Burnout is a combination of symptoms, usually in response to over-exertion and excessive stress, both physical and mental, over a long period of time. Essentially, the body gets to the point where it can no longer continue and goes for a forced stop.
In our modern world, where stress is rampant and commonplace, many find themselves either at the brink of or suffering from burnout that has serious consequences of physical and emotional wellbeing.
Experts advise that out of control stress and burnout need to be handled as soon as possible because various chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and insomnia are linked to it and burnout.
The body has many ways of experiencing burnout, and it manifests in several physical features, as discussed below.
Fatigue is present at all stages of burnout. At the beginning, you may feel worn out most of the time and lack energy for even the simple tasks. As burnout progresses, a physical sense of complete emptiness takes over. You end up feeling drained and unable to take on any tasks, even basic daily tasks such as food shopping or personal hygiene.
Insomnia is a reasonably common symptom of burnout, partly caused by a preoccupation by work and/or other stressors. It is reasonably common to not sleep because you have too much on your mind; when this continues for an extended period, the insomnia can really affect your daily life. You might find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or find yourself waking up early each morning. Insomnia has its own consequences, and affects the ability to perform basic day-to-day tasks.
Repeated colds, flu and other minor illnesses
When the body is run down, it has a reduced capability to fight off infections and illnesses. What starts out as a small cold can quickly progress to something more serious; the body has no reserves left to fight the infection so it rapidly spreads and takes over. You might find you seem to permanently have an annoying cough or cold or perhaps you go through repeated phases of having flu-like symptoms.
Unhealthy coping strategies
We all need to get through every day, no matter what life throws at us. To do this, we often develop coping strategies to help us manage the worst of times. However, some of these strategies are more unhelpful and unhealthy than others. For example, turning to alcohol or drugs is a common response to life stressors; they can help ‘take the edge off’ and make the situation seem bearable, at least temporarily. However, such coping strategies are not conducive to burnout, and in some circumstances, can lead to addiction.
Changes in weight
Some people find when they are stressed they lose weight with very little effort. This may be because they are not eating properly or eating less than normal. Combine this with extra effort to keep up with everything and it is easy to see how weight can simply fall off.
In contrast, others find they are ‘stress-eating’ an increasing amount and therefore gain weight. Even those who are active and usually maintain their weight can struggle when they reach burnout. Simply, the body cannot do everything and maintain a fitness routine or healthy diet. Both weight loss and gain are both relatively common and are another indicator that something within the body is not quite right. In many cases, weight fluctuations can be linked to mental state – something most of us are all too familiar with.
We all know that our blood pressure is responsive to our surroundings and situation. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that when we are experiencing high levels of stress and/or burnout, our blood pressure spikes. If this is sustained, it is likely to require medical attention and possibly medication to bring back down to normal levels. Hypertension brings its’ own set of symptoms and consequences, with heart problems being at the more severe end.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.