Don't wait too long

When Cortisol has been a guest for too long

“Why should we do all the work, while she is at home taking a holiday”

It is a very common comment from colleagues who don’t know what burn out is. We cannot blame these co-workers their ignorance since they don’t know what they don’t know.

Our experience in burn out prevention and curing is that you cannot fake a real burn out and now that more and more doctors are facing this work disease, more and more accurate tests and case studies are facing the medical surface.

When your stress hormone (Cortisol) was your inner guest for several weeks or months, your body and mind are a total waist…and believe me you don’t need a blood or urine test to diagnose an extreme burn out.

But sometimes burn outs grow gradually, and then these tests and an analysis of your mental state can be life savers. We have listed the twelve stage process for a personal check up or to check your colleagues, because most of the time the person who is heading for burn out is not aware that he is on a way to hell.


Freudenberger and North created an abstract model of burnout outlining a twelve-stage process.  These are more of a suggestion than an actual diagnostic process, the steps do not have to occur in order, or some at all.

Others have reported experiencing two or three stages at the same time.  It is an individual process unique to each individual and personality type.

  1. Compulsion to prove oneself, excessive ambition
  2. Working harder, taking on more work to realize ambition
  3. Neglecting personal needs, the self disappears for the company
  4. Displacement of conflicts, can’t see roots of problems, physical symptoms begin
  5. Revision of values, changed perceptions, emotions become blunted
  6. Denial of emerging problems, problems are caused be everything other than them
  7. Withdrawal, loss of hope or direction, seek release through alcohol and drugs
  8. Obvious behavioral changes, usually fearful, shy and apathetic, increasing feeling of worthlessness
  9. Depersonalization, detached from the world and then divorced from themselves
  10. Inner Emptiness, leisure time becomes dead life time
  11. Depression, indifferent, hopeless, apathetic, life loses meaning
  12. Burnout syndrome, suicidal thoughts become the release mechanism


The root cause of burnout is always work.  However, it is more complicated than just your career.  It is a combination of ones personality, lifestyle, and control skills.

Personality is the hardest factor to change, because it is part of your personal evolution. People with high achieving traits, people who naturally give energy and time to others and those with a need for control will always suffer burnout faster than others in the same work environment. Each personality type has his own burn out evolution. Control freaks and “giving people” 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. Knowing your main drivers in your life will also explain how to set your body and mind for a positive evolution and to recognize your negative direction which will lead to burn out and/or depression.

The lifestyle component relates to the balance between social and home life with a professional one.  If someone suffers from too much work and not enough rest or down time they have no way to escape the mounting stress decreasing their cooping abilities. It is not only family that is a positive factor to avoid work related stress and burn out, but also being part of other groups (your social network) is absolutely key to avoid, cure and prevent new burn outs. Healthy movement and healthy food also have a very big effect on your dopamine levels and prevent the stress hormone cortisol to stay too long in your body. So people with sportive and healthy lifestyle (or social environment) have less chance to fall into burnout.

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. Metacognition 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 metacognitive family. Lacking these skills make you more vulnerable for burn out.

Prevention tips

1. Is your self-esteem inherently connected to your work?

Especially those who’re hardwired to outperform, have trouble letting go. They’re not satisfied until they’ve reached their goals. It is of course, a very good idea to aim for your goals, but you often find yourself reaching them sooner when you’re willing to take a step back. A burn-out on the other hand, seriously interferes with your schedule. A couple days off, a holiday, or taking some time off to come to your senses, is nothing compared to the long lasting effects of a burn-out.

Remember that the first symptom of a burn-out, is excessive ambition, followed by self-neglect, heavy emotional reactions, forgetfulness and finally, a complete lack of joie de vivre.

TIP: Make your very own battery meter in order to start screening yourself on a daily basis. When the meter indicates that you’re low on “power”, try to take it easy and look for your inner energy and have some more rest. As soon as you’re recharged, you’re ready to battle your obstacles again at full swing!

2. Which patterns and incorrect presumptions feed your habits?

We gather tons of mental baggage during our life. It consists of rules, values and presumptions on how we feel the world should work. The basis for the presumptions we make, lies in our upbringing, our own experiences and principles, as well as in our friends, the environment we find ourselves living in and in our (pop) culture.

Use your brains and use them when you’re taking a look at yourself too. Take half an hour per week, say on Friday afternoon, to write down your stressors. By making them visible, they won’t rise to unrealistically large proportions. Try to get rid of them in the next week, or accept them the way they are as soon as you’re writing them down.

Start your day with a healthy cocktail. Take a very conscious look at something beautiful in your vicinity, pour a glass of lukewarm water and drink it up, fully aware of what you’re doing. Count yourself lucky that you can experience such grace at that very moment.

3. How does your body tell you to take it easy?

Your body is sure to send out some signals when it’s put under too much pressure. Being able to recognize these signals before they get out of hand, is key to avoiding a burn-out. Is your digestive system no longer properly functioning? Are you nervous most of the time? Are you suffering from high blood pressure, muscle aches, allergies or other ailments? Listening to your body, enables you to acknowledge and to identify your own personal signals. Talk about them with your physician, to avoid their negative consequences.

Don’t underestimate the importance of having enough sleep. 60% of all people think that 6 hours of sleep per night suffices for them, while in reality only 15% of all people have enough with such little sleep. A misconception that’s detrimental to your productivity, as mental recovery takes place between the sixth and eighth hour of sleep. Are you well-rested? Try going a day without caffeine. If you don’t suffer from a lack of energy, you’ve had an adequate amount of sleep.

4. Does your working environment prevent you from taking it easy?

We aren’t machines. It might seem hard to accept for some, but we need breaks. On average, people need a break every 90 to 120 minutes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long break, but at least a brief moment to come to your senses. many high performing employees feel that they have no control over their working schedule. There’s always more to do and less time to do it. They respond by sacrificing their breaks, or simply keep on working during their breaks. Evidence has shown that these people are at much higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and depression.

Take a look at your working schedule and plan your breaks. Follow your schedule and give yourself some breathing space. Practice your breathing during these breaks at home. Take 10 seconds to draw your breath, hold your breath for another 10 seconds and breath out during another 10 seconds. Try to implement this exercise at least three times in your working schedule. Stress is good for you and you can handle chronic stress for a while. But stress related fatigue will inevitably bring you down sooner or later. Try to have ample exercise during exceptionally busy times, as that generates endorphins, which help clearing your head. If you’ve been working for weeks to reach that one major deadline and you feel like you’ve sweated your guts out because of it, there’s nothing left to do than taking some much needed time off to get back on your feet.

5. Which (realistic) adjustments can you make?

Moving to a tropical island and quitting work might be what you need, but is it realistic too? Probably not. So what can you do? Even if you have little control over your boss’ style of leadership and the rules in the office, you can always focus on how you react to certain situations. Don’t avoid a (difficult) conversation on your boundaries, but use it as an opportunity to change your working life for the better. Talk about flexible work and the possibilities that lie in it. Learn to say no, but remember that self-reflection is equally important.

Focus on your core talents and bond with your colleagues when you’re having difficulties completing a task. Do you know how to delegate? To delegate, is letting go but at the same time checking everything at the end. After all, you’re responsible for the work you’ve delegated. Doing it the right way, keeps your desk from being flooded with work. Even more important to stay healthy on the job, is knowing that you’re allowed to take breaks. If you wait until you’re ill before you take a break, the damage is already done. Set your health at least on par with your career or even better yet, set it as your first priority. If necessary, take it easy. You’ll achieve much more in the long run.

Food is another influential factor on your productivity. Eating food that’s rich in sugar in the morning for instance, will rapidly raise your blood sugar level, followed by a double dip. At that point, there’s only one way to prevent the energy dip: eating more sugar throughout the day. Unfortunately, due to the fluctuations in your blood sugar level, that leaves you feeling exhausted at the end of the day. It’s better to prevent sugar rich food altogether.

One last tip we’re giving you, is finding a dear colleague to go through these changes in your working routines together. Observe one another and help each other to prevent burn-out in a friendly way.

The Corporate Wellbeing Coach

The Corporate Wellbeing Coach is specialised in its treatment of burnout among other things. Together we will search a professional and human-friendly way to get out of the effects of this work illness. The programs are individual and will be discussed with the employee. The HR manager will get insight into the personal guidance plan after the intake workshop and the reïntegration report. Medical and psychological information will not be shared with the employer and others.

The roadmap

1. Intake dossier
We will make an appointment with the employee to take through the roadmap and see whether he/she finds himself in the program.

2. Medical diagnose en medical dossier
This will be done by the family doctor of the employee or by a doctor of The Corporate Wellbeing Coach. A bloodtest is recommended. The medical confidentiality applies..

3. Analysis
At the start of the program we will explore the personality type of the employee. Each type has a different degree of burn out sensitivity and its own 'triggers' that will cause the burn out. The personality type test is an approved and frequently used method that shows whether the person is knowing a positive or a negative evolution and what they can change about it..

Core talent research gives a clear view on the congenital talents of the employee. A job description that demands talents that not or hardly present within the employee, can be the cause of burn out complaints. In this stage we will look for an event that might have led to the burnout: the trigger. A combination of the tests we named above en several conversations with the employee will give a good insight in the 'how' and the 'why' of a burnout. They are an important part in preventing a relapse in a stage later in the treatment.

4. Energy increase
Our approach is multidisciplinary, which gives the benefit of energy-building nutrition and movement which is necessary for your body to make the necessary hormones that the person needs. This is combined with a mental retardation schedule, which will give the employee enough energy to take the reintegration phase.

A second blood test is recommended just before the reintegration phase.

5. Reintegration stage
In the reintegration phase, we'll discuss how the employee can return to work and what changes are needed both at home and at work to prevent a relapse. The future plans / changes of the person in question are also written in detail in this phase. The report is discussed first with the employee and then with the HR manager.

Two months after the resumption of work, a meeting is planned to discuss the evolution.

The Corporate
Wellbeing Coach

The Corporate Wellbeing Coach encourages business leaders and managers to apply the holistic approach of top sport in the corporate world as well. Serge Haubourdin demonstrates with concrete examples that companies who attach this view book success more often, contribute to a healthier and human-friendly working atmosphere. In short, it will lead to more successful wellbeing.

A holistic view on business wellbeing

The Corporate Wellbeing Coach is an inspiration book. In clarifying terms, the author shares insights into the energetic dynamics of individuals and groups when the psyche is combined with conscious diet, exercise and lifestyle. Job crafting, personal coaching, career coaching, coach competencies, burn-out prevention, key talents and conflict management are key concepts that are addressed.


When medical meets corporate

On September 26, 2015, Serge Haubourdin of The Corporate Wellbeing Coach was given the opportunity to speak for more than 100 doctors. He addressed the issues of burnouts in companies. Today, one in ten employees risk a burnout through work. During the lecture, Serge was given the opportunity to inform doctors about the causes, symptoms and effects of a burnout and how communication between doctors, employers and patients could be optimized for a successful return to the workplace.