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.

28.10.2021 Lara Brunner 4 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. Affected persons have an increased risk of burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is not a disease in its own right. It is defined as a syndrome – i.e. a collection of various symptoms. These should be taken seriously and treated appropriately. 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.

How do I recognise burnout?

  • The following symptom indicate burnout:
  • Chronic tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Dissociation from work
  • Reduced enthusiasm for work
  • Sleep disorders
  • Susceptibility to infections, headaches and back pain, giddiness, blood pressure instability, heart palpitations, tinnitus
  • Trouble switching off after 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
  • 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.

How does burnout progress?

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. 

What are the causes of burnout?

Burnout usually occurs in the context of work. 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

In addition to these external factors, however, there are also personal traits that can trigger burnout. These include perfectionism, conscientiousness or placing high demands on oneself.


Good to know

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 housewives or househusbands.

How is burnout treated?

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 usually help the affected person to manage their problems more effectively. Treatment does however include social support as well as relaxation exercises.

The following measures help with burnout:

  • Time off work allows the affected person to consider their situation at a distance. A temporary change of location also helps.
  • The affected person needs to learn how best to handle stress and exhaustion. As part of this, they must always be aware that short-term periods of overload cannot usually be completely avoided.
  • Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation help to reduce mental and physical tension. Sport – without pressure to perform – can also have a positive effect. To a certain extent, affected persons must also find out what helps them.
An overview of the most well-known relaxation techniques
  • Antidepressants can stabilise the situation temporarily. They do not, however, reduce the symptoms. Plant-based remedies help with mental and physical relaxation. However, drug treatment should always be combined with psychotherapeutic treatment.
  • Psychotherapeutic treatment can be combined with complementary therapies such as acupuncture.
More information on complementary medicine

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.

How can burnout be prevented?

There’s no magic formula to prevent the causes of burnout, because they are so varied. One of the main causes is chronic stress. This is why dealing with stress is of central importance. In general, there are two options for successful stress management:

  • Increasing your own capacity to deal with stress
How to improve your inner strength
  • Reducing 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, because not all of the causes are under our control.

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

Helpful tips on this, as well as a self-analysis, can be found in our blog article:

Successful work-life balance

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