File photo: Thys Dullaart

Hamburg - Preventing job burnout requires something to offset the effects of work, such as playing sport or being part of a social circle to provide emotional balance.

Continuing effective performance at work can only be achieved by looking after yourself regularly and properly, according to Nadja Behling, a German doctor, who also says that many burnout patients ignore this aspect.

“Sometimes a patient will tell me that they haven't had a holiday in two or even five years,” Behling says. These workaholics run the risk of burnout out to the extent of total emotional exhaustion.

Where possible, people should play sport or meet friends twice a week. Studies indicate that sport has a strong anti-depressive effect, with people who take regular exercise less likely to be ill-tempered. And social contact also helps to counter burnout.

“The circle of friends does not have to be large, but there should be two or three good friends whom one can talk to about important things,” Behling says.

Psychological issues are increasingly causing problems at work and are often cited as the reason for early retirement.

In Germany for example stress and other problems of a psychological nature are responsible for around 12 percent of sick leave.

But it is not always easy to determine when stress at work is causing illness or when the borders of burnout have been reached. This is because burnout is not a specific ailment, rather a variable set of symptoms.

“It describes total exhaustion, and can show itself alongside depression, anxiety attacks or with various physical symptoms,” Behling says. It is by no means certain that everyone who believes they are suffering from burnout - which has a fashionable ring to it these days - is actually ill.

“It only gets serious when someone is unable to cope with their everyday life and their own mechanisms for dealing with crisis break down,” she says. This is then true burnout and professional help is required.

Burnout looms when someone over several weeks relaxes completely over the weekend and still feels exhausted at the start of the next week, or if going on holiday is no longer fun, and the patient returns home as tired as ever.

Another signal is when a hobby that was once absorbing no longer provides any pleasure or a family member repeatedly loses their temper.

“Once things have got this far, the symptoms clearly indicate illness and professional help should be sought,” Behling advises. - Sapa-dpa