The Shocking Way Job Burnout Impacts Your Body (and Ten Ideas to get Relief)

Ways to get burnout relief

My wife and I went to a nice spa for our wedding anniversary.

It was an awesome experience.

But little did I know that I was going to have an eye-opening experience from an unexpected source.

It was half-way through my massage when my masseuse decided to start a conversation (which has never happened to me before).

It went like this:

Missy the Masseuse: “Mr. Fanning, your hamstrings and quads are extremely tight, and frankly I’m concerned.  Do you stretch?”

Me: “Yes I do, but obviously not enough…”

Time Passes:  30 minutes later

Missy the Masseuse: “Do you have a shoulder injury?”

Me: “No, I do not. Why do you ask?”

Missy the Masseuse: “Well, your shoulders are so tight that I could not relax them one bit even after an hour.  Honestly the only part of you that was relaxed were your fingers.”

Me: Silence

As you’d expect, I was really surprised by this (and not in a good way).

All I could think was two things:

  1. Job burnout and stress really do show-up in the body and do have a cumulative effect.
  2. Missy the Masseuse has some gumption and happens to be so concerned about me that she’s willing to jeopardize her tip to provide her feedback.

Why Overcome Job Burnout

Maybe you’ve been dealing with job burnout for awhile but not really done anything about it.

Think again if not sure if overcoming your job burnout is worth the trouble.

You’re really missing out on a career that will inspire you as well as those around you.

Plus you can benefit from:

  • Flexibility– When you overcome job burnout, you’ll experience more flexibility in your career and your body.  With less tightness, you’ll be less susceptible to injury.  And yes, I do mean an injury in your career in Corporate.
  • Enjoyment – Life’s just better when you’re not burned out.  The office seems brighter, your co-workers’ smiles are more obvious, and you’ll even find yourself looking for concert tickets in advance (rather than the day before) and planning fun outing with your friends on the weekend.
  • Lighter – You feel less burdened, which leaves extra capacity to handle office fire drills whenever they pop-up

Job Burnout and your Body

It’s was like a virtual lightning strike when my masseuse called me out.

You might not be that “lucky”, but you can usually tell how job burnout is creeping up by paying attention to your body.

There’s usually a few classic symptoms that I’ve experienced that might sound familiar to you:

how to treat job burnout

  • The Eye Crease– My wife loves to call me out on this one especially if she notices it when I’m trying to get to sleep. It’s that crease between your eyes
    that shows up when your eyes are pulled forward resulting from worry or anger.  When you experience job burnout, the crease shows up with more frequency and might even be hanging around on a more permanent basis.
  • The Shoulder Hunch – You notice that your shoulders are hunching forward much more frequently.  It’s similar body shape to when you are skiing, running, or defending the goal; but it becomes your default position while at your desk.
  • The Grimace – This ain’t no McDonald’s Happy Meal, either.  This is when your cheeks tighten up and your lips pull back (but not as a smile). Maybe you even find your teeth grinding.  You’ll notice even a slight soreness in your jaw at the end of the day
  • The Hammy – Your hamstrings are tight, which interestingly can give your waist line a slight tilt forward. Notice if your belt line has a downward trajectory.
  • The Lower Back – You’re lower back is tight and sore, and no amount of twisting or just casual walking seems to do the trick to relax it.
  • The Voice – One of the most unusual ways that job burnout shows-up in the body is in your voice.  You can hear it as a tightness almost like a bird straining in a cage.  Eventually it can evolve into a low, quiet sound kind of like talking from the bottom of a barrel.

Job Burnout has a Cumulative Effect on Your Body

You might experience one of these physical job burnout systems periodically especially when things heat up at work and get stressful.

If you keep hammering away and choose not to respond, then it can have a snow ball effect where your body shuts down.

You end up spending your weekends in bed (not for that reason..) because you’ve got to muster enough energy and strength to start the work week over again.

Your body could even physically reject your job just as happened to Jonathan Fields in the excerpt from Career Renegade below:

“Weeks of relentless (work) hours had literally collapsed my immune system, allowing a softball-sized infection to ravage my intestines and eat a hole through them from the outside in. Within hours, I was on the OR. Thankfully, I made it through, battered, but on the way to a full recovery.  I had plenty of time to sit around and think while I was healing. Talk about a wake-up call!”

Job Burnout makes you Feel Tight and Impacts Your Thoughts

When job burnout starts showing up in your body, it can make everything a bit tighter, including your mindset.

You start to see things at work as “risky”, and you become less likely to take action.

Maybe you even get analysis paralysis on simple decisions like how to craft an email to your boss or that co-worker you’re having a disagreement with.

It also shows up in your spending habits to where you hesitate in investing in yourself or asking for help when you need it.

You Don’t Have to Solve Your Job Burnout to Get Physical ReliefJob Burnout Relief

While job burnout does show up in your body, the good news is that you don’t have to overcome your job burnout to start feeling better.

I’ve tried several different things, and here are ten ideas that have helped me as well as those I’ve worked with:

  1. Notice the Stress – Fighting job burnout uses up valuable energy.  Don’t fight it, just sit with it. Notice where its showing up in your body. Just noticing it is a powerful first step.
  2. Plain Ole’ Stretching – Think back to your high school gyms days and add some morning and evening stretching to your routine.
  3. Office Stretching – When you notice the stress creeping up at your desk, you can incorporate a series of stretches without even leaving your desk.  These are perfect for when you’re on one of those 3-4 hour conference calls.
  4. Sports – Sometimes adding a bit of competition or group activity to your schedule can really help get you “out of your head”and shift your focus for awhile.  It might just provide the perfect mini-burnout vacation you need.  Try golf, dancing, tennis, aerobics, or yoga.  I even found a reference that combines yoga with stretching at your desk.
  5. Play – I think play has to be one of the best stress reducers and burnout relievers, but it’s one of the most underutilized. Often it involves physical movement that includes a healthy does of lightheartedness and laughter.  I really enjoy Improv and an incredibly fun group game called “Celebrity“.  If you haven’t tried it you’re definitely missing out on some good times.
  6. Music – Listen to music at your desk. Of course, it’s crucial to have a mute button nearby in case someone stops by your office or you get an unexpected call.  If you have a particularly stressful call coming up, try leaving light music playing in the background. This is edgy I know, but consider how companies like Musak have made office music an entire industry.
  7. Meditation –  Meditation is a great way to start overcoming burnout.  It’s not something you’ll find discussed frequently in corporate (yet), but I’ve found it very useful. I’m going to make it the subject of a future article.  You can also try similar things like visualization and even day-dreaming…
  8. Distraction – Some may think that vegging out in front of the TV is a bad thing but in small amounts it can be helpful in offering a few minutes to get your mind off the job.  I recommend setting the timer and sticking to it because otherwise it can suck your energy.  A more effective distraction for job burnout is going to a sporting event, or even to the park to watch kids play.  It’s always provided a stress reprieve for me.
  9. Deep Breathing – When you feel the job burnout burning, it’s helpful to take a few deep breathes.  I usually start by taking a deep breath in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth and then repeating three times.
  10. Make Time to Move – It’s sound simple, and it is.  Block time during your work day to go outside and take a stroll.  Leave your phone in the office.  It can be more challenging than you think to totally disconnect for a few minutes during your work day, but you’ll return more relaxed and less tight.

So play with these tips and reduce the physical impact of burnout.

It’s sure to lead to more pleasant work day and to a more relaxed time when you’re off the clock (not to mention when you’re getting a massage).

Which of these ten ideas will you incorporate into your work day?

To Igniting Your Career!


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