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Chronic Pain and Burnout-Part One

One of the first physical symptoms of burnout is fatigue. Intellectually, there may be a loss of creativity and sharpness in problem solving; cynicism may replace enthusiasm. Emotionally, the loss of dreams and expectations can result in feelings of helplessness and depression. In the social realm, isolation overtakes feeling of involvement, and spiritually, the person experiencing burnout may feel a lack of meaning or purposelessness to her life. And last but not least, physically, you wake up drained and tired from lack of sleep, too much on the plate, too busy, dealing with a chronic pain pattern or a combination. The bottom line is you know you can’t keep this up and you just need a break to rest but it will have to wait.

Holidays are just around the corner – Thanksgiving, Christmas… Holidays are all upon us and can send you sliding into burnout quickly! Knowing what to look for can help you slow down and set some boundaries during the holidays!

Last time I shared the warning signs of Burnout and some strategies to support the process. Today let’s look at some of the physical symptoms that arise that indicate you can be sliding into burnout and may not even know it.

You may have been dealing with one of these symptoms for years, but now you have begun to notice that other symptoms have been added to your plate! Can you relate?

Physical Symptoms that arise: You may experience chest pains, breathing problems, racing heart, dizziness or fainting, stomach pain, headaches, and migraines. Please check in with your doctor to rule out another cause but often these can indicate burnout as well.

Normal Fatigue turns into Chronic Fatigue and wrecks havoc: Fatigue is one of the first physical signs of Burnout. One of the patterns to watch out for, which indicates that burnout is shimmering into your life, is the lack of energy. You sleep but awaken feeling drained and tired and you are not sure why. This lack of energy can show up in moving slower, taking longer to accomplish tasks, even things like getting ready for work, making dinner, or dong something you love. Even if you go to bed early, take a nap or use one of your usual ways of feeling rested – you still feel abnormally tired and just need a good rest.

Yet rest is elusive and you can’t get rid of the tired, drained feeling or the extra effort it takes to get something done that comes with physical fatigue. Eventually, you minimize what you do every day to conserve what energy you have, crave caffeine and starchy or sugary carbohydrates and move into not only feeling tired but wired. If unchecked the fatigue will be constant and nothing seems to help.

Anxiety arises: This is common in burnout but by no means does it feel common. At first, anxiety shows up as distressing symptoms of tension, worry, and irritation. These can get in the way of focus and attention. As burnout goes undetected, anxiety symptoms can develop in the physical body as racing heart, shortness of breath and muscles becoming tense. If burnout goes unchecked, anxiety can accelerate into panic attacks

Insomnia sets in: If you are waking up tired after sleep, or wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep or have a difficult time going to sleep – you may be struggling with insomnia. It is important to check with your doctor to rule out sleep apnea as it can create poor health due to an obstruction in your breathing.

More Prone to Illness: Often living with chronic stress weakens the immune system, so it is no wonder that if you are suffering from burnout; you can be more susceptible to colds, flues, infections. The farther you are along the Burnout continuum, the longer it takes to recover from colds, flus, and infections and often they can develop into more a severe condition.

Lack of Attention and lack of Concentration: This is a combination of a physical and mental symptoms and it often times is tied to the exhaustion you experience mentally, emotionally and physically. There are several cognitive issues that arise when burnout becomes a way of life but concentration and attention issues are at the top of the list.

You may forget a meeting with colleagues, can’t hold a complex thought for long or have to ask your partner to repeat him or herself often. The worst part is that your focus is not sharp; everything takes longer and as a result, you are more tired than ever.

Loss of Appetite: At the beginning of Burnout, you may skip meals and sometimes not be hungry, as you progress to the latter stages of burnout this increases and the results can be no appetite and extreme weight loss.

Anger: When you suffer from burnout, but don’t know it, you can feel frustration and anger. This is due to the results of exhaustion, loss of focus and attention, and inability to get done what you once could, prior to burnout. Early on this manifests in irritation, frustration and guilt due to all the changes and loss of motivation, passion or ability to perform. Outbursts can result from resentment built up over time and darken your thoughts, feelings, and even actions.

I agree with Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. recommendation – When the anger gets to the point where you start thinking of hurting someone else, or you cross the line and actually get into a physical altercation, seek professional assistance immediately to prevent anyone from getting hurt, including you.

Ways to Avoid Burnout


Take the time to set goals and objectives, review them with others, make sure they’re attainable and clear. Pick the events, such as holiday parties, that give you energy not drain you. Remember if you are doing too much they will all drain you. Pick the 1-3 parties.

Support systems

Family, friends, co-workers, professional organizations — all these support systems can help in times of stress. During this time of year add some tradition that speaks to you and feeds your soul. Adding Nature is a good way to go here. Take a walk on Thanksgiving, have tea with a friend by the fire, go for a hay ride, have cider and sit outside in the crisp air.

Skill building

Look for challenges and opportunities to learn new skills and participate in activities that use your natural skills, talents, and abilities. Rather than becoming stagnant, you’ll be able to grow. This is a great way to slow down and focus on one thing.

During this time of year, join a singing group, make cookies with your kids or friends, make gifts that are useful, one of a kind or practical.


Seek a balanced and well-structured lifestyle. Avoid boredom. Determine what’s important to you and create a lifestyle that embraces and supports you. This is about balancing the doing with the being.

Be creative

Look for a different approach to the same problems, or unpleasant situations. Break free from your everyday routine. Let your work-space express your individuality. Express your uniqueness and begin to feel filled. Add coloring, dancing, cooking, moving – add spice and feel yourself being recharged!

Humor and playfulness

Humor reduces stress, promotes physical healing, is essential for mental health and can add years to your life. No wonder they say humor is the best antidote. Enjoy yourself.

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