How to Recognize if You are Burning Out (the Physical Symptoms)

Blog Mind How to Recognize if You are Burning Out (the Physical Symptoms)

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1.24.2023 0 comments

Burnout is a very real problem, one that threatens a surprising number of people—many of whom don’t even realize it!

One study [1] found that 98% of participants suffered at least one symptom of burnout, with 45% reporting six or more symptoms.

Take a minute to read that last sentence again. Terrifying, isn’t it? The vast majority of the population is struggling with burnout.

The goal of this post is to help you identify the symptoms of burnout in your life, to recognize what could be causing it, and to take the steps that will prevent burnout and help you to live a happy life as free of stressors as possible.

Let’s dive right in!

What Causes Burnout?

According to the Harvard Business Review [2], there are six factors likely to cause burnout:

  1. A workload that is beyond your capacity. When your load is too heavy and there’s just too much to do, the feelings of being overloaded can accumulate and lead to burnout.

  2. An insufficient reward. If you’re not getting the emotional satisfaction from your work, if your paycheck doesn’t equal the effort invested, you’re not getting promoted for all your hard work, or any other case where the reward is insufficient, it’ll push you closer to burnout.

  3. A feeling that you lack control. Not being in control in your own life can be overwhelming and exhausting, both mentally and physically. Burnout was very common among healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic [3] for this very reason.

  4. A lack of community. Without strong social connections and a community around you, you can often feel isolated, and isolation can heighten the negative emotions and stressors, leading you closer to burnout.

  5. A mismatch of values. We all have things we value, but if the people we’re working for or with don’t share those values, you’ll often find that your work drives you closer to burnout because what you’re doing is not in line with the things that matter most to you.

  6. A lack of fairness. Fair and equitable treatment is important to everyone, and when it’s not present in the workplace, it can lead to feelings of resentment, negative emotions, and stress, all of which lead to burnout.

The MayoClinic adds a few more causes to the list [4]:

  1. Activity extremes. Excessively demanding work can drain you physically and take a toll on your mental and emotional health. On the flip side, any job that is overly boring or monotonous can also require a constant outflow of energy to remain focused, and hence lead to burnout.

  2. Unclear job expectations. If you don’t know what you’re doing or what’s expected of you, you’ll feel less comfortable at work, which can heighten feelings of stress and lead to burnout.

  3. Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. When there is excessive bullying, gossip, politicking, or undermining at work, it can make the workplace uncomfortable and unpleasant enough that it may cause burnout.

As you can see, these causes are fairly common in our daily lives!

Signs You’re Approaching Burnout

How do you know if you’re approaching burnout? How can you tell burnout apart from the regular stress you feel in your daily life?

Here are a few signs to watch out for [5]:

  • Cynicism. You tend to be callous or negative toward or highly cynical of anything to do with whatever work is causing your burnout.

  • Exhaustion. Burnout can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, leaving you so drained at the end of your work day that you can barely bring yourself to get home and collapse, or unable to drag yourself out of bed in the morning.

  • Irritability. When every little thing starts to bother you, or you start to exhibit hostility and/or anger, it’s a clear sign that you’re at risk of burnout.

  • Headaches. Stress headaches are a common symptom that accompanies burnout.

  • High blood pressure. Stress, sleep loss, and other symptoms of burnout can cause high blood pressure, which may also account for the headaches you tend to experience.

  • Feeling useless. A feeling of incompetence or uselessness may accompany exhaustion and cynicism.

  • Job dissatisfaction. Burnout can make you hate your job and give you no desire to go in to work, leading to absenteeism.

  • Depression. This is a very real side effect of burnout, which can spread from your work life into your home life and social life.

  • Sleep difficulties. People experiencing burnout often struggle with insomnia or sleep troubles, thanks to the stress and negative emotions. Sleep problems can lead to more serious issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and stroke.

  • Gut dysfunction. Pain, bloating, and indigestion in your gut are all possible side effects of burnout, and may be both the result and cause of further symptoms and health problems linked to burnout.

  • Wandering mind. Diminished attention and concentration difficulties are common signs of burnout, as is forgetfulness.

  • Comfort-seeking behavior. If you’re turning to drugs, alcohol, and other comfort-seeking behavior more and more often, it’s a pretty clear sign you’re at risk of burnout.

It’s important to be on the alert and watching out for these signs so you can be aware when you’re at risk of burnout—and, more important, take steps to prevent it!

What Can You Do to Prevent Burnout?

Here are a few great tips to help you prevent burnout [6]:

  1. Recognize it for the danger it is. Be aware of the symptoms and the things that could cause burnout, and the long-term consequences it can have on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Prioritize doing whatever it takes to steer clear of burnout!

  2. Put yourself first. This is important both at work and at home. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you’re giving yourself the proper care and attention, spending enough time relaxing and unwinding from the daily stress. Evaluate your work and see where it’s contributing to the burnout. If there’s no way to “fix” that, consider changing jobs—anything to get away from the work that is causing your burnout.

  3. Live right. Spend enough time each week exercising, getting outdoors in the sunshine (weather-permitting), practicing hobbies and relaxing activities that bring you joy, and spending time socializing with others. Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet, too, and limit your consumption of drugs and alcohol.

  4. Build Resilience. Work toward making your mind resilient to stress. This includes creating new habits, like meditation and mindfulness, that will create more space between yourself and the stressors around you. Hundreds of studies now prove that a daily practice of meditation for as little as 10 mins twice a day can drastically improve your ability to deal with chronic everyday stress by building internal resilience of the mind.

  5. Build a support system. Strengthen your network of friends, family, and coworkers who you can lean on when you’re struggling. A strong support system at home and at work can go a long way toward helping you manage the stress and avoid burnout.

  6. Periodically assess your life. Every few months, take time to assess your life. Look for the things that are causing burnout or adding stress to your life, and evaluate whether they can be fixed or simply need to be changed or excised altogether. Consider how you have changed as well as how your environment and circumstances have changed. Make sure that your home and work lives are aligned with your value and the things you consider a true priority.

Burnout is a very real threat, one that more and more of us are facing on a constant basis thanks to the fast-paced, stressful environments in which we work and live. If you’re not careful, you could be putting your physical and mental health at risk of burnout. Heed the advice above so you can not only learn how to recognize the signs of burnout, but take active steps to avoid and manage it. That’s the only way to live a long, happy, and fulfilling life!









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