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Burnout – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment And Recovery

Burnout – What to Do When You Feel Exhausted And Burned Out

What is burnout syndrome and what can you do when you feel completely burned out and exhausted? If you are looking for answers to these questions, you have come to the right place! You may also feel tired every day, work, everyday life and leisure time stress you out and somehow it's all too much for you. Then these are clear signs of a burnout syndrome, which is a common consequence of constant stress and overload in professional or private everyday life.

But you're not alone with the stressful symptoms. At least 4.2 percent of adults in Germany suffer from it.₁ And around 60 percent of Germans feel threatened by burnout.₂ Fortunately, there are ways and means to do something about mental exhaustion.

In this article you will learn everything you need to know about burnout. From the definition, the most common symptoms and causes, to prevention and successful treatment. Let's go!

Here you can find a short overview in advance:

  1. Definition
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Prevention
  5. Treatment
  6. Closing words

Notice: This article is not a substitute for medical advice, but only provides general information about burnout syndrome. Please see your health care provider if you feel unwell to prevent health problems with medical care.

Definition: What is Burnout actually?

So far, there is no generally accepted definition of burnout. Not least because there is no consensus on its causes. Basically, however, it is understood to mean the permanent feeling of emotional exhaustionoverstrain, dejection, dissatisfaction and inner emptiness. Those affected often complain about a lack of support, little room for maneuver and a lack of recognition.

The term burnout translates as "to burn out" or "to be burned out" and goes back to the U.S. American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger back. He felt burned out while volunteering at a clinic and published his observations in a psychological journal in 1974.

In the years that followed, burnout became known primarily as a phenomenon in the nursing professions and affected mainly those people who were strongly committed to their profession and really spent themselves in the process. Since the beginning of the 1990s, burnout has been officially recognized as an additional diagnosis, but not as a disease requiring treatment.

Symptoms: How do you recognize burnout?

Burnout - How do you recognize total exhaustion and burnout?

Burnout does not occur suddenly and overnight, but sometimes develops over many years. Herbert Freudenberger formulated a twelve-phase model in this regard as early as the 1970s.

It begins with perfectionistic traits and excessive ambition - sufferers neglect their own needs in favor of others. As the symptoms progress, many observe a sense of Hopelessness and resignationdaily tasks become a burden, motivation and commitment are lost. Eventually, this leads to a state of complete physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion.

If you observe one or more of the following symptoms, these may be Signs of incipient or advanced burnout be

  • Dejection: You are often depressed for no apparent reason, no longer feel joy, even in things that were once your passion.
  • Restlessness: Although you are permanently tired, you hardly get any rest, suffer from problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Performance Breakdown: In your job you work a lot, overtime is the order of the day, but your performance drops and you find it harder to concentrate.
  • Fears and worries: You suffer from panic attacks and/or anxiety disorders.
  • Physical complaints: Headaches, palpitations, gastrointestinal irritation or breathing problems are becoming more common.

Occasional stressful phases are not yet burnout

The above-mentioned signs may or may not indicate burnout. Therefore, it is best to consult your health care rule out organic causes and to explore options for successful treatment.

To prevent the worst from happening, it is generally advisable, to react and counteract already at the first signs of burnout. In mild cases, meditation and relaxation techniques can already help. Accompanied courses also motivate people to stay on the ball, for example this online offer from HelloBetter.

Regular rest periods, sufficient sleep and Mindfulness to yourself, can also help prevent burnout from occurring in the first place.

How do the symptoms of burnout differ from those of depression?

Listless, permanently tired and exhausted, feelings of emptiness and hopelessness: Many signs of depression overlap with those of burnout. From a clinical point of view, burnout syndrome is not diagnosed as a single condition but as an additional condition, for example, in addition to depression.

Important: If you suffer from burnout, this does not necessarily mean that you will also be diagnosed with depression. The reverse is also true: not every depressive is burned out in the symptomatic sense.

The The main differentiator between burnout and depression is the identifiable causes. While these are not always clear in the case of depression and a depressive clinical picture can also develop without any external influences, it can be in the case of burnout, usually clearly define where exhaustion and hopelessness come from.

Causes: What can trigger burnout?

permanent stress at work is one of the most common causes of burnout

Burnout can affect anyoneregardless of their professional or private situation or their job status. The causes are as varied as the people it affects.

Often burnout is the Result of various, personal and external influencing factors. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Overload by high, practically unfulfillable requirements in the professional environment and enormous pressure to perform.
  • Expectations too high due to assumption of great responsibility in the job or in the private sphere.
  • High number of tasks and an excessive amount of daily routine activities, with a simultaneous lack of support from third parties.
  • Loss of control and lack of options for influencing one's own activities or daily routine.
  • Poor working atmosphereunclear hierarchies, conflicts with superiors and colleagues.
  • Big worries about the job, the salary or the housing situation in the future.

Your own personality and events also play a big role

The causes of burnout can also be rooted in personal characteristics and go back to childhood. People who have high expectations of themselves and their performance have perfectionist are, at the same time, a rather weakly developed self-confidence have and conflict averse are very often affected by burnout.

The influence that changes and major life events can have on the development of burnout should not be underestimated. Private setbacks and strokes of fate for example, are also often a factor in the development of burnout symptoms.

Furthermore can even joyful experiencesThe birth of a child, graduation from university or a promotion can all be triggers for burnout.

Why is that? Most people associate changes like this with certain expectations. More job satisfaction, a new purpose in life, the big, wide world waiting for you - the Hopes are often high. If they are disappointedIf, for example, the new job is more demanding than expected or you feel overwhelmed as a young mother or father, resignation follows - and the risk of burnout grows.

How can exhaustion be prevented? Strategies for burnout prevention

Balance and equilibrium are the best means to prevent burnout

Stressful times get out of hand, you work countless overtime hours, but there's no recognition for it, and family and friends offer little support. Scenarios like these have a clear potential for burnout. To counteract this, timely action is required.

It applies, to become more relaxed, to regularly come to rest, a healthy work-life balance to build up, to be mindful of one's own strengths and to take time for yourselfto do something good for you, too. What measures support you, for exampleI would like to show you here.

Sport activity

Staying in motion relaxes your body and mind, makes you feel your body again, provides a Stress balance and has a positive effect on your blood pressure.

Just forgo setting goals and free yourself from expectations. Focus instead on the fun of the thing and look for a sport that you simply enjoy.

Sufficient sleep

During the night, cells regenerate, including those in the brain. A sufficient night's rest promotes your mental regeneration and subsequently also increases your load capacity for the day. If possible, always go to bed at the same time and try to sleep at least eight hours. During the day, a power nap can also help your Maintain energy.

Tip: How you basically sleep better and you a healthy bedroom furnishings I'll explain how you can do this in the linked blog articles.

Time for family and friends

A balanced social life is an important cornerstone in preventing impending burnout. It needs people you can confide inYou can always count on the support of people with whom you regularly spend time. Maintain your contacts. For example, make regular appointments with friends to pursue common hobbies.

Balanced and healthy diet

Quick snacks at your desk or ToGo should be crossed off your dinner list. Instead, take time at least once a day to eat a meal with fresh, healthy, plant-based ingredients, which you prepare accordingly, in order to relax. In this way, you're doing something good for your body - and you're also pleasing your eyes.

Situation analysis

In order not to fall into old, problematic habitsYou should also always analyze your current situation (e.g. lifestyle and stress) in order to prevent the risk of burnout.

What is my current screen timeHow much sleep do I get, how many steps do I take each day, and how healthy is my current diet? What do I feel burdened by, do I find it difficult to say no? These are Questions you should ask yourself regularly and answer honestlyin order to be able to counteract a possible complete exhaustion at any time.

Calmness and mindfulness

Take a few minutes out of your day several times a day to breathe consciously and feel inside yourself. Build beneficial rituals into your daily routine. Sauna sessions, yoga sessions or meditations are just as beautiful, calming and balancing examples as the daily Walk in the forest or in the park.

Just around 15 minutes a day is enoughto effectively lower your pulse and blood pressure and raise your spirits. It is especially the Staying in nature, which is so good for us humans - and which serves to prevent burnout.

Tip: The Reading books, as is well known, has many advantages. Among other things, that you really come to rest and find time for yourself.

Treat Burnout - What to do when you feel completely burned out and exhausted?

Treat total exhaustion with mindfulness and professional help

Once the state of total exhaustion has arrived, many sufferers are no longer able to help themselves. At this moment at the latest, professional support is then required.

There are no standard solutions that work for all patients. Therapists and patients Therefore, together we develop an individual program, which step by step back should lead to self-determination and mindfulness.

Possible ways to get there can be found in the Strengthening self-confidence or lie in learning to use the perceive your own feelings more clearly and to set limits for themselves. The exchange with other affected persons in the context of self-help groups can also help.

Do you suspect you are suffering from burnout? Then you should first talk to your family doctor in order to treat the feeling of low spirits, excessive demands and exhaustion in a targeted and successful way.

Burnout is a serious but solvable problem

Both men and women, younger and older, suffer from burnout syndrome. Burnout can affect anyone, across all social classes and occupational profiles. If you recognize the first symptoms, you should not hesitate to take action.

"Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing."

Arthur Schopenhauer (more at Health Quotes)

Gentle methods, such as calming meditation or balancing exercise, can already be a great, positive effect have. In therapy, however, you get to the bottom of the causes much more deeply and work out strategies for dealing better with stress and pressure. With the individual methods tailored to you, the exhaustion syndrome can ultimately be alleviated, so that you can feel able to cope with your everyday life again.

I really hope that I could help you with this article about burnout. Do you have any questions, suggestions, tips or your own experiences with the feeling of complete exhaustion that you would like to share? Then I look forward to your comment.

Stay healthy,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Also about how you can help a escape the carousel of thoughts, find inner peace and your Lower stress levelsI have written detailed articles for you in each case. Look gladly times purely!

₁ Robert Koch Institute (RKI): Prevalence of burnout in Germany by gender, age, and social status in 2012 (as of June 14, 2012), available at [08.07.2023].

₂ Deutsches Ärzteblatt: Every second person feels threatened by burnout (as of 09.04.2018), available at [08.07.2023].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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