Which people are at risk of burnout and how can they be helped? This article shows preventive measures that ensure performance and productivity.
We know personality models from psychology – with the help of models, one tries to fathom the person and his patterns. Is there also a “burnout personality? Who is at risk in this respect, and what measures help?
Burnout syndrome threatens to become a widespread disease. And thus, a severe threat to the performance of people and the productivity of companies. It is not yet a disease according to the ICD-11 classification of the WHO. But the figures are alarming: mental illnesses are the third most common cause of incapacity to work in Germany.
The AOK reports that from 2011-2020, sick days due to burnout per 1,000 members increased from 96.9 to 131.7 days. This is an increase of nearly 36%. Extrapolated to more than 40 million German employees with statutory health insurance (adjusted for age and gender), that results in 180,000 effected people with 4.5 million days of absence due to burnout in 2020.
Interesting fact: It is striking that women have significantly higher absenteeism rates.
So, what is the “burnout personality”?
Is it the women? Is it the perfectionists who subordinate their health to performance and career? Or is it something else? Is there such a thing as a “burnout personality” at all?
To find out, we take the opposite approach. We look at which measures help preventively and get a clear picture of who behaves contrary to this.
6 measures that prevent burnout
Here, too, prevention is more beneficial than problem intervention. The tricky thing is that the positive benefits of prevention are often challenging to measure and hard to quantify.
The following 6 points help to avoid physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
1. Practice body awareness and mindfulness
In stressful situations, we suppress body needs and signals in favor of heightened alertness and rapid response to threats. If the stress is not relieved, the blockage persists. This is how people imperceptibly slip into chronic exhaustion. They ignore backaches, headaches, stomach pressure, dizziness, and hectic heartbeats because they want or need to function.
Anyone who regularly finds something from this list in themselves and possibly still works against it with painkillers belongs to those at risk.
The best tip: Observe your body, and sensitize yourself to its signals. Build regular breaks into your daily routine. Managers must ensure that their team does not work for hours on end but that regular breaks are possible.
2. Performance needs compensation
Which hobby, which interest provides well-being? Everyone needs something that nourishes the soul. For one person it is lonely jogging, for another baking with the children. Where one person recharges his batteries in nature, another breeds his rabbits in the local club. Where one person refuels by digging in the garden, another goes dancing to the point of blissful exhaustion.
Life consists of the alternation of activity and rest. The organism constantly oscillates between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. An effective stress-relax response is important for an efficient body and a resilient mind.
Exercise (sports) and social bonding help: never subordinate sports or friendship to career.
3. To-do lists and time management
To-do lists in the mind are like viruses on the mental hard drive. They prevent effective work in the background and unnoticed.
These lists should be taken out of your head at the latest at the end of the working day: writing them down (on paper or notepad) or recording them in a voice memo makes it easier to switch off.
The same applies to private to-do lists. It has no positive effect whatsoever to have all the to-dos mentally present all the time.
If you think about the appointments of the following day in the evening, you rob yourself of relaxed sleep and more. Rather write down all tasks and appointments in the calendar.
If you feel pressure, take a break. This can be a few deep, conscious breaths at the open window. This interruption of the stress pattern can already be enough to increase the efficiency in the brain.
Good time management not only takes pressure off the calendar, it increases the quality of time and thus the quality of life.
The ZEN saying “If you’re in a hurry, go slow” sums it up.
4. Set priorities and boundaries
Take the pressure out, and you can’t do any activities for which you are not responsible. This applies professionally as well as privately. Go into yourself and check whether you suffer from helper syndrome.
Do you say yes too often, although you feel no, and then get angry? Radical honesty with yourself helps here. Why do you do this? Perhaps this behavior brings you the recognition and goodwill that is an important need for you.
You pay the price for this: your inner peace, your integrity, and, in the end, possibly, your health.
Prioritize. YOU are priority 1 because if you can no longer do anything, then you can no longer do anything for others. This is especially true for people who lead. In this case, they may learn to delegate.
Only say yes when you are really ready for it. In this case, your no to someone else means a yes to yourself.
And of course, this: Don’t take work home. In a home office, the distinction between work time and free time is even more important and is the responsibility of each individual.
5. Look positively into the world
Thinking positively is easy to say and often misunderstood. A person who thinks positively does not ignore reality. On the contrary, this person focuses on his strengths instead of the problems.
Every, really every situation also has positive sides. And every challenge means that you have the means to overcome it.
It always depends on what you focus on. On the anger about the problem or the possible solution and the opportunities in it.
Studies have shown that people with a positive mindset are better at dealing with stress. So an optimistic worldview is a vital resilience factor. Those who trust find access to solutions more quickly than the pessimist who distrusts everything and everyone.
6. Develop emotional competence
Emotions are not obstacles to tasks. Negative-minded people have a strong focus on negative, blocking emotions. Even when they have positive experiences, they quickly switch back to the perception of what is emotionally blocking them.
An emotion always indicates blocked energy. Resolving emotions instead of suppressing them is essential to avoid slipping into exhaustion.
There are a lot of techniques for this. In an article, I have already highlighted some of them – and emotional competence in leadership.
Conclusion: Pigeonhole vs. behavior
There is no such thing as a burnout personality. But there are people with burnout-promoting behavior patterns.
These include people who ignore their needs, wear themselves out physically and emotionally, have little boundaries, perceive time pressure as standard, and have a rather negative-pessimistic view of themselves and life.
They are perfectionists who would rather pursue a perfect career than a fulfilling life.
Here’s another article for managers: Exhausted and burnt-out employees? 13 Resilience Measures