Causes for burn-out

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The root cause of a burn-out is always related to work. However, it is more complicated than just pointing towards your career. It is a combination of one’s personality, lifestyle, and control skills.

Personality is the hardest factor to change. Because it is part of your personal evolution, which is a lifetime mindset and doesn’t happen overnight. People with high achieving traits, people who naturally give energy and time to others and those with a need for control will always suffer burn-out faster than others in the same work environment.

Each personality type has his own burn-out evolution. Control freaks and “Go-givers” will slowly lose their energy and slide into burn out over a longer period of time, whereas career hunting achievers will fall into burn-out overnight, not knowing what has happened to them.

In the burn-out prevention training we teach the participants the importance of knowing your main personality type and its corresponding burn-out signs. Acknowledging your main drivers in your life will also help you to set your body and mind towards a positive evolution. It allows you to recognize your own negative direction which will, sooner or later, lead to burn-out and/or depression.

The lifestyle component relates to the balance between a person’s social/private life with a professional one. If a person suffers from too much work and not enough rest or down time, he/she has no way to escape the mounting stress decreasing their cooping abilities. It’s not just family that is a positive factor to avoid work related stress and burn-out, but also the feeling of belonging: being part of other groups (your social network) is absolutely key to avoid, cure and prevent new burn-outs. (“The social cure”, author Jolanda Jetten, Psychology press 2012; Tegan Crewys in Psyche and Brain, issue n° 6, 2014).

Healthy movement and healthy food also have a huge effect on your dopamine levels and prevent the stress hormone cortisol to stay too long in your body. Thjs means that people who have a sportive and healthy lifestylearen’t that likely to fall into burnout.
Work related causes (like e.g. the company culture) are multi-faceted as well, revolving around control, expectations, recognition, and the atmosphere. Does the employee have control over his work? Are the company’s expectations clear? Is there enough recognition and appraisal? Does the work environment have an atmosphere open to quiet, calm work? These are all factors that push someone over from dealing with stress to emptiness that characterizes burn-out. Conflict management at work is a very important topic for all team managers and HR people, because conflicts are early signs in a group that stress and a negative atmosphere is growing.

The presence of control skills in someone’s mind is probably the best life changing and burn-out busting ability to have if you want to avoid this stress disease. Meta-cognition is the ability to evaluate your thinking patterns and the effect your emotions have on your body and mind. Mindfulness, meditation and personal evolution training and insights are all part of this meta-cognitive family.
Lacking these skills make you more vulnerable for burn-out. (Source: Meta-cognition, John Dunlosky & Janet Metcalfe, Sage,2009; Stephen Fleming,New York University and Oxford University). Other control skills like time management, goal setting abilities and focus training are also great tools to counter extreme stress at work.

The educational environment has also been analyzed by several universities. They found out that there is a significant correlation between education and resistance to burnout. The higher the education of work groups, the better the ability to evaluate exhaustion, de-personalization and personal accomplishment. These are all key skills to avoid burn-out (Source: PMID 24566775, Liera,Durante, Feb 2014).

It is therefore important for companies to keep internal training/education and control skills high, if they want to increase the corporate wellbeing level together with the maximum exploitation of their workforce.

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