Let’s Get Physical: The Other Signs of YP Burnout

Here at Notable we talk extensively about the dangers of burnout, on the careers and well-being of young professionals. While most of us YPs know of the negative psychological symptoms and effects of burnout, fewer are aware of the other important signs of this troublesome condition. We chatted with Senior Orthopedic surgery resident, Dr. Jamie Rusen, a YP himself with vast knowledge of the bodily signs of burnout, to find out what physical symptoms we must be on the look out for in order to avoid or treat YP burnout.

As Dr. Rusen emphasizes, burnout is not only a mental and emotional concern: “There are many physical manifestations of this condition that range from mild to severe, that should prompt young professionals to seek help.” While most YPs can recognize the connection between burnout and the psychological signs such as anxiety, isolation, emotional exhaustion, or lost interest in work, many of the physical signs are often overlooked or incorrectly associated with other issues. In order to ensure our health, happiness, and success, Dr. Rusen instructs us to keep an eye out for such physical signs as extreme fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, indigestion, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea or constipation, particularly when accompanied by the common psychological symptoms of burnout. Having an ongoing awareness of our physical health, especially during times of high stress, Dr. Rusen explains, is key, as long-term untreated burnout has been linked to serious medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, male infertility, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Fortunately for us late-night grinders and weekend OTers, Dr. Ruben says that burnout is preventable, and can be avoided or treated if recognized early enough. “Making sure that young professionals take the time to eat healthy, exercise daily with at least 30 minutes of sustained physical activity, avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, and get enough sleep, will go great lengths to making sure the mind and body are working at their best.” Sounds simple enough, right? Well, for those YPs who suspect they may be currently suffering from burnout, this usual recipe for well-being may not do the trick, and for them the good doctor offers this: 

“Young professionals need to be aware that help is available if they are experiencing burnout and are no longer able to cope on their own. Discussing problems with a trained professional such as a counselor, social worker, physician or psychologist can help individuals manage their stress and come up with a plan to cope in the future. The biggest mistake a young professional can make in this situation is to isolate themselves from people who can help them and hide the fact that they are experiencing a problem.”

Another topic we discuss often here at Notable is balance, or leading a YP life with the right mix of work and play. While normally this approach refers mainly to our actions and emotions, Dr. Rusen offers us another facet of this beneficial life strategy: the physical side of balance. “The human body has many systems in place to maintain an overall balance, called homeostasis”, he explains. “When these systems get overwhelmed, often as a result of increasing emotional or physical stress, this homeostasis is altered and the body is no longer able to compensate, resulting in illness. This alteration in homeostasis can be further compounded by lack of sleep, substance abuse, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.” For those of us who just can’t afford to be sick during this important time in our lives, it’s crucial that we pay close attention to both our bodies and minds, to keep on top of our well-being, inside and out.