What is the most overrated vacation
Why burnout is not a fad and why holidays are overrated
We write a lot here on the blog about technologies that are “social”. At its core, it is always about people and the effort to make the (work) world around them as humane as possible. In the following interview, Jörg Blume (www.syntony-gmbh.de), trainer, stress therapist and health coach, answers questions about work-live balance and the phenomenon of burnout. How is it possible to master demanding tasks while staying in good health? What is everyone responsible for and where is the competence of managers required?
We warmly recommend this interview to anyone who hasn't done themselves any good today.
Is burn-out just a fad or is it actually a new clinical picture in today's world of work?
Burnout is neither. Goethe already went on a trip to Italy because, as we say today, he was burned out. What is certain, however, is that more and more people are affected by it today and that there is an upward trend.
More and more IT people too? Are there particularly vulnerable occupational groups and activities?
The studies I know do not differentiate the economic sectors so much. Teachers and people in social professions are probably badly affected. Bankers and bank employees have suffered more and more from burn-out in recent years. However, that has tended to decline. I notice that people who work in industries that move very quickly are increasingly at risk and also fall ill. So more and more IT people.
Burn-out is as individual as we humans are different. How do I recognize the first symptoms anyway?
Very often the person concerned does not want it to be true and suppresses the symptoms. This includes not falling asleep in the evening and not being able to sleep through the night. People are becoming more cynical, impatient, the tone harder, more aggressive, more unfriendly than before. Basically, people are exhausted on several levels. He thinks more and more negatively, experiences headaches or back pain, frequent squirming, suffers from stomach problems or high blood pressure.
There are also well-known expressions ...?
In the sayings “I can't get through it”, “Everyone has to carry their cross”, “It hits me on the stomach”, “It pisses me off”, etc. there are wise observations. On the one hand, they prove that there have been health reactions to stress for centuries and, on the other hand, that the way everyone reacts varies greatly. If those affected go to the doctor, the doctor often finds nothing organic.
And when does it get dangerous? How does burnout differ from temporary exhaustion?
Everyone has a sleepless night or sags and catches a cold. However, if these conditions accumulate and the person concerned does not have a small child who brings an infection home from daycare from time to time, the person should take what is happening to him very seriously. Heart attack, stroke or other serious illnesses are the last and life-threatening alarm signals of the body.
What can I do myself if I am at risk and there is a threat of "burnout"?
That is very difficult and certainly not a general answer. Most feel at their mercy and blame the outside world and their surroundings for how badly they are. The environment only provides the stimulus. We analyze it unconsciously, react emotionally negatively, get into constant stress and, in the long term, burn out. Basically, it helps to become aware of your own perception, evaluation and thought processes that lead to stress reactions. Changing these in such a way that an inner serenity arises prevents a harmful stress reaction.
Quite pragmatic: If, for example, the stress results from the fear of forgetting ideas or tasks, it is very helpful to write them down - especially if this fear robs you of sleep.
For situations that were embarrassing or annoying, you can consciously say: "I'll push it aside". Saying this sentence to yourself for several minutes will help you calm down and check your own posture.
Sometimes relaxation techniques are taught in cures or people seek relaxation on vacation. Is this a great way to get away from the stress?
Whatever a person does for relaxation, yoga, breathing techniques, running or boxing, it always only brings temporary relief, a "stress break". The disadvantage is also that most relaxation techniques have to be learned first and then it takes time to apply them. People who don't feel like they will not do that. Research is more promising. What was it that preoccupied me so much? What is addressed in my value system? What am I afraid of?
Vacation is absolutely overrated. How is it that after only two days of work people say they are ready for vacation again? We are confronted with the professional and private demands that had already burdened us before the vacation - and therefore quickly feel burdened again because these demands, stressors, still exist. Unfortunately, they do not vanish into thin air when you are on holiday.
So am I also responsible for the stress at work or not my manager?
I am always responsible for myself. Although there is a duty of care on the part of superiors, legal regulations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act or Working Hours Act, which serve to protect employees. However, you cannot delegate responsibility for your own health.
What influence do initiatives such as health days, running meetings, and cheap gym offers have on an optimal work-life balance?
A health day can raise awareness, not change it in the long term. And check out for yourself who goes to the discounted gym. Isn't it the people who do sports anyway? Workshops on relaxation techniques are also primarily attended by people who already have an affinity for the topic and often not those who are really at risk of burnout.
Does running out help against burn out?
It creates distance. Exercising only helps to switch off and to strengthen the body and thus make it more resistant to stress. No sport can turn back the stress that has already been experienced. The damage has already occurred.
Can managers do something to prevent their employees from being subjected to stress?
A healthy leadership culture helps in the company. Are the executives clear in their statements or are they "hovering" around? Do they make bold and clear decisions or do they remain nebulous? Do you occupy yourself with your employees or do you not take the time for it? One of the biggest stressors is disorientation. Managers can use clarity to create an orientation for their employees that helps them to be in a good state of performance.
Strength-oriented leadership is also part of a healthy culture. For example, it is of limited use to train a poor presenter with the intention of making a good presenter out of him. It would turn out to be mediocre at best. It is better to develop a good presenter into an excellent one. Then the motivation is right, because the employee feels in his element. It is more successful to develop strengths than to compensate for weaknesses.
If managers give their employees the right amount of freedom, clear orientation and meaningful positive and critical feedback, they will avoid unnecessary stressors.
This is followed by the question, how can I help myself?
Methods to get yourself back into good shape can be learned by anyone, for a lifetime.
There are also people who, with good health and quality of life, can power for a lifetime. These have internalized supportive thought patterns, e.g. to see the opportunities more in problematic situations. The key to everything lies in people themselves. We think, act and evaluate ourselves or others according to well-established, familiar patterns.
Treat yourself to a new learning experience. Our brain is lifelong able to learn to change established patterns. Even at the age of 80 we can learn to play the piano, learn languages and apply new behavior patterns.
Is it all "just" a matter of the head?
Basically yes - stress arises in the head. But it has physical effects. Take, for example, the fact that many people get sick in the first two or three days of their vacation. Stress causes the body to produce the two hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline keeps the immune system strong and breaks down very quickly when you relax. Cortisol dampens the immune system and breaks down much more slowly. That is why we are prone to infections of all kinds after a constant stress situation in the first few days of vacation.
Overweight can also be the result of stress. There are also happier, more corpulent people, indifferent. In many cases, however, the body reacts to stress with an increased blood sugar level. The pancreas then produces more insulin. This is a warehouse worker in our body. The blood sugar is either stored as a reserve in the muscles and when the store is full there, deposited as fat. After that, when the blood sugar level drops, hunger sets in again and the cycle starts all over again.
Because we're so pragmatic: what do those project managers who feel responsible for 24 hours a day?
Just feel responsible for eight hours. Okay, that was fun. The seriousness behind it means put your own meaning into perspective. Ask yourself specifically whether the project would fail if you weren't available now. Would the world stop? Learn to delegate and learn to decide who to take on board.
Does that also mean learning to say no?
Saying no is not pleasant. It also puts your counterpart in a hopeless, stressful situation. In the worst case, the questioner will never help you again. Look for alternatives together. What exactly do you need in what quality and by when? Find a common denominator. Then you can say “yes” without overloading yourself.
The interview was conducted by Rosa Hauch.
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