According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 23% of full-time employees felt burnt out often or always, while around 44% reported experiencing burnout symptoms sometimes. This statistic equates to approximately two-thirds of employees feeling overly stressed out while working. Of course, burnout can occur in other situations, such as school, parenting, or taking care of a loved one. But work usually accounts for a vast portion of people’s stress.
People experience burnout when they get so mentally and physically exhausted that it interrupts their ability to perform daily tasks. Repeated exposure to highly stressful situations, such as being a caretaker for a family member or working long hours, can lead to chronic stress. Some stress can help motivate us. But too much over an extended period can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies.
However, most people don’t recognize the symptoms of feeling burnt out. They might brush off the crippling anxiety as just a part of life, or vow to get the aches and pains in their back checked out eventually. In today’s fast-paced society, people simply don’t prioritize health because they feel that earning money and keeping up with responsibilities takes precedence.
What is burnout?
Coined by the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s, burnout entails feeling highly stressed for long periods, which can lead to a complete nervous breakdown or chronic exhaustion. It differs from chronic fatigue, however, in that burnout describes psychological symptoms while scientists believe physical ailments cause the above condition. One’s mental state can become so impaired that they may not even feel like getting out of bed in the morning.
Who suffers from burnout?
Anyone can feel burnt out depending on their life circumstances, but the people most at-risk tend to work in highly stressful jobs that demand long hours. Nurses, doctors, first responders, and other healthcare professionals tend to experience burnout at higher rates than people in different fields of work. Also, those who care for children or elderly parents have high vulnerability to developing this condition.
One study found that mothers and fathers can feel burnt out just as much as corporate executives and people in healthcare. Also, those who have a “Type A” personality tend to suffer from burnout more often.
Now that we’ve given you a bit of background on burnout, let’s discuss some red flags to watch out for in your health.
Here are six things that happen to your body when you’re burnt out:
You always feel exhausted.
If you almost always feel like you have no energy even after a good night’s sleep, you may have developed burnout. Feeling exhausted doesn’t just mean you don’t feel like getting out of bed, either. It can also mean you feel emotionally depleted, which can mimic depression.
You have trouble sleeping.
People who experience burnout often report having trouble falling or staying asleep. Because of the highly stressful demands of daily life, many people have insomnia due to not being able to shut off their brains. If you frequently toss and turn at night, you may have high cortisol levels, which prevent you from relaxing into a restful sleep.
You suffer from anxiety and depression.
A combination of high-stress levels, lack of sleep, and a dissatisfied mental state can lead to anxiety and depression. However, if you don’t usually have anxiety and depression but suddenly start experiencing symptoms, you might be feeling burnt out instead. Many of the symptoms can overlap, so visiting with your healthcare provider might help clear up any confusion.
You get sick more often.
If you’ve been feeling burnt out, you might start noticing the following physical signs of sickness:
- lower immune system
- frequent cold sores or rashes
- you get colds or flu more often
- more viral and bacterial infections
- frequent headaches
- gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, stomachaches, and digestive problems
- general unwell feelings
Your muscles feel tight and tense.
When you have high-stress levels, your joints and muscles get stiff because your body wants to prepare you for a perceived threat. However, if the stress becomes chronic, you will start to feel muscle weakness and fatigue, which can be a symptom of anxiety as well.
Your risk of developing cardiovascular problems increases.
The American Heart Association links prolonged stress with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. When the body produces too much adrenaline and cortisol over an extended period, blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol increase. All of these conditions can lead to a heart attack or stroke. These risk factors mean you should take burnout seriously if you start noticing symptoms.