’t something which I tend to prioritise. But when I have time, it makes me so much happier and more content with life. It’s something I often don’t feel I have time for, because I really do need to have had enough rest before I start on regular exercise.


Not wanting to try new things

When I’m really stressed, all I want is the “comfort food” of activities. I’ll eat the same thing every day, but I’ll also rewatch old shows, such as Friends, rather than watching new ones. If you’re craving consistency and routine, it’s probably a sign that you’re a bit overworked. When I’m on holiday, I absolutely love trying new things and having new experiences. In fact, I’ve moved abroad several times for weeks, even months, in order to achieve this. It’s one of the things I like doing most. My “ideal” state to be in is one where I’m not too overwhelmed with life to try new things.


Not experiencing FOMO

I’m someone who usually gets incredibly bad FOMO on a regular basis. So I know something’s up when I’m no longer experiencing it. It’s a yearning to cancel, rather than a yearning to experience. It’s odd, because it really doesn’t feel “me” – which is why it’s such a strong indicator that I’m burnt out.


Not feeling any sense of boredom

This is probably the biggest indicator of all. I get bored quite easily, and I recently wrote a blog post about how I think it’s important to allow yourself to be bored sometimes. In a nutshell, getting bored is often what leads to productivity and creativity. Never allowing yourself any boredom can feel like never allowing yourself any space to breathe.



The important thing to note with burnout is that, although it’s often linked to having too many things on and having too little time to do them, that’s not necessarily what it’s about. You can experience burnout because all your energy is spent worrying, for example. Or perhaps you don’t objectively have that many things on your To Do list, but the list of things you need to think about (i.e. the mental load) is absolutely huge and is really taking over your life.

Whatever it is, please take care of yourself! Let’s stop burning out and start cooling down.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sammy says:

    Spot on! I fell I could have written it myself but you do is so much better.


  2. Irina says:

    It’s an interesting list. You put there things that I wouldn’t have necessarily associated with burn-out, but having said that, it makes a lot of sense. It is certainly food for thought…!


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