Burnout syndrome – are you at risk of burnout?

Even those who pursue their work with genuine, unclouded passion can suffer a burnout. It is even the most motivated, hard-working people who fall ill most often. In short: if you burn for your job, you can also burn out. Here are 5 symptoms by which you can recognise an approaching burnout.

Burnout is defined as “a persistent state of total physical and mental exhaustion”.  Many attribute it to excessive pressure at work. In reality, the causes are far more varied and complex and have so much to do with the attitudes and behaviour patterns of the person affected than with external factors.

If you are suffering from one or more of the following symptoms, you could be on your way to burnout

Burnout symptom 1: Persistent fatigue or exhaustion

After a good night’s sleep you should feel rested and refreshed. If you feel as tired in the morning as you did the previous evening, something is wrong. If the working day is just a struggle that leaves you exhausted and empty, that is a reason to critically review your life.

Burnout symptom 2: Reduced performance

This can be divided into a reduction in physical performance on the one hand and a reduction in mental performance on the other. If the physical capacity is reduced, everyday life simply feels impossible to cope with. Small problems are suddenly perceived as huge challenges.

If the mental capacity is reduced, the concentration and retentiveness of the person concerned decreases. More inaccuracies and mistakes creep into the work – signs of disorganisation or disorientation become visible to the outside world.

Burnout symptom 3: Physical complaints

The physical complaints that accompany burnout are manifold and often have no clear organic cause. Insomnia, back pain, digestive problems, headaches – the symptoms of burnout can be so varied. Because persistent stress suppresses the immune system, infectious diseases (such as lip herpes) could become a problem. If you have a lot of these symptoms, it could be burnout.

Burnout symptom 4: Social withdrawal

If you are so tired and lacking in drive that even meeting up with trusted friends becomes an excessive demand, this should be an alarm signal. Many people who are on their way to burnout are increasingly withdrawing from their social life. They are increasingly isolated, feel hopeless and disoriented.

Burnout symptom 5: Inner emptiness, loss of sense

At this late stage of burnout the person feels empty and burnt out. He is completely apathetic and – in acute cases – no longer sees any meaning in life. Suicidal thoughts may occur. If this happens to you, you should see a doctor or a psychotherapist as soon as possible, because you will find it difficult to get out of this spiral on your own.

Even if burnout is hard to recognise and classify, you should take these signs seriously and ask yourself whether you should cut back for a while, take more care of yourself – or whether you are on the right track in life at all. If you just ignore the symptoms and carry on, you run the risk of having a real breakdown. As a self-employment person, you simply cannot afford that.

Photo: Emilio Küffer

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