What is Burn out?

Entrepreneurs thrive on stress but as stress levels peak, coping skills begin to deteriorate. As coping skills deteriorate, vulnerability to stress multiplies and a vicious cycle ensues. It can result in failing mental and physical health, and premature death too. To protect yourself, it is not only important, like Khosla, to learn a few tricks, but more importantly learn to recognise the early warning signs of burn-out and take immediate action. Here's a checklist:

1. Depression: A sure shot sign of burn out is depression. Depression is caused by both stress and worsened by stress. Take a look at some of these symptoms. If at least three or more of these symptoms have occurred over a period of the last two months, then you need to take a hard look at the situation and environment that you are in. Here are the symptoms to monitor:

Insomnia: Have you been having trouble sleeping? Or in the other extreme have you been sleeping too much. or are faced with hypersomnia.
Chronic stress: Have you been feeling tired, listless and have absolutely no energy to do anything?
Feelings of inadequacy and loss of self-esteem.
Decreased productivity at work or home: This may also result in a change of attitude towards your work or relationships.
Decreased attention, concentration, or ability to think clearly.
Social withdrawal:
When you feel like cutting yourself from the rest of the world, your friends, family and colleagues.
Irritability or excessive anger.
Inability to respond with expressed pleasure to praise or rewards.
Less active or talkative than usual, or feeling slowed down or restless.
Pessimistic attitude towards the future, brooding about past events, or feeling sorry for oneself.

Tearfulness or crying.
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

2.Anxiety: The next symptom is excessive anxiety. Anxiety is the mind's natural response to an unknown, but anticipated danger. When no effective response to the anticipated danger is possible, or known, anxiety itself becomes the danger since it leads to physical debilitation and psychological immobilisation. Here's a list of four symptoms of anxiety:
Physical tension often leads to shakiness, jitteriness, jumpiness, trembling, tension, muscle aches, fatigue, inability to relax, eyelid twitching, furrowed brows, strained face, fidgeting, restlessness or being easily startled.
Changes in the autonomic activities include sweating, heart pounding or racing, cold, clammy hands, dry mouth, dizziness, light-headedness, upset stomach, hot or cold spells, frequent urination, diarrhoea, discomfort in the pit of the stomach, lump in the throat, high resting pulse and respiration rate.
Psychological changes: anxiety, worry, fear, obsessive thinking, and anticipation of misfortune to self or others.
Vigilance And Scanning: hyper attentiveness resulting in distractibility, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia, feeling "on edge," irritability, impatience.

3.Experiencing pain: in various parts of your body, especially in the neck or the back. The symptom of pain in either of these regions may be related to unconsciously tensing these muscles in a stressful situation. When chronically tensed they may become painful. Declaring that a job or boss is "a pain in the neck" may be literally true.

4.Changes in your eating pattern: Overeating or under eating can be responses to stress. Undereating results from a loss of appetite owing to excessive rumination constantly thinking about one thing, and concern. Overeating is prevalent because overeating causes large amounts of blood to be diverted to the stomach and intestines to facilitate digestion. This reduces blood flow to the brain causing a slight tranquilising effect. Since eating tends to relax a person, people under stress tend to eat more. It's also a form of self-nurturing, with undesirable side effects. Gaining or losing weight unintentionally may be signs of excessive stress.
5.Increased smoking: The repetitious, ritual-like behaviour each smoker employs in smoking acts as a temporary tension reducer. Rituals bind anxiety and can be useful in dealing with tension. However, not when they are potentially damaging to your health. Nicotine depresses the central nervous system creating a sense of relaxation. Ironically, the overall effect is to elevate blood pressure, cholesterol and heart problems. All of these are physical stressors endangering health.

6.Increase in alcohol consumption: Alcohol is an effective central nervous system depressant. It results in increased muscle relaxation and clouded thinking that reduces mental tension. Because it works so well it is a major danger during stressful periods.

7.Use of drugs: Excessive stress produces an intense desire for the temporary escape provided by drugs. Both, stimulants (such as cocaine and amphetamines) and depressants (such as tranquilisers, opiates, barbiturates, and marijuana), serve as escape mechanisms and have a high potential for addiction and abuse. The temporary benefit is disproportionately low compared to the long-term damage associated with drug use and abuse.

8.Increase in caffeine intake: Caffeine counters stress in two ways. The stimulant effect of caffeine counteracts the lethargy from depression and the ritualistic activity of consumption reduces tension. Unfortunately, caffeine is also a physiological stressor. An average cup of coffee contains 100-150 milligrams of caffeine. As little as 250 milligrams of caffeine has been implicated in nervousness, insomnia, headaches, sweaty palms, and ulcers.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's time to take stock and learn how not to burn out and keep the fire burning.