If you constantly feel emotionally and physically exhausted and have had no time to recoup, you may be suffering from burnout. Do you know the 5 stages of burnout?

As many people experience, burnout is a condition that affects both our physical and mental well-being. It typically occurs over the course of several stages, starting with the initial honeymoon phase, where workers are enthusiastic and energized about their work. As stress inevitably sets in, this excitement can be replaced with feelings of exhaustion and frustration, and eventually chronic stress may even lead to full-blown burnout. In this article, we will explore the 5 stages of burnout in greater detail and examine factors that can contribute to each stage of this condition.

Burnout is defined as the “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” 

Due to COVID-19, many people are experiencing burnout, and you are not alone. This could be because there is no separation between work and home. It could also be hard to have a separation when there is no physical location to be in. The first step in identifying burnout is to know the 5 stages of burnout. 

1. Honeymoon Phase

The first stage of burnout is known as the honeymoon phase. In this phase, you are filled with excitement and energy when you first begin working at a new job or start a new project. This is the most optimistic stage, where you feel like you can take on the world.

This is extremely relevant when you start new positions or take on new tasks. You will not feel drained at this point. 

You actually feel happy about the position or tasks and will take any opportunity to perform at your best. In fact, you might even bite off more than you can chew and are determined to succeed. You are prone to overworking in the honeymoon phase. 

However, this phase doesn’t last forever. Eventually, the newness of the job or project wears off, and reality sets in. This is when stress starts to creep in, and the second stage of burnout begins.

Common symptoms in this phase include high productivity, job satisfaction, accepting new responsibilities, optimism, and a desire to prove themselves.  

2. Onset of Stress

The second stage of burnout is known as the onset of stress. This is where you will realize some days seem to be more stressful than others, and you are lacking time to fulfill your needs. You might realize that you start seeing your family and friends less and less. 

Additionally, you may be viewing your job as the most important thing in your life. As a result, nothing else may seem to matter, and you start putting in more hours. 

In this phase, you start to feel overwhelmed by your workload and other responsibilities that start to impact your mental health. You may find it difficult to manage your time properly or stay organized, and you may also experience feelings of apathy and resentment towards the work that you’re doing. 

Some common symptoms of burnout in this phase people experience are anxiety, avoidance, fatigue, forgetfulness, lack of focus, lower productivity, social withdrawal, procrastination, decreased job satisfaction and so much more. Physical symptoms intensify into chronic exhaustion. It’s vital to look out for these signs of burnout and understand how stress affects our everyday life early on in either stage 1 or 2.

3. Chronic Stress

The third stage of burnout is chronic stress. You start to experience higher stress levels which result in lower performance. People have reported feeling out of control while their productivity takes a massive dip. 

In this phase, your productivity is at an all-time low as you continue to push yourself to the breaking point. You start to develop an escapist mentality for mental breaks. Chronic physical fatigue and chronic mental exhaustion sets in.

At this point, people tend to feel burnt out and disillusioned with their jobs. You may feel hopeless that any changes you make will not improve your current situation. You lack coping strategies, do not tend to self-care, and neglect personal needs. Work-life balance goes out the window.

Common burnout symptoms of chronic stress are anger, exhaustion,  denial of problems, headaches, panic, out-of-control, missed deadlines, resentfulness, and so much more. 

4. Burnout

By now, you will experience burnout. At this stage, you will find it hard to cope with the mental and physical demands of your workload. At this phase of burnout, you are at the risk of depression because you may not see a way out and start to feel hopeless about life or workplace situations. Symptoms become intensify and or increase in nature because you feel extremely overwhelmed and do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Additionally, your physical symptoms may intensify even more. This goes beyond just an overwhelming sense of dread and doubt. Physical symptoms can include digestive problems, physical illness, and chronic headaches. 

The burnout phase is known as crisis. This is the most critical stage of burnout, and if you do not seek help, it could result in long-term damage. You start to experience physical and emotional breakdowns. You might develop health problems or engage in mental-physical escapist activities like drinking, smoking, gaming, gambling, etc. Managing stress becomes critical. 

Other symptoms may include signs of behavior and emotional changes, social isolation, shifted energy, lack of self-doubt, lack of total self-care, lack of personal wellbeing, and so on. 

5. Habitual Burnout 

What comes next is habitual burnout. At this phase of burnout, you can’t shake these symptoms off and they become a part of your life. It may feel as if you are a whole new person, and not for the better. Not only are these symptoms present in your professional life but they will overflow into your personal life as well. 

Depressed feelings take over your life and may start to sense like nothing matters. You most likely will need professional help related to overcoming habitual burnout so you strategically reduce stress levels, recognize personal needs, tend to wellbeing activities, and basically turn your life around. 

Some symptoms may include depression, chronic sadness, fatigue, chronic sleep-related problems, lack of interest in coping strategies, and so much more. 

Prevention Plan

Burnout is nothing to play around with. Here are some of the steps you can take today to keep burnout at bay:

  • You want to take action early on so the symptoms are successfully managed to avoid burnout and keep up with your mental health.
  • Pay close attention to personal and workplace stressors to bypass burnout syndrome.
  • Continuously work on emotional resiliency
  • Don’t wait till you start to experience chronic headaches, depression, or chronic anxiety to pay attention to your health and wellbeing.
  • Although it might seem like you don’t, you can have a lot of control over your workplace energy to keep a healthy course of action from day one.
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