Much of what is covered when it comes to burnout signs and symptoms is how we may feel emotionally or how it impacts our mental health, with very little out there about the physical signs and symptoms of burnout. So, are there any burnout physical symptoms we should be aware of? Are there telltale signs that physically we may be experiencing chronic stress or are burning out? Absolutely!
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the physical symptoms of burnout that you may experience if chronic stress is becoming too much. We cover some of these physical signs and symptoms of burnout in our free burnout workshop and workbook too.
Are there physical signs and symptoms of burnout?
One thing we often get asked is “How would I know if I’m burning out?” While there are plenty of helpful guides on many of the different symptoms of burnout, much of the focus tends to be on the mental health impact or how it can make us feel emotionally. What is lesser spoken about are the physical symptoms of burnout which can also be warning signs that we need to slow down.
By being able to recognise all of the signs and symptoms of burnout, including the physical symptoms, it can be a lot easier to get on top of chronic stress before it’s too late. With this in mind, we’ll go through some of the burnout physical symptoms to watch out for right now.
High Blood Pressure
One of the physical symptoms of stress and burnout is generally high blood pressure. When we find ourselves in stressful situations, our bodies produce a rush of hormones that then make our hearts beat faster and can cause blood vessels to narrow. This then leads to a higher than normal blood pressure which can become a long-term issue if not managed in the right way.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress then it may cause high blood pressure, but perhaps not always in a direct way. There is no evidence to say that chronic stress on its own causes high blood pressure, but that it may be caused by how we react and cope with the stressors in our lives.
For example, those who find themselves stressed for long periods of time may find themselves eating unhealthily, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol which can then be part of the cause of high blood pressure.
When it comes to physical burnout symptoms and diagnosis, one of the main tests a medical professional will want to run will be on your blood pressure. Those with long-term high blood pressure will likely be referred for further tests as to what the cause might be. If you’re experiencing a lot of stress in your life, then it’s important to discuss this with the professional investigating your high blood pressure as it may be helpful for them to understand any potential causes.
Risk of Colds and Other Illnesses
Another one of the common symptoms of burnout is being at a higher risk of catching infections such as colds and flu due to a weakened immune system. When we’re experiencing a lot of stress in our lives, our immune systems find it harder to fight off antigens (foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses). This can then make it easier for us to catch infections and make it harder for us to fight them off.
Once again, there may also be indirect ways in which chronic stress and burnout can have an impact on our immune systems. When we are struggling with burnout, we often find it harder to look after ourselves and this can lead to unhealthy coping methods such as drinking alcohol or smoking. Just like with high blood pressure, this is another physical burnout symptom that may be caused by the stress itself and/or by the ways we deal with that stress.
When we are in fight or flight mode due to high levels of stress, our body activates what’s called the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system gets our bodies ready to face (fight) or run away (flight) from whatever the danger is that’s making us stressed. Generally, this means speeding up the heart, dilating our pupils, and even inhibiting digestion.
If we are in a constant state of stress whilst experiencing burnout, then our sympathetic nervous system is working overtime ready for us to fight or flee. This sympathetic overdrive means that our bodies aren’t able to ‘rest and digest’ properly because the parasympathetic nervous system isn’t activated.
Studies have looked into some of the links between chronic stress, burnout and ongoing digestive issues with some fascinating results. If you already experience problems with your digestion, such as IBS, then it may be worth considering whether stress is a cause of flare-ups in your situation.
However, for those who don’t already have digestive issues, then this may be another physical symptom of burnout to be aware of. As always, ensure you speak to a medical professional to get advice if you’re concerned about your digestion.
Headaches and Other Aches and Pains
It’s not just your gut that might ache if you’re experiencing chronic stress or burnout. Another of the common burnout symptoms is general aches and pains, including headaches.
When we are feeling stressed, our bodies generally tense up to guard us against any potential pain or threat. If this is happening often enough, then it may create aches and pains due to tension. Common areas you may experience physical aches and pains include your head (tension headaches), neck, shoulders, and back.
Chronic aches and pains may also be a sign of many other medical conditions, however, so it is important that you get these symptoms checked out by a professional as soon as you can.
It is well known that experiencing burnout can make you feel emotionally drained, but it can also cause physical fatigue too. In fact, burnout can feel downright exhausting! After seeing all of the other burnout signs and symptoms, it’s unsurprising that many of these would cause physical fatigue.
Feeling stressed all of the time can take a real toll on our bodies, which then leads to feeling both mentally and physically exhausted. You may find it harder to get decent and restful sleep when you’re feeling overwhelmed, which can then make the fatigue even worse.
Getting enough proper sleep is vital for stress management and burnout prevention, so this is one area that needs to be focused on if you are worried about your stress levels.
While burnout physical symptoms may sometimes be harder to spot than some of the more emotional and psychological symptoms, it’s vital that you stay aware of how your body feels whenever you are stressed.
Are you getting more aches and pains than normal? Are you feeling physically exhausted? Are you struggling with digestive issues or have concerns about high blood pressure? And finally, are you finding yourself more susceptible to colds and flu? If you answered yes to any of these then your first port of call should be a medical professional who can help rule out any other potential conditions.
Getting the right help quickly is really important if you are worried about any of these physical symptoms of stress and burnout. We hope this guide helps you understand what some of the warning signs for these might be.