Burnout has long since ceased to be a “fad” for stressed managers. Burnout can really affect anyone.
Burnout describes a state of deep emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.
An affected person not only has difficulty concentrating and makes more frequent mistakes at work. A total loss of power may occur. The desire for private life can also be lost.
The causes are usually attributed to too much stress and excessive demands at work. However, the causes are manifold. This article deals with how you can recognize burnout and what you can do to prevent it.
Bonus tips include preventive measures for your professional life.
The symptoms can really be very different, from a deep exhaustion, a feeling of lack of recognition, to having no opportunities to switch off.
The causes can be e.g.: self overload, stress due to external circumstances, self-confidence, which is only fed by confirmation from outside or by recognition, not being able to set your own limits, this also includes a guilty conscience when you say “no” as well as perfectionism.
You can prevent it by practicing mindfulness, through self-acceptance and a healthy lifestyle, by knowing and respecting your own needs, and through targeted stress management.
Burnout describes a state of emotional and physical exhaustion.
Burnout is considered a symptom, not a disease. In the international classification, burnout is described as “problems related to difficulties in coping with life”.
In general, work-related demands cause stress symptoms and feelings of being overwhelmed. Even after an appropriate recovery period (e.g. vacation), these problems persist for weeks and months and do not improve. Burnout is a risk factor for various mental and physical health problems. Depression is a common consequence of the disorder, but does not always occur.
The symptoms of burnout are very different. They appear in the form of emotional, psychological and mental impairments, as well as psychosomatic complaints. Every affected person shows an individual bundle of symptoms and concerns. The burnout state changes over the course of the different phases. The most important symptom, deep exhaustion, is what defines the condition.
In the early stages of burnout, a person puts an excessive amount of energy into their tasks. Because of this idealism or will to succeed, this behavior is often voluntary, but it can also happen out of necessity, for example, when a person has multiple responsibilities, such as caring for loved ones or fear of losing a job. At this point, a vicious cycle begins.
Affected people not only cannot switch off, but also need more and more energy to fulfill their obligations. As a result, they don’t recover properly, perform less efficiently, and need more and more energy to get their work done. As they deny their own needs, repress their failures and disappointments, and limit their social contacts to work, exhaustion increases.
It feels as if there is far too little time for hobbies and one’s own social contacts. A retreat begins. In addition to exhaustion, other signs such as restlessness, lack of sleep, lack of energy and increased susceptibility to infections are also noticeable.
In the final burnout phase, helplessness turns into a complete sense of hopelessness. Life seems meaningless at this stage, and suicidal thoughts come to the fore. A severe burnout depression develops in those affected. Nothing gives them pleasure anymore, everything seems indifferent to them.
To prevent this from happening in the first place, the warning signs should be recognized early and preventive measures should be taken in response. Even people who can manage stress well are at some risk of burnout if they are under constant stress.
It is especially important to perceive your own needs. What is really important to you? Admit that your own needs are just as important as those of other people. You may be as kind to yourself as you are to others. The feeling behind it is called self-compassion.
Burnout grows out of frustration. Do you have tasks at work that satisfy your basic needs, or are you working against your values for the sake of money?
Stress management also plays an important role in burnout prevention. Here you can actively steer against burnout. Targeted stress management for self-reflection and relaxation, such as EFT, progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training.
Burnout often sneaks up on you quietly. Therefore, the topic of self-attention also plays an important role. How much stress do you have on a regular basis, how do you deal with it, how does stress affect you, and how satisfied are you with your life in general?
A stress diary can also help you identify connections between stress and strain. Where does stress occur and where does it even intensify? The people around you can also give you valuable information, such as whether you seem tense or constantly irritable.
One’s own inner drivers are also an important factor. People who are more prone to burnout are often perfectionists. They drive themselves to overload. Often, these people want to please everyone else. Both are big burdens. Only if you know your own inner drivers, you can learn to deal with them.
Planning life goals can also be positively supportive. What goals are important to you in your life? What do you really want? Here it is especially important to distinguish between what others think is “good” and “right” for you.
When you realize this, you no longer get bogged down in energy-sapping processes that never satisfy you.
People who draw their self-confidence from their role in their job and private life are particularly susceptible to burnout: The successful mom and manager, the successful dad who is responsible for 100 sales employees and is still responsible for gardening in the home club and beautifying the cityscape for the city festivals.
Everything you depend on has the power to destroy you! When you have strong self-acceptance, your self-confidence is more independent from the outside.
By doing so, you reduce the risk of feeling constantly exploited and only valuable if you are constantly overcommitted.
A healthy lifestyle is not to be supported when it comes to preventing burnout. In addition to a conscious and balanced diet, sport and exercise also play a major role. For example, “forest bathing” is particularly popular in Japan.
A walk in nature helps to ground and relax. A limited consumption of nicotine or caffeine can also have a positive effect. For example, constantly going beyond the natural limit is avoided.
You can also consider the above points in your everyday work. Beyond that, there are other points, for your burnout prevention:
If possible in your job: the topic of autonomy. How flexible are your working hours?
What time management strategies are you already using successfully today? For example, do you have enough buffer in projects? Do you have enough breathing room in your daily schedule if an unforeseen task comes in?
Being able to say no also plays a big role. Can you say no without feeling guilty? Refusing a task once in a while is a burnout prophylaxis that should not be underestimated. Otherwise, your desk is constantly cluttered. Those who constantly do the tasks for others no longer have time for their own.
If you have a guilty conscience or find it difficult to answer only with no, you can also justify your statement first. For example, by: “Thank you very much for your trust. However, I am very busy with X at the moment. If I take on Y now, X will not be finished in time”, or “Thank you very much for your trust. Currently I have no capacity for Y. However, I can well imagine that person A can also help you with this topic.
If you unrealistically hope for a lot of recognition and confirmation through your work, you can only be disappointed. If you fail to give yourself adequate space and time off, you are more likely to fall into the burnout trap.
Work-life balance is not measured in time but in results!
Another important point in burnout prevention is one’s own career planning.
Even the most beautiful job can become boring or lose its challenges over the years. If you have a clear goal and constantly develop yourself, you run less risk of getting into “boreout”.
Please note: A Burnout Coach can support you in all preventive measures!
However, once you are deep in burnout, coaching is not enough. Help here
then therapy offers further.