Burnout: prevention and effective measures

Life

What is burnout?

Burnout, the syndrome of complete mental and physical exhaustion, is a managerial disease? So much for! A manager usually has a heavier workload than the average employee, but is still less likely to suffer from burnout syndrome than others.

It most often affects people in social and helping professions, such as teachers or doctors, but also competitive athletes. Often the syndrome remains undetected because the process is insidious.

Who is affected by burnout?

“Perfectionists are often affected by burnout,” says Munich psychologist and stress expert Louis Lewitan (“Das war meine Rettung”, Edel, approx. 20 euros). “These people expect too much of themselves and define themselves exclusively in terms of success at work. At some point, they don’t even know what makes them tick away from work,” he explains. 

“This happens to about 10 percent of all men once in a lifetime, usually for the first time between the ages of 35 and 45. and 45. year of life,” explains Dagmar Ruhwandl, Specialist in psychiatry and burnout expert from Munich. 

Is burnout a fashionable disease?

While experts disagree on whether burnout is considered a disease in its own right. Burnout expert Dr. Thomas Bergner from Munich, however, warns against dismissing the stress-related overload disorder as a fashionable disease: “Burnout is not a real medical diagnosis,” he explains. “Under this term completely different overload reactions are summarized.”Basically 3 different, fundamental symptoms must be fulfilled: emotional exhaustion, decrease in performance and depersonalization, thus the social withdrawal.

What types of burnout are there?

Burnout can have different causes as well as different manifestations. Here are the 3 most common types of stress-related overload disorder:

Burnout Type #1: Hectic Burnout

You are enthusiastic, but exhausted, because you are on fire and sacrifice everything to your job.

Your risk increases, If you are younger than 35 and regularly work 40 or more hours a week. In an emergency you should do endurance training. It’s ideal if you’re having a hard time getting down. Use endorphin happiness to develop exit strategies.

Burnout type #2: Boreout

You are bored, jaded and don’t see any chance to develop in your job.

In an emergency you should make every task your own. Try to implement old familiar activities in new ways, such as greeting each customer differently. Extremely important: Be on the lookout for alternatives.

Burnout type #3: Helpless burnout

You think you can’t control your career, or you think no one notices your efforts.

Your risk increases, if you have been working for the same company for at least 4 years, are not in a committed relationship and. In an emergency you should make your colleagues aware of you and your problem. Encourage them to suggest solutions. If you get others on board, they can see that you are doing valuable work.

What are the causes of burnout?

First of all, triggers must be distinguished from causes. Burnout coach and non-fiction author Bergner explains: “Triggers can be, for example, mobbing, partnership problems, high time workload or emotionally demanding activities. All these are external factors related to the person concerned. And all this promotes the onset of burnout.

Only: The causes lie elsewhere. These can be based, for example, already in the childhood. In addition, important personality traits play a central role in the development of burnout, such as a tendency to perfectionism, idealism, a high degree of emotional lability or sensitivity, or the tendency to overhear one’s own feelings.

What are typical symptoms of burnout?

The signs of stress-related exhaustion can be quite individual. The following symptoms are very often reported by those affected:

  • exaggerated ambition and willingness to perform
  • Lack of desire and motivation, disinterest
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • fear of failure
  • Physical complaints (headaches and backaches, stomach and intestinal problems, dizziness, cardiovascular problems, frequent infections, hearing loss and tinnitus)
  • Susceptibility to increased alcohol and drug consumption

What is the typical course of burnout?

There are different phase models for the course of the syndrome. They all have one thing in common: Burnout usually starts euphorically. Negative feelings are suppressed.

“The initial phase still feels quite good subjectively: Those affected are hyperactive. They are therefore the opposite of what most people associate with burnout. The behavior initially leads to recognition. But it quickly turns into the guiding feeling for burnout: dissatisfaction, which is sometimes hard to bear,” Bergner says.

In the subsequent phases, patients describe increasing dissatisfaction, feelings of anxiety and indifference. Because patients spend a lot of time at work, they soon lack nutrition, sleep or time to meet friends and acquaintances. Soon the first physical symptoms appear.

Pain occurs especially where the body already had weak points before, such as in the back. In many cases there are now also sleep problems. Those affected often lose themselves in endless thought loops and develop tunnel vision. The excessive demands cause new problems, such as disturbed social behavior.

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In the following phase, burnout victims struggle with feelings of guilt and social isolation. A helplessness sets in, which some of those affected want to fight in the short term with addictive substances. Now the exhaustion-related depression is imminent.

The final phase of the burnout syndrome is life-threatening. The immune system is weakened, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Some affected people think about suicide.

The burnout test: Are you at risk?

Are you already knee-deep in job stress? Answer the following 14 questions to determine your risk. If you answer yes to more than half of them, it does not necessarily mean that you have burnout. However, you should take countermeasures or seek advice from a doctor.

  1. I often feel listless when I wake up. I am often very exhausted during the day.
  2. I withdraw more and more from friends, acquaintances and family members.
  3. I have very high expectations of my performance at work, I tend to forgive others for mistakes.
  4. If I do something wrong at work, I feel like a failure.
  5. I am afraid that others might reject me.
  6. I rarely ask for help.
  7. I tend to blame myself rather than others.
  8. I am afraid to make decisions and avoid risks.
  9. I have problems concentrating lately, which annoys me.
  10. I have the impression that I need more strength to do relatively simple tasks.
  11. The weekend is usually not enough for me to relax. On vacation it takes me longer than average to forget about work.
  12. I can hardly radiate motivation.
  13. I sometimes react quickly irritated. This was not the case before.
  14. In the last 6 months I have more often gastrointestinal problems, sweat heavily or sleep badly.

Prevention: Effective measures against burnout

If you suspect a burnout syndrome your family doctor is the first contact person. Psychotherapy is possibly the next step: The causes for occurring signs are researched and your day is restructured.

How burnout is treated?

First, it is important that you or an expert recognize which phase you are in. If the symptoms are still rather mild, you may still be able to relax on your own. However, if you find the idea of active relaxation exhausting, you should seek the support of a burnout expert. But: Only those who want to be helped will be helped.

For example, there is the possibility of a behavioral therapy or a depth psychological analysis. “The treatment is based on the highly individual history of the affected person. He has to understand the stressful parts of his childhood and classify them as adults. He must change damaging behaviors and rethink his attitude toward his ‘construction sites’. He must learn to respect himself and his limits,” explains the expert. 

What tricks help against stress in everyday life?

It goes without saying: You can’t avert advanced burnout with a walk, deep breathing or yoga. In this status you need professional help. But there’s something you can do beforehand to prevent stress from getting the better of you in the first place. These tips will bring relaxation to your daily routine:

  • Start the day with a run, take a walk during your lunch break and encourage colleagues to have stand-up meetings. Because according to a study by the University of California at Berkeley According to research, exercise lowers blood pressure by an average of 7%. Plus, you’re doing something about poor concentration and back pain.
  • Don’t reach for your smartphone as soon as you get up: the messages will still be there after you brush your teeth and might just worry you. Celebrate the time of simple routines before you leave the house.
  • If you can’t eat breakfast in the morning, take a banana with you to your desk and put it in your field of vision. Without energy, you will be even more easily irritable and will have difficulty concentrating. Glucose is the main fuel of nerve cells.
  • Do one thing at a time. You can only concentrate on one process anyway. Otherwise, you are more likely to make mistakes and get angry with yourself. 
  • Plan the day through. This will prevent idle time, give you the feeling of having done a lot in the evening, and allow you to relax.
  • Do simple breathing exercises: inhale deeply into your belly for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, exhale consciously for at least 10 seconds. This will lower your pulse rate and blood pressure.
  • Your time is limited: Cancel meetings if they are irrelevant to you.
  • Eat a handful of almonds in between meetings. Tryptophan contained in it boosts the production of endogenous happiness hormones in the brain.
  • Take your eyes off the screen more often. This prevents headaches and relaxes the eye muscles.
  • Chewing gum evenly, relaxes the jaw muscles and provides your brain with extra oxygen.
  • Listen to quiet music, insider tip: the canon by Johann Pachelbel. By the way, this is also suitable for anxiety (e.g. before exams or a lecture).
  • Place your hands on your shoulders and let them circle for 30 seconds. This stimulates the blood flow to the brain, relaxes the neck muscles.
  • Allow yourself a power nap: after a short nap, concentration and performance increases. It is best to always plan 15-20 minutes after long meetings as a time buffer for recovery. In other countries, taking short naps at the office is perfectly normal.
  • Look for a place of strength: perhaps the small lake or the meadow behind the company. Enjoy the peace and relaxation in this place for a few minutes.
  • Keep a notebook: write down ideas, solutions or thoughts (no appointments!) in a notebook that you always have in your pocket.
  • Turn off your phone, cell phone and PC every evening no later than 9 p.m. This will increase your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin and help you sleep like a bear.
  • Roll over a tennis ball with the sole of your bare foot for 5 minutes with light pressure – pure relaxation.
  • Lie down in the bathtub for 20 minutes in the evening (water temperature: 37 to 38 degrees) – this dilates the vessels, lowers blood pressure and promotes sleep.

Conclusion: Don’t let yourself burn out!

Stress-related overload syndrome has many faces and cannot always be clearly identified. If you are the type who has high expectations of yourself, be careful not to lose yourself in the process. You can prevent an impending burnout by acting early enough.

Remind yourself of what else makes you tick besides your job. What did you enjoy doing in the past? How much time do you still spend on this hobby today? How are you really doing? What drives you? Every top athlete needs breaks for regeneration in order to be in top shape again for the next competition. Allow yourself breaks in order to maintain your efficiency?

How old are you? How long do you think you can hold out in your job situation – 20 years, 2 years, 2 months?

Realize that stress takes years off your life. Is it worth rushing through life the remaining time? Get help if you cannot decelerate on your own. It’s in your own hands, take the step off the hamster wheel. Every employee welcomes suggestions for a low-stress work environment – they don’t want to lose a good man like you, after all!

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