What is burnout?

Burnt out, empty, no energy – these are the typical signs of burnout. Burnout is triggered when someone is overburdened for a long time. Those affected need to get their work-life balance back.

27.09.2023 Nina Merli 3 minutes

According to the Swiss Health Survey from 2017, 21% of employed people are stressed at work. Almost half of these people feel emotionally exhausted. Men and women are equally affected. Burnout is not an illness as such, it is defined as a syndrome – in other words, a collection of various symptoms. Burnout symptoms can be mental or physical and should be taken seriously and treated. Not only will this improve well-being, it will also reduce the risk of mental or physical complications such as depression or high blood pressure.

What are the indications of burnout?

Burnout can be recognised through physical, mental or neurological symptoms. Physical burnout symptoms can include the following complaints:

  • Chronic tiredness
  • Susceptibility to infections, headaches and back pain, giddiness, blood pressure instability, heart palpitations, tinnitus
  • Lack of energy
  • Disturbed sleep

Burnout symptoms that are mental or neurological include:

  • Trouble switching off after work
  • Dissociation from work
  • Reduced enthusiasm for work
  • General apathy
  • Impaired concentration
  • Irritability
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Cynicism
  • Neglecting leisure activities and contact with family and friends
  • Increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and medication
  • Sense of inner emptiness, despair, feeling of meaninglessness
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

Do you have any questions?

Do you require any further information or have any questions about burnout? Our health consultation advisors are happy to help you.

Burnout phases

Burnout usually creeps up on you. It is triggered by a long period of stress. Burnout always starts with a very high level of commitment by the affected person. Their extreme willingness to work can cause them to neglect their own needs. After time, they feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Their performance tails off despite all their efforts. This leads to even more work and the exhaustion becomes permanent.

Burnout causes

Burnout usually occurs in a work context. The following factors can exacerbate burnout:

  • Poor working environment
  • Lack of recognition
  • Long working hours
  • Time pressure
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being permanently reachable
  • High demands

Alongside these external factors, however, some personal traits can also trigger burnout. These include perfectionism, conscientiousness or placing high demands on oneself.

Burnout in parents

The demands of running a household and looking after a family can also lead to burnout syndrome. A high workload, little scope to influence their situation and a lack of appreciation and pay for their efforts are factors that can contribute to burnout in parents.

Burnout – how to combat it?

For less serious complaints, some organisational and occupational psychology measures to improve the work situation are usually sufficient. The aim is to restore the work-life balance and to reduce stress.

Tips for a good work-life balance

If the disorder is more advanced, it will require more comprehensive psychotherapeutic treatment. Measures discussed during psychotherapy should help the affected person to manage their problems more effectively.

The following measures help with burnout:

  • Sick leave for burnout: Time off work allows the affected person to consider their situation at a distance. This is why sick leave is an important part of the recovery process. A temporary change of location also helps.
  • Mindfulness and acceptance: People affected should learn not to deny, ignore or constantly run away from the problem. Instead, they need to press pause, be kind to themselves and consider their situation. This allows sufferers to become aware of and accept the feelings and thoughts that cause their negative emotions. This reduces stress considerably.
  • Lifestyle changes: These include relaxation techniques, recreational planning and doing exercise with no pressure to perform. The aim is to create a more balanced life, reduce stress hormones quicker, release more happy hormones and increase self-confidence again. In addition, a balanced diet is important. This can have a positive influence on neurological symptoms like concentration problems.
  • Complementary medicine: Psychotherapeutic treatment can be combined with complementary therapies such as acupuncture.

When the affected person gets back into working life after a certain amount of time, it is often a good idea to start with a small number of hours and to then increase this gradually.

Burnout prevention

There’s no magic formula to prevent the causes of burnout as they are so varied. One of the main causes is chronic stress. This is why dealing with stress is of central importance. There are basically two options for successfully preventing burnout:

  • Improve your ability to handle stress
  • Reduce the causes of stress in your personal environment so that there is no stress in the first place. However, this is usually no easy undertaking as not all the causes are under our control.
How to improve your inner strength

As already mentioned in the “Burnout – how to combat it?” section, it is also important to restore a proper work-life balance. However, having a healthy work-life balance isn’t just something to be considered when already experiencing burnout.

Read more

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