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What are the physical symptoms of burnout? Or, what is your body telling you?

Physical symptoms of burnoutWhat is your body telling you? Might seem like a slightly cheesy question, but one that warrants further exploration. A better question might be, what are the physical symptoms of burnout?

You remember you see that I spent more than two decades working as a physiotherapist (physical therapist to those readers across the pond) and I can’t switch it off…..I am acutely aware of the connection between body and mind, and how paying attention to what your physical body is telling you can be a useful key to unlock what is going on in the internal you.

Burnout manifests in many ways, not least in physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension and pain, altered posture, poor sleep, and fatigue.

Now the physio in me is going into overdrive here because much of this is to do with our sedentary, desk-and-computer-bound lives. There are some clear no-brainers that can go some way to provide relief to upper body aches and tension:

  • optimum desk and chair height
  • good, symmetrical sitting posture
  • regularly changing position
  • a telephone head set if hours are spent on the phone (sore shoulder anyone?)
  • regular exercise

But this is of course simply scratching the surface. The bigger question relates to the amount of time spent doing these activities because of pressure of work or other commitments, and the impact of stress.

Exhaustion is often a major physical symptom of burnout – stress from multiple and various sources of pressure can take a huge toll on your mind and body. Recognise any of these?

  • Waking up after a reasonable night’s sleep with no energy
  • Drinking copious amounts of caffeine to get through the day
  • Difficulty staying awake at work, especially the afternoon slump
  • Brain fog – the inability to find the right word, make a coherent decision, think clearly
  • Brain pressure – a feeling that your head is held in a vice, with tension behind the eyes, and perhaps blurry vision

Not a very inspiring list is it?

Now of course, any and all of those symptoms can be experienced for other reasons, and tiredness can be short term and linked to specific life events. But fatigue like this can be crippling and hard to break out of.

When your body is telling you that it is not functioning well as the tool that allows you to be you, it might be time to take action.

Some of this ties back to energy drainers – lying awake during the night, what is going round in your head? What drains your energy and what action can you take to limit, deal with or delegate those things?

Other aspects of addressing the physical symptoms of burnout include taking regular breaks, disconnecting and reconnecting, putting helpful structures into place, and avoiding negativity in thought and attitude. All of these will be explored in the next few weeks.

But as I reflect on Bill Withers encouragement from last week, that “we all need some body to lean on” – I want the body that I walk around in and inhabit to be in good condition, not just to facilitate all that I am seeking to be and do, but for those who might need to lean on it.

What is your body telling you? Are you aware of any of the physical symptoms of burnout? Where is there tension, aches, fatigue, and – importantly – when you start to pay attention to those symptoms, what emotions come to the surface?

What starts to fill your mind with worry or stress? What is at the root of that – work pressure, family commitments, overscheduling, financial worries?

Burnout can only be addressed successfully once the roots are identified. Sometimes, we can do well to stop, take stock of what we are doing, reassess what is most important to us, and recognise that we are neither indispensable nor required to be “on” all the time. We can learn to take ourselves and our need to be in control less seriously.

Sometimes, when the physical symptoms of burnout become too hard to ignore, we might need somebody to more than lean on – somebody to help us process what is going on, and empower us to address and deal with it. I can help….this is hard, and if this is you, get in touch for your free taster session and we can deal with this together.

Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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