How can accountants avoid professional burnout

Burnout: symptoms, test + 7 tips to prevent

Constant time pressure combined with frequent conflicts with colleagues or even the boss can lead to burnout. The consequences are deep exhaustion and a drop in performance. Here you can find out what distinguishes burnout (also known as burnout syndrome) from normal exhaustion, which symptoms indicate "burnout" and what you should do in an emergency ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is burnout?

Burnout (another spelling: burn-out) is defined as total exhaustion of a physical and emotional nature. The term is often used in connection with work. Burnout can also be the result of private overload. This complete overload means that those affected can hardly cope with their everyday lives.

The term encompasses numerous mental disorders. Their most striking feature is that those affected lack all energy and strength, so that at some point they no longer know what to do next. Some speak of a "heart attack". However, doctors and experts still struggle to precisely define the term burnout syndrome. You can read more about the criticism in our free PDF.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Burnout is a gradual process. The body first looks for other outlets, which is why the first symptoms of burnout are easily overlooked. In addition, some people (unconsciously) suppress them (more about the reasons here in the PDF). The many symptoms show up both physically and mentally. The most common are:

  • exhaustion
    Fatigue and exhaustion are constant companions. As soon as they have started the day, they feel overwhelmed and need a break. However, these no longer bring the desired recovery. Often there are also sleep disorders, which increase fatigue.
  • Drop in performance
    Your own performance drops significantly. Concentration is difficult, mistakes happen frequently. At some point this leads to a vicious circle: those affected intensify their efforts, are even more exhausted and still step on the spot. This stirs up fears and even panic attacks.
  • retreat
    Those who suffer from burnout withdraw from their friends at some point. Activities and hobbies that were once loved are now uninteresting. Those affected only feel an inner emptiness. If someone was previously “on fire”, that is, full of enthusiasm for their job or that thing, then with burnout suddenly the meaning of the job is missing.
  • personality
    Extreme mood swings can be observed in the affected person. Diffuse fears give way to the feeling of having achieved nothing in life. From an initial dissatisfaction, cynicism emerges at some point up to hopelessness and total despair.

12-step model and large burnout test

The two psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North developed the so-called 12-step model years ago. Afterwards, sufferers go through twelve typical phases in the course of a burnout syndrome:

The model is intended to help those affected with their own situation Better to assess: Do you recognize yourself on one of the steps? You can download a more detailed burnout test here for free (PDF):

Burnout test (with resolution)

Tick ​​the applicable statements calmly, at the end you will find an evaluation. Of course, the burnout test cannot replace a detailed medical diagnosis. However, it can provide you with initial indications as to whether you are already heading towards burnout.

What are the causes of burnout?

Burnout has various causes, which can lie in the working conditions, in the private environment, as well as the personality of the person concerned. To many, the modern world of work and its new forms of communication seem to be responsible for this: For example, these lead to the lines between work and leisure becoming more blurred (keyword: work-life blending). The increasing intensification of work leads more often to overtime. In addition, there is the psychological pressure from fixed-term employment contracts.

Often people from social areas are affected, in whom the idealistic commitment is strongly pronounced: paramedics, educators or teachers. But he doesn't stop at single parents, workaholics and people with helper syndrome either.

Burnout triggers can therefore be:

How is burnout diagnosed?

The professional world does not know a diagnosis of "burnout". Since the definition is already vague, there is no standardized procedure for determining burnout. However, the psychologist Corinna Maslach and her colleague Susan E. Jackson developed a burnout questionnaire (Maslach Burnout Inventory, MBI). This scientifically accepted questionnaire is suitable for identifying possible warning signs.

Whether a doctor or a therapist falls back on it, of course, cannot be said. Those affected who seek help from their family doctor, for example, are first physically examined. In this way, he can rule out possible physical causes such as an underactive thyroid or vitamin deficiency in advance. Once the diagnosis has been made, the real treatment and therapy begins. The decisive factor here is one's own attitude: Assigning blame is the wrong way to go. In the event of burnout, you always have to touch your own nose, as the causes - as mentioned - are partly your own. Important questions to be clarified are:

  • How can I curb the constant stress?
  • Can I solve the problems as a team or is it myself?
  • How do I get more serenity?
  • How do I know my limits and resources?
  • Can I solve the problem myself or do I need professional help?

Difference Between Burnout and Depression

The unclear definition makes it difficult to clearly distinguish between burnout and depression. In society as a whole, burnout is more widely accepted than depression: Burnout is often associated with performance and drive, which is why it is also considered a "manager's disease". Depression, on the other hand, is still interpreted by many as a sign of weakness.

To make matters worse, some symptoms are similar, about the pronounced dejection and low performance. Some experts classify burnout as a preliminary stage to depression. In this case, the hopelessness is much more pronounced and can lead to thoughts of suicide. The latter is considered atypical for burnout.

7 tips: this is how you can prevent burnout

Ideally, there is no burnout in the first place. You can do that:

  1. Fight against causes, not symptoms.
    No longer does coffee help against tiredness, but regular breaks, regular sleep, healthy food and exercise. It's better to meet up with good friends again for a chat - but don't talk about work.
  2. Set priorities.
    Everyone has the same amount of time - you just have to divide it up correctly. What do you have to do? What are the time wasters? How can you manage your time better? Some tasks can be delegated.
  3. Take a proactive approach to conflict.
    Eating unexplained things into oneself wears down and saps one's performance. You either remain part of the problem or you become part of the solution.
  4. Clarify your tasks.
    Excessive demands arise when professional skills and success criteria are not clearly defined. Create emotional stability through certainty.
  5. Practice saying no.
    Anyone who is always too willing to help others pays a high price for it: those who are willing to help are always at risk of being exploited. So learn to say no - also to bosses.
  6. Reduce your availability.
    Smartphones also have an on / off switch. Use it! Set a time after which you will no longer be available for business or at least switch off the data services.
  7. Take your time to relax.
    Plan more time off and celebrate a fixed day off. You need relaxation to regain new energy for the week. Idleness is often the source of good thoughts and great ideas.

How is burnout treated?

Since the living conditions that can lead to burnout are very different, there is no standard therapy for all those affected. If the first symptoms show up, consistent application of the above prevention tips may help. If a discussion with the doctor reveals that you need professional help, psychotherapy can be helpful. This is often done in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy and helps those affected to change their own behavior.

You learn again to perceive your own needs and reflect on your attitude: What are my own expectations? What expectations do others have of me? Since burnout is a combination of several factors, the following methods can also be used:

  • Mindfulness
    Mindfulness brings the practitioner back into the here and now and directs the focus to one's own state of mind. Meditation and other relaxation exercises have a similar function.
  • Time management
    Time management courses (better: self-management) help structure the daily routine and eliminate time thieves.
  • conflict management
    An excessive need for harmony is often based on avoidance of conflict. Wherever people work together, however, conflicts are inevitable. It is not the arguments themselves that are harmful, but rather unresolved, smoldering conflicts. In seminars, you can also learn how to deal with problems correctly and how to successfully resolve conflicts.

More about the possibilitiesTo overcome burnout and find your way back to everyday life and your job, you can read about it in an expert interview with Carola Kleinschmidt, which we have made available for download here as a free PDF.

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[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]