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Burnout prevention:
quickly recognising when it is all getting too much

Stressed at work? Some 40% of German employees feel the same (source: State of the Global Workplace 2022, Gallup Institute). The risk of suffering burnout is increasing – and that means preventing it has never been more important. After all, the decline is often a slow, insidious process. What starts with a couple of hours of overtime can escalate into crippling exhaustion that renders the sufferer incapable of work and decision-making. The diagnosis is often burnout syndrome. The feeling of being completely exhausted and unable to rest is the reason for some 190,000 doctor appointments every year, often resulting in employees being promptly signed off as the number of sick days constantly rises.

Burnout can affect anyone. Stress at work or home and one’s own constant desire to excel are just a few of the causes that can lead to burnout. Recognising the symptoms of burnout and taking preventive measures should be of fundamental importance to all employees and companies. This is the only way to perform consistently well at work and, above all, protect our own health and that of our co-workers.

Burnout definition: what is burnout?

Burnout syndrome describes the condition of being mentally exhausted. Being “burnt out” manifests itself in a variety of symptoms. Emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, indifference, failure or fear of failure all lead to a decline in a person's performance and cause them to feel overwhelmed by having to live up to expectations every day. It is always a gradual process. In fact, it can take weeks or even months for burnout syndrome to become noticeable and recognised as a serious problem by those affected.

But how does burnout happen and are some people more prone to suffering it than others? No one is immune to overwork and endless to-do lists. And yet it tends to be a person’s own attitude to their work and everyday life management that takes many to their stress limits – both physically and mentally. If other personality traits such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, a strong need to please others or the feeling of not having control over your work are added into the mix, the risk of suffering from burnout increases.

Anzeichen für Burnout – Symptome und Warnsignale

Aktuell sind ca. 130 Anzeichen für Burnout bekannt und die meisten Erkrankten beschreiben das Syndrom damit, „ausgebrannt“ zu sein. Was alle gemein haben, ist eine tiefe Erschöpfung, die auch nach längeren Pausen oder Erholungsphasen besteht. Sollten Sie mehrere dieser Burnout-Symptome bei sich feststellen, sollten Sie sich dringend Hilfe suchen.

The most common burnout symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion

  • Lack of energy

  • Constant tiredness

  • Sleep disorders

  • Diminished performance

  • Concentration and memory problems

Other signs of burnout:

  • Indifference

  • Feeling of weakness

  • Lack of empathy

  • Restlessness

  • Tendency to cry

  • Cynicism

  • Relationship/family problems

Physical complaints:

  • Weakened immune system with frequent colds

  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disorders

  • Tightness in chest

  • Headaches

  • Back pain

  • Tinnitus

  • Fatigue

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Stomach and intestinal problems

Warning signs of burnout:

  • The feeling of never having enough time

  • Hyperactivity

  • Inability to say no

  • Inaccuracies when completing tasks

  • Voluntary, unpaid overtime

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Self-pity

  • Increased consumption of alcohol or tablets

  • Lack of humour

  • Dissatisfaction with one’s own performance

 

10 tips to prevent burnout

Burnout does not happen by chance. Since the risk of burnout is predominantly determined by your own behaviour, you can counteract the feeling of complete exhaustion by taking preventive measures:

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  2. Preventing burnout through prioritisation

    Do you know the feeling of arriving at the end of the day and having little to show for it? The feeling of not being able to complete important tasks can pose a dangerous risk of burnout.

    Your measureshre: Improve your time management and make sure you leave enough time for your tasks. Order your tasks by importance and urgency.

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  4. Draw boundaries

    Can you cope with huge workloads and your colleagues like to ask for your help? The so-called “helper syndrome” can also lead to exhaustion since you tend to put the tasks and needs of others before your own.

    Your measures : Draw deliberate boundaries and learn to say “no” – especially when it comes to tasks that go beyond your abilities.

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  6. Preventing burnout with me-time

    Is your work full of to-do lists and even afterwards, you find it difficult to take time for yourself because you have errands to run or need to do some exercise, or perhaps you volunteer or are a member of a club? That's commendable, but is it really good for you to always be on the go?

    Your measures: Free yourself from your “duties” and identify your “sources of stress”. Give yourself 15 to 30 minutes every day to do something just for you. Listen to music or podcasts, read a book, go for a walk or simply have a quick nap. Create your own “haven of relaxation” where you can restore and recharge.

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  8. Preventing burnout through relaxation techniques

    Especially when you have a lot to do, you can often feel like you are jumping from one task to the next – with very little time to relax. How about finding a relaxation technique that works for you to recharge your batteries and simultaneously prevent burnout?

    Your measures: Look for a relaxation method you enjoy. Whether qi gong, yoga, tai chi, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation, it is worth asking your health insurance or local healthcare provider which burnout prevention methods they offer in order to find the best technique to help you switch off.

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  10. Preventing burnout through less stress at work

    You rush from one meeting to another, don’t take any breaks and even forget to eat. In the long run, this can only lead to complete exhaustion.

    Your measures: Bring structure to your day. Plan specific times for breaks, answering emails or dealing with customers. You don’t have to fill every little break with telephone calls or non-essential tasks. It may also help you to reduce your working hours or change jobs within the company. Talk to your employer and work together to find a way to tackle your work overload.

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  12. Preventing burnout by taking care of your body

    Your body is constantly sending you signals that it is feeling overwhelmed. Listen to it and take care of it.

    Your measures: If your body wants to sleep, allow yourself a little nap. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Steer clear of quick (unhealthy) snacks on the go and take time to have a proper meal. Eating some freshly prepared food away from your desk will not only delight your palate, but will also give your entire body a well-deserved break.

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  14. Measures against burnout: move your body

    A hard day at work and now exercise on top? That's right. After all, your body deserves some movement after sitting at a desk all day.

    Your measures: Make exercise a regular habit. You don’t need to be a professional athlete – half an hour of exercise two to three times a week is enough to start with. Go for a walk, cycle or grab your trekking poles or badminton rackets and get some friends or acquaintances to join in. You’ll soon notice the effects: your mind will switch off completely and your energy levels will rise.

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  16. Preventing burnout through socialising

    When was the last time you spent some time relaxing with your partner or friends? If you find yourself struggling to remember, you should stock up on some quality time immediately. After all, positive social contact, hugs or chilling out together works wonders for relaxation and recharging.

    Your measures: Make time in your agenda for socialising. Arranging a specific evening or blocking off an entire Saturday afternoon will help you to spend more time with your loved ones. Rituals like cooking together, games nights or regular visits to your favourite restaurant are also helpful. Take advantage of these occasions to talk to each other about what is on your mind and don’t forget to have fun.

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  18. Preventing burnout by having fun

    Do all your thoughts revolve around work or the mountain of tasks that awaits when you get home? Keep the frown lines away by taking time to relax and consciously seeking out environments where you can let go and simply enjoy yourself.

    Your measures: Do you have that one friend who always makes you laugh or with whom you can chat about anything without a care in the world? Great! See them often and learn to appreciate the effortlessness. Alternatively, you could watch a funny film, go see some improv or give laughter yoga a try. Whatever you choose, laughing combats stress and simultaneously strengthens the immune system.

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  20. Measures against burnout: don’t be eternally available

    Email, phone, Messenger, social media... are you always available and constantly bombarded with both work and personal messages? Constant availability and the pressure to respond immediately keeps your stress levels at a permanent high. Your risk of burnout increases.

    Your measures: Decide when and how you are available to whom. Do you really need to access work messages on your private phone? Does your computer really need to be on standby round the clock? Consciously set aside times when you do not look at your mobile, switch it to silent at night and, if possible, leave it outside the bedroom. Give your PC a rest at the weekend, too.

If, despite all of these measures, you find it difficult to relax, try to find out where exactly the cause lies. Go to your doctor, seek professional counselling and find a suitable therapy to lower your stress levels. If you know who is in charge of health management at your company, speak to them, too, and look for ways to make your working life healthier.

If you are sure that changing jobs is the only way forward, get in touch and let us find a suitable alternative for you together.

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