Burnout and work pressure

When stress and work pressure persist over a long period of time, it can lead to a state of severe emotional exhaustion known as burnout syndrome.

What is burnout?

exhausted man at desk

More than half of all employees in Germany – regardless of sector, age, gender or qualifications – say they have a heavy workload and time pressure at work. In combination with a lack of recognition and a poor work-life balance, this can lead to overload. The term burnout points to this severe emotional exhaustion, the feeling of being burnt out. This state is accompanied by reduced performance and a clear imbalance between current demands and one’s own resources.

Almost every job involves a high workload sometimes. A critical situation develops when work pressure becomes permanent and body and soul enter a spiral of exhaustion that takes on a life of its own and can ultimately lead to burnout
Reinhild Fürstenberg, Foundress and Manageress of the Fürstenberg Institute

Signs of mental overload

The transition from a bearable workload to overload and from there to burnout is often gradual. Many different factors play a role. Besides the working conditions, of relevance here are the resources a person can draw on and how they feel about the options open to them for dealing with their situation. The signs of overload manifest themselves on different levels; depending on the severity of the overload experienced, a wide range of symptoms can occur:

Physical symptoms

On the physical level, overload can manifest itself in, for example, sleeping problems, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, digestive problems, heart problems or sexual problems. In general, there is often a reduced physical capacity.

Psychological symptoms

On the mental level, overload often first shows itself through a feeling of nervousness, emotional exhaustion and helplessness. In addition, feelings of guilt, concentration problems, slowed thinking or even aggressive impulses often show up.

Behavioural changes

Usually, overload also leads to changes in the behaviour of the person affected. At first, this often manifests itself in the person making more mistakes, rushing things and not being able to organise themselves well anymore. As it progresses, the person affected begins to withdraw from their social environment and become very impatient; their attitudes can often change to indifference, cynicism and pessimism if the stress continues.

These warning signs do not in themselves constitute burnout, but they do give the first indications of overload. If this persists and those affected see no way of coping with it, it can result in mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as well as causing physical side-effects such as tinnitus and diseases of the cardiovascular system. Therefore, always take any initial indications seriously – with regard to both yourself and others – and do not ignore them.

How can I deal with overload?

a magnifying glass with a person
The first important step is to realise that you are overloaded and that you want to change something about the situation. 
Light bulb
Solution orientation
Talk to your manager about the situation and look for solutions, such as fixed arrangements for being available.
Time and self-management
Actively schedule breaks and turn off your devices after work if possible.
Person in meditation pose
Even if it is difficult, try to relax consciously. Many people achieve this through mindfulness and meditation exercises.

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