Chronic stress, a major reason for burnout, leads to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Burnout sufferers urgently need rest and professional help. Those recognising the early symptoms in themselves have a good chance of avoiding burnout by reducing stress and restoring the right balance of work and rest.
Working environment and personality as risk factors
Burnout is triggered when someone is overburdened for an extended period of time. This most often happens in the context of work. In modern working environments, where targets have replaced punching the clock as a means of control, and where it is possible to keep working even when you are at home, away from the office or on holiday, people who place particularly high demands on themselves and want to do everything perfectly can be susceptible to burnout.
But the demands of running a household and looking after a family can also lead to burnout. Factors that can contribute to burnout in housewives and mothers include a high workload, little scope to influence their situation, and a lack of appreciation and pay for the work they do.
Burnout creeps up on you
Burnout always starts with a very high level of commitment. After a time, signs of fatigue begin to appear. Your performance tails off despite all the effort you are putting in. Professional success fails to materialise, and your career stagnates. This leads you to try even harder, and your fatigue gradually becomes a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is characterised by:
- Chronic fatigue, even after a holiday
- Dissociation from work and a diminishing enthusiasm for work
- Sleeplessness, susceptibility to infections, headaches and back pain, giddiness, blood pressure instability, heart palpitations, tinnitus
- Inability to switch off after work, listlessness, a feeling of emptiness or even hopelessness, a sense of futility and thoughts of suicide
- Neglect of leisure activities, family and friends, increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and medication
Burnout can have very different causes, so there is no universal panacea for combating it. But since chronic stress is a primary cause of burnout, learning to deal with stress is of central importance. There are essentially two ways to manage stress:
- Improve your ability to handle stress.
- Eliminate the causes of stress in your life (at work, at home) so that it doesn't develop in the first place. However, this is generally no easy undertaking, because not all the causes of our stress are under our own control.