The term "burnout" has been used for over 30 years, but there is still no uniform definition. To be exact, there are even more than 160 different explanations. Who is supposed to look through all of them? The term is often translated as "being burnt out" - a rather subjective word. This alone shows how differently burnout can manifest itself.
You are incredibly committed to work, take on countless tasks and overtime is the order of the day? You feel physically and mentally exhausted and motivation and joy are slowly but surely becoming foreign words to you? Then you have come to the right place. Together we will get to the bottom of the phenomenon "Burnout". We'll take a close look at what it's all about, how you can recognise it and what can bring you relief.
What exactly is burnout anyway?
We have already touched on it briefly: Burnout is often described as a feeling of being burnt out. This is true for the body, the mind and also the emotions. A comprehensive state of exhaustion spreads and does not want to disappear so quickly.
Burnout sneaks up on you quietly and then ambushes you. You lose yourself in your work and everyday stress and have no time to listen to your body. You skilfully ignore its alarm signals and that's exactly when burnout senses its chance and takes you with it.
Overworked, overwhelmed and stressed - these are the three words most sufferers use to describe their condition. And they are not so few. According to estimates, about 30 % of all working people are at risk of burnout, and the trend is rising. The reason for this is the ever-increasing responsibility placed on employees, regardless of management positions, rising pressure to perform and the permanent accessibility that is increasingly demanded.
What does burnout feel like?
A burnout often first shows itself through physical signs. This often makes it difficult to recognize it as such. These symptoms include, among others:
- gastrointestinal complaints
- circulatory problems
- Severe fatigue despite sufficient sleep
- Nervous restlessness
- feeling of faintness
All these complaints are not based on organic problems, but psychosomatic. But that in no way means that the complaints are not real. It is important to take burnout seriously and to treat it. On a psychological level, these symptoms, for example, can then join in:
- Concentration and memory problems
- decision incapacity
- fears of failure
- Inner emptiness
What are the causes of burnout and who is particularly at risk?
The biggest risk factor for burnout is obvious: excessive stress. Whether or not it actually degenerates into burnout depends, among other things, on yourself. In this respect, two extremes meet: people with low Self-confidencePeople who are always looking to fit in as best they can, and people who are particularly ambitious, determined and committed to getting the best out of themselves.
It is precisely these two groups that are at particularly high risk of developing burnout. Do you belong to this group? The following questions, for example, can offer you a first orientation:
1. do you set your goals unrealistically high and have to expend an incredible amount of energy to achieve them?
2. are your goals primarily focused on meeting the expectations of others?
3. do you expect a reward for your self-imposed excessive effort?
4. Do you often doubt whether your actions are right?
5. Do you find it difficult to say "no" to others?
6. do you keep telling yourself that you must always perform at your best?
7. is your self-esteem dependent on your professional success?
How long does burnout actually last once it hits?
How long it takes to beat burnout depends on how advanced it was and whether you really give yourself enough rest to recover. On average, employees diagnosed with burnout miss 23 days of work. But that doesn't mean that the symptoms will magically disappear.
As insidiously as burnout comes, it also goes. This process can take several months. On average, full recovery takes at least six months, in some cases as long as a year. This makes it all the more important to intervene early. Of course, the sooner you admit to yourself that you're burned out and do something about it, the sooner you'll overcome it.
Then you can start again full of vitality and motivation. But in order to succeed, you first need to know how to recognize burnout at an early stage. So let's take a closer look at the individual stages now.
The burnout in stages
Not only in the definition of burnout there are different approaches. It is the same with its stages. There are scientists who divide it into 5, others into 7 and still others even into 10 stages or more. We direct our gaze to the golden mean and look at the 7-phase model according to Prof. Matthias Burisch in more detail.
Let's start, how could it be otherwise, with the initial phase. You have developed into a true workhorse. Ambition and perfectionism drive you, but not of your own accord, but rather by necessity. You have to complete an unbelievable number of tasks, and of course you have to do it in the best possible quality. So you can't help but develop such ambition, because otherwise you won't get anywhere.
You feel like you just don't have enough time to do all the tasks satisfactorily and you put your own needs in the background. Social contacts, even your health, take a back seat. You simply cannot and will not allow yourself a break. Even in bed at night you can't switch off and the rest you really need is missing. You become less efficient and have to spend more and more time and energy to complete your tasks.
Overcommitment turns into frustration
Your initial ambition is slowly but surely fading. You have achieved so much, now you finally want to get something back. But the expected praise or even the salary increase are not forthcoming. Disappointment spreads and you are frustrated.
You have the feeling that no one appreciates your efforts and have actually already signed your resignation. You now only do what is necessary, hardly show any sympathy and may even become somewhat cynical. In this second phase your private life can also suffer, because you demand more and more from your partner, but give less and less back.
The great awakening
You begin to realize that reality simply does not correspond to your wishes, and you look for someone to blame. You either find it in yourself and a depressive mood spreads, or in others, which can lead to anger or even aggression. This is exactly how stage three manifests.
As a result, your performance continues to decline and you have reached the fourth level. You become forgetful, careless mistakes creep in and complex tasks cause you great problems. You work through your to-do list without any creative ideas or changes? You don't need them at all right now.
You quickly find yourself at level five and basically don't care about anything. You give up your hobbies - you don't have time for them anyway - and you rarely see your friends and family. You withdraw more and more, even emotionally, and that makes you feel lonely.
Burnout makes your body suffer
It's no secret that stress has a negative impact on health. With burnout, of course, it is no different. Psychosomatic symptoms are on the rampage in the sixth phase, but can also occur sporadically in the initial phase. The complaints we discussed at the beginning can be joined by muscle tension, high blood pressure, vomiting, severe weight fluctuations, loss of libido and an increased susceptibility to infections, to name just a few examples.
You feel increasingly helpless and do not know how to free yourself from this situation, let alone what meaning your life has at all. With this you have arrived at the seventh and last stage according to Prof. Matthias Burisch. Indifference triumphs and even the things that used to make you incredibly happy no longer interest you. You sink into a burnout depression. At the latest now professional help is needed.
How do you recover from burnout?
Burnout does not always require specialist medical treatment. If you recognize it yourself at an early stage, you can often take matters into your own hands. A very important point here is the creation of structures.
Habits are incredibly important, because they give you orientation in everyday life and give you a certain support. At the same time they help you with Time Management. Create a routine with timestamps and stick to it. This way you make sure that you don't get lost in perfectionist details that cost you time that is then lacking elsewhere.
Part of this routine should also be relaxation periods. Especially when work is piling up, it's tempting to just skip the break. But there's a reason why it's a contractual obligation, because you need it to stay productive. The same applies after work. You've earned it, so enjoy it and don't take work home with you every day.
Talk openly about your burnout
Even though people like to shut themselves off from the outside world when they experience burnout, talk about your problems! It's much harder to recover from them on your own. Confide in your family or best friends. They will give you support and help you recover.
Are you struggling with severe symptoms and just can't muster the strength to free yourself from this vicious circle? Then seek professional help. Talk to a doctor, tell him about your symptoms and point out that you think you have a burnout. Together you will discuss which way forward is the right one for you.
3 tips for dealing with burnout
Burnout means one thing above all: challenge. But that doesn't mean you can't rise to the challenge. We have put together 3 tips for you that will help you to better deal with being burnt out.
1. accept your condition
Even though many still resist it: Burnout is real and not an imaginary thing. Finally admitting this to yourself and accepting that you are even affected yourself is the first important step towards recovery. Even though you may not be ready to talk about it with others, the healing starts with yourself first.
2. do not put yourself under pressure
The pressure on you from the outside is certainly great enough. So don't add to it and make your life unnecessarily difficult. This also applies to your recovery. Overcoming a burnout takes time, and there's nothing you can do about it. The more pressure you put on yourself, the longer it will take.
3. write down your thoughts
When burnout knocks on the door, your head is full. To recover from it, you need to become the master of your thoughts again. A great tool for this is journal writing. Just jot down everything that occupies your mind throughout the day in a notebook and clear your head of it.
Feel free to write in how you're doing today and how your burnout symptoms are going. That way you can track your recovery. Whenever you think there's no point and you'll never get better anyway, just take a look at your journal and prove yourself wrong.
How to avoid burnout: 5 tips against stress and anxiety
Stress defines your everyday life and you have the feeling that burnout will catch up with you at any moment? Then don't let it get that far in the first place. How do you do that? With these 5 tips!
1. separate work from private life. If you take work home with you every day - whether literally or in your mind - you can never relax.
Take time every day to do something that brings you joy. Even if it's just 10 minutes, don't underestimate the impact of happiness.
Say "no" once in a while when your limits have been reached. This applies equally to work and professional life. Time and energy are not unlimited, neither for you nor for others.
4) Exercise and reduce stress hormones. A round of jogging through the park not only clears your head, but also has a positive effect on your performance.
5. learn relaxation techniques or meditate. Here you come to rest and can simply stop the eternally rotating carousel of thoughts. Try for example one of our guided meditations off!