Physician & Physical Burnout: Common Signs and How to Prevent It
Mental and emotional burnout is often talked about for physicians, but it’s also important to take note of the signs of physical burnout. Overworking and continuous stress can all be factors into how physical burnout shows up during your day and can take a serious toll on your body. What are some of the signs that you might be experiencing this type of burnout?
There are many ways your body can react, but keep an eye out for these common signs:
- Inconsistent sleep patterns
- Dry/blurry eyes
- Digestive problems
If you have noticed any of the following, here are some of the ways you can work to prevent and alleviate these symptoms as a physician and reclaim your well-being.
Difficulty Falling Asleep
As a physician, you’ve likely accepted that your days may be longer than a typical 9-5 or you are on-call at different times depending on the needs of your patients. Inconsistent hours and stress can dramatically impact the quality and quantity of sleep one gets. If you are finding it harder and harder to wind down and fall asleep at the end of a long day, this could be your body’s way of alarming potential burnout.
Insomnia can be common among physicians, so consider some effective methods to put an end to sleepless nights. This can include limiting your technology use before bed, creating a relaxing bedroom space that can separate you from the stresses of work, and focusing on your breathing. Sleep has the ability to drastically reduce physical symptoms of burnout and leave you feeling more ready and confident to tackle the day ahead.
Following inconsistent sleep patterns, you may also experience dry/blurry eyesight. Because your eyes contain muscles, factors that can also contribute to physical burnout and lead to these symptoms could include lack of sleep, dehydration, or extended screen time. As a physician’s job entails important details and activities that rely on good eyesight, it’s important to ensure the eyes are properly functioning throughout the workday.
Wearing prescription contact lenses can be an effective solution if you have a vision impairment and find yourself with constant dry eyes. Contact lenses can moisturize and lubricate the eyes while you are wearing them and can help reduce the appearance of red, dry eyes and decrease blurred vision. Additionally, ensuring that you are drinking enough water will not only help the body create tears needed to get the eyes hydrated, but it can also help reduce other symptoms of physical burnout.
Are you constantly feeling more tired than normal or overextended completing daily tasks? This type of fatigue can also be a clear sign of a physical burnout. In fact, a survey found that 32.8% of physicians reported excessive fatigue. Physicians need to be physically and mentally sharp in their profession, so combatting fatigue is an important part of their own well-being as well as their patients.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways you can work to prevent this sort of tiredness throughout your day. Getting in physical activity or even a short walk can help fight fatigue. Additionally, if you’re looking for an extra pick-me-up on top of your morning coffee, consider adding vitamins and supplements that increase energy — including Vitamin B12, and iron.
Another way that physical burnout can present itself is through your digestion. Considering that stress affects your digestion, it’s no surprise that your stomach might be one of the first changes you notice if you are close or currently experiencing burnout at work. It’s important to manage cortisol levels to fight negative symptoms like bloating, changes in appetite, cramping, and more.
Incorporating probiotic foods, foods rich in fiber, a more balanced diet, and plenty of water is an easy way to get your digestion back on track. Meal planning ahead for the week will ensure that you are staying mindful of your diet as well as ensuring that you are finding time for a meal each day—which is important even on the days with back to back appointments! Similarly, finding healthy solutions to manage your stress levels is a great way to calm your stomach and can positively influence other areas of your life as well.
Remember, physical burnout might be on the horizon if you begin experiencing these types of symptoms. While working to alleviate and manage your symptoms of burnout is important to your daily quality of life, it is also critical that you examine your current work habits. Prioritizing your well-being and maintaining a healthy work/life balance plays a crucial role in your mental, emotional, and physical health.