When you suffer from a burnout, you are literally burned out. This is because you’ve had to deal with intense and emotionally draining situations, or because you’ve been exposed to too much stress for a long period of time. As a result, your capabilities and workload have become unbalanced. For example, you’ve been too busy at work, there is tension in your family, or you’ve had to deal with a traumatic event.
Whether you actually end up with a burnout depends on several factors. Examples include your character, your social safety net and the amount of events in your life which have had an emotional impact on you. A burnout doesn’t need to be due to one situation or event. Situations can pile up.
Anyone can suffer a burnout. However, people who have the following character traits are at an increased risk of a burnout. For example, you may:
- Be a perfectionist.
- Find it difficult to express your feelings.
- Not be able to say no.
- Be very diligent.
- Be negative about your own abilities.
In addition, a burnout is more common in people in certain professional groups, such as healthcare, the police and education.
A burnout means you can suffer from the following symptoms:
- Difficulty getting out of bed.
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Difficulty finding inner calm and relaxing activities.
- Difficulty finding enjoyment in things.
- Feeling agitated.
- (Uncontrolled) crying fits.
- Forgetfulness and impaired concentration.
- Feeling like you’re not good enough.
- Reduced self-esteem.
- A headache.
- Intestinal complaints.
- Abdominal complaints
- Stiff muscles.
- Panic attacks.
We refer to a burnout when you have at least three of these symptoms and if these are accompanied by feeling like you’re no longer in control of your life. You’re also unable to cope with your usual daily activities. You no longer function as before.
You have to go through three phases to get out of a burnout:
- You accept you’re suffering from a burnout and understand what this means.
- You investigate the causes of your burnout.
- You implement appropriate solutions.
Acceptance and understanding
Accepting may be the hardest, but also the most important thing you’ll need to do to overcome a burnout. Your recovery won’t be able to start until you recognise the burnout and learn to listen to your body. Discuss your situation with the people around you and be open about it at work or school. This can increase understanding of your situation. They can also help you to look at your situation differently, making it easier for you to accept your burnout. Guilt and self-judgment are common among people with burnout. But you really shouldn’t feel guilty about it, because everybody has limits. These limits have been significantly exceeded the moment you’re suffering from a burnout and it’s important for you to take good care of yourself. See which activities you can or can’t continue to do and make sure you get plenty of rest. Sometimes it can help to temporarily stop working or school altogether. It’s not a good idea to return to your daily activities too quickly. You’ll first need to figure out the causes of your burnout, so you can make sure it won’t happen again in the future.
Investigate the causes and come up with solutions.
You can start investigating the causes of your burnout once you’ve accepted you’re suffering from a burnout and you’ve factored in the right amount of rest. You can then come up with solutions to prevent the causes in the future. You can either do this on your own, or with help from your practice nurse or psychologist. It may help to:
- Write down the causes you can think of. Then write down what you think causes your stress levels to rise. This may include perfectionism, or the expectations you have of yourself.
- Write down what’s going well and what you’ve learned from previous situations. See if you can use this to tackle the causes of your burnout.
- Find out what can reduce your stress. Find out what you can change at home and at work. Have you been doing a lot of overtime? Then stick to your contracted hours and talk to your employer if this isn’t possible. Do you have many tasks at home? Then discuss this with those around you and see who can provide you with a little support. You also need to learn to say “no” more often to tasks or activities which are not a priority. Make sure you factor in enough activities which will make you feel relaxed. Don’t take these out of the equation and then still try to deal with the high level of pressure.
- Talk to your practice nurse or psychologist about the causes.
- Involve your company doctor, your colleagues, your employer, family and/or friends with this process. Find out what they can do for you to reduce your stress levels. Are there tensions in the workplace? Then make this open to discussion. Do you find this difficult? Then see who can help you with that.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of how you can reduce your stress levels, you will need to try things out in practice. Always do this in consultation with your care provider and company doctor. They will also support you during this phase. Is a solution you came up with not working? Then don’t panic and try something else. You can still continue coming up with new solutions during this phase, which you can then try out again.
Do you suspect you’re suffering from a burnout? Then make an appointment with your GP. He or she will ask you questions about your situation to determine whether or not you’re suffering from a burnout. Your GP will then discuss a possible suitable treatment with you and refer you to the right care provider. This could be your surgery’s practice nurse, but also a psychologist or coach. We’d also recommend contacting your company doctor if your symptoms are work-related. You can recover well from a burnout, but the duration will vary per person. You may be at home recovering for a few months, but it could also take more than a year.