I Keep Crying All The Time — And Other Signs Of Burnout

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 
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I have a confession to make. (Or maybe it’s not as much of a confession as I think — many of my friends won’t be even a little bit surprised.) I love being busy. I love teetering on that knife’s edge of being comfortably occupied and doing much too much.

Here’s the thing. It’s not normally a big problem. Even though I get stressed, I am a firm believer that growth cannot happen without some outside stressors forcing us to up our game and get better. (Although, let’s not talk about how our culture is obsessed with bigger and better when really, sometimes, it’s enough to just be enough.)

It’s a really big problem.

The thing is, I am always worried that if I don’t keep writing, people will stop asking me to write — and even though that may be true to a certain extent, it’s not true to the extent that I’ve made it out in my head.

I am terrible at saying, “No.”

But here’s the other thing. Even before I got doxxed by a white nationalist forum last year or the increased violence against Asian Americans, I started to constantly feel on the verge of tears. As if I was one slip away from drowning in a torrent of sadness. There wasn’t anything wrong with my life — in fact, it felt as if I were finally getting what I wanted.

And yet.

I cut back on some work and the feeling went away. And then, the anti-Asian racism and violence ticked up dramatically in the news with the Atlanta shootings being the final capper, and I started to cry all the time. I couldn’t stop.

I kept hugging my kids and perhaps traumatizing them forever by sobbing as they hugged me and pet me and were ultimately super confused.

What is burnout?

We often imagine burnout as running out of ideas or not being able to create or work, but it can also manifest in your body (like crying all the time). The official definition of burnout is exhaustion due to chronic and extreme stress. Whether professional or personal burnout, it can severely affect your work and social lives — and, of course, your health.

In general, you feel constantly overwhelmed, drained, and as if you can’t meet any of your obligations or responsibilities. The more the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion you feel, the more you get stressed, and the less interested you become in whatever it is you were originally interested in doing.

Negative Effects Of Burnout

The worst part about burnout is that it cannot be contained — at least, not indefinitely. The effects eventually spill over into every part of your life; burnout ends up affecting your social, personal, and professional life as well as can cause long-term physical changes to your body. Your immune system can also weaken so you become more susceptible to colds and illnesses.

On top of that, you may always feel as if you have nothing left to give, and as a result, become less productive, feel lifeless — like all the energy is sucked out of you — and may feel resentful, bitter, and cynical. Now, you might in general be a low-energy person or have a somewhat hopeless personality — but if it’s to the point where it interferes with your daily activities, you just might be burned out.

Signs Of Burnout

In case you have started occasionally Googling some variation of “Why am I crying all the time” or “Why am I so exhausted” or even “Why can’t I get my shit together,” perhaps you may want to consider the possibility that you’re burned out (or on the way to being so).

Here are some of the signs:

1) Chronic exhaustion

It may initially start off as feeling tired or lacking energy — but by the end, you’re completely spent.

2) Feelings of dread

Not only are you always tired, everyday seems to be a bad day and you hate waking up in the morning, unable to face the day.

3) Insomnia

Initially, it may be hard for you to fall or stay asleep a few nights a week — but eventually, even despite feeling physically exhausted, you may find it impossible to sleep.

4) You can’t focus

Nothing stays in your brain — and this is beyond the typical mom-brain where you just have too many things on your mind. You can’t remember important details, concentrate, or even pay attention. You may even end up letting everything pile up because you can’t manage to get anything done.

5) Everything pisses you off

I mean, for some of us, that’s a personality feature and not a bug — but if you’re not like this normally and every little thing annoys you or makes you want to flip tables, you might want to consider the possibility of being burned out. You may even burst into tears because you feel emotionally out of control.

6) Physical symptoms

Among physical manifestations of burnout, you may experience chest pain, heart palpitations, stomach pain, headaches, dizziness, or difficulty breathing. If you find that you are having these issues, please confer with your medical professional.

7) Apathy and hopelessness

Nothing matters. You feel stuck in an endless cycle of depression and pessimism. You’re not channeling your inner emo, you just constantly feel as if there’s no point to anything whatsoever.

8) You can’t perform or produce

You feel as if you are crushed with all the work you need to do. It may start off as blowing deadlines and an inability to get any work done — but this is more than any sort of procrastination. You feel as if you can’t escape, and you’re haunted by (or may actually receive) poor performance reviews.

If You’re Feeling Burned Out

Reach out and get help

Whether it’s turning to trusted friends, family, or professionals to tell them how you’re feeling, do it. Even talking it out with someone can relieve some of your burden.

Reexamine what is important to you

Set clear boundaries around work or toxic people in your life. Take a break. Say no to more work. Maybe even quit your job or take a leave of absence. Create space to think about what you actually want or how you want to live.

Practice good sleep hygiene and physical care

Physical movement like exercise as well as getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods will do wonders. Not only will you get endorphins pumping through your body from exercise, taking care of your body physically will help boost your immune system and make you feel better.

NOTE: If you feel overwhelmed or that you may self-harm, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline — 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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