The five burnout stages – Here Is What You Need To Know

Job burnout is becoming more common than ever. According to Forbes, Indeed’s study reveals that workers’ burnout is at an all-time high. So, if you’re feeling stressed and exhausted at your job you might be going through one of the stages of burnout.

woman burnout at work

How do you know if you’re going through one of the Stages of burnout?

So, on paper, you appear to have it all: a great job, a good salary, and amazing coworkers. But in fact, you’re exhausted, depleted, and unsatisfied, and you dread going to work every day.

The vast majority of our time is spent at our workplace. If you enjoy what you do, going to work should be an easy, joyful, and tremendously positive part of your day. However, if you dislike your job or you’re currently not in a state where you’re enjoying your work, it may have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. Let alone if you are going through one of the stages of burnout.

What is burnout?

According to WHO, burnout is described as an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition. 

Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout is a mental state caused by long-term, unresolved stress that can have a detrimental impact on your career and personal life. 

When you’re burned out, you constantly feel exhausted and unable to focus. Some of the most prevalent symptoms are depression, impatience, and a lack of motivation. Your mental and physical health may also suffer, placing you at risk for some diseases.

Nobody should experience burnout in an ideal world. However, the truth is that it is becoming more prevalent. Research shows that burnout is on the rise. In 2021, more than half of survey respondents (52%) experienced burnout. So now more than ever it is crucial to take care of yourself and your mental wellness. 

woman exhasuted

The five burnout stages

According to Winona State University’s burnout study, there are at least five burnout stages, each of which corresponds to a different level of intensity. Although burnout can be treated early on, this is rarely the case. The majority of people dismiss them by saying, “This is simply how life is” and they go on with their lives, feeling miserable and exhausted.

The below are the five burnout stages:

#1 Honeymoon 

When you’re new to the job, you’re brimming with enthusiasm, and eager to take on anything at this time. You’ll be experiencing a high level of job satisfaction and motivation. For the first few weeks of your employment, you’ll be in the Honeymoon stage.

Although the workload is demanding, you have plenty of energy and drive at this time, which should help you get through it. Starting a new job is no walk in the park, the beginning is always hard, however, the drive you have will make you work even harder. This could lead to setting the stage for burnout. 

The key issue here is what type of coping mechanism you’ll start to develop when you are confronted with the inevitable stress of the job. In principle, you should be able to stay in the honeymoon stage indefinitely if your coping strategies are positive and adaptable. However, only a small number of people do.

#2 Balancing Act

The second stage of burnout comes with the realization that some days are harder than others.

You’ve successfully completed the first several months of your new employment. However, your enthusiasm is dimming, and you’re noticing some aspects of the job that you don’t like anymore.

Moreover, to stay on top of things, you may be neglecting some of your own needs, intensifying existing issues.

Signs of this stage include: 

  • Work Inefficiency 
  • Avoidance 
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Escapist activities (such as drinking, smoking, zoning out, etc.)
woman going through one of the burnout stages - rage

#3 Chronic symptoms

This is when burnout is right on the horizon. You’re consistently stressed, and this will lead to eventually developing chronic stress.

Chronic stress will make it difficult for you to concentrate, lowering your productivity and performance. As a result, you’ll begin to feel helpless and unworthy, and you’ll lose control over your actions.

You’ve lost all of your motivation and enthusiasm for the job, and you’re operating on fumes. The toughest part is social withdrawal; many people lose interest in spending time with friends and family at this point.

Signs could be:

  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Physical illness 
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Decreased sexual desire 
  • Increased alcohol/drug consumption 
  • Increased caffeine consumption 
  • Resentfulness

#4 Crisis

Each stage up until this point had only served as a prelude to stage four – burnout.

Burnout occurs when all of the above-mentioned symptoms become so common that they are accepted as a normal part of life.

You’re working yourself beyond exhaustion and are unable to cope with the tension. You even begin to break down emotionally, you feel utterly alienated from others. And your behavior appears bizarre or unusual, even to yourself. The worst part is feeling empty, apathetic, and wanting to flee your life.

You feel lost, confused, stuck, and unfulfilled.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Feeling empty inside
  • A pessimistic outlook on work and life
  • Physical symptoms intensify and/or increase
  • Self-doubt
  • Complete neglect of personal needs
  • Desire to move away from work or friends/family
  • An ‘escapist mentality’.

#5 Enmeshment

At this point, burnout symptoms have become so ingrained in a person’s life that they may not even know it. These people may appear to be really hard workers, perhaps even respected professionals, yet they are actually profoundly unhappy. They may feel trapped in their employment, trapped in a burnout cycle.

But remember: You don’t have to waste your life by constantly being fatigued. Overworking and stress are not something to be proud of; they serve no purpose for you or anyone else.

Preventing and overcoming burnout 

Preventing burnout benefits your overall health, relationships with yourself and your loved ones, and your work performance. 

If you’re feeling down and your productivity has dropped, you can recover. Try these 12 strategies for bouncing back from one of the burnout stages. 

Fighting Burnout During Work Hours:

 1. Evaluate your expectations

Burnout is frequently the result of pushing yourself too hard for too long. Examine your to-do list to see what you can cut or delegate. Concentrate on your top priorities.

2. Break down big projects and tasks 

Sometimes when we focus on the end project or task we might get overwhelmed. So what you can do is break down long-term goals into daily and weekly tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to maintain momentum.

3. Limit distractions

We could benefit from a distraction from time to time. However, when those distractions become excessive, it becomes a problem. Perhaps your phone is distracting you because your friends are on a rollout chatting on Whatsapp about your next trip. And you want to respond but you have a deadline to meet. 

Or maybe, you have a coworker who is constantly coming into your office and chatting about your life. Of course, you want to be polite and keep the conversation going. However, because you squandered time and slowed down in your work, you will now feel more stressed. 

So, ideally, when you have a tight deadline and need to concentrate, create a quiet space in the office or at home where you can work. Turn off your phone and avoid websites and apps that cause you to lose track of time.

4. Take time off

It may be beneficial to take a break from your routines for a bit. Use your vacation days to visit family and friends in another city if possible. If you don’t have much time off, you may try a spa day at home or spend the weekend at a local hotel.

5. Be patient

Burnout often develops gradually, and it may take some time to recover. Give yourself credit for putting out an effort. Recognize signals of progressive progress.

Fighting Burnout Outside of Work Hours:

 

6. Address root causes

While there are numerous things you may do to temporarily deal with burnout, long-term change is dependent on tackling the source of your problems. Examine your life and try to figure out how you got here and what you can do to stop feeling burned out.

7. Set boundaries

Learn to step away from your work. You are not required to worry about work beyond office hours. When you’re at home, it’s time to focus on yourself or your family and not work.

If you’re currently working remotely, this could cause some problems. The barrier between work and play is becoming increasingly blurred as people work from home. Keep office supplies away from personal areas such as your bedroom or kitchen. Inform your employer and coworkers of the hours you will be unavailable.

8. Sleep well

Learn to relax, especially before going to bed. Your brain requires rest in order to function correctly. Let go of all your worries and thoughts and concentrate on sleeping. Make an effort to go to bed on time so that you can wake up feeling fresh. When possible, maintain a steady routine, including on weekends and holidays.

9. Work out

According to Mayoclinic exercise has some immediate stress-relieving effects. Physical activity pumps up your endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals.

It can also help to alleviate the negative impact of stress. This can also have a positive effect on your health, particularly your cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems.

It’s similar to meditation but in motion.

Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, enhance your mood, help you relax, and reduce the symptoms of mild melancholy and anxiety.

Exercise can also help you sleep better, which is frequently affected by stress, depression, and anxiety.

woman enjoying her pottery hobby

10. Find a hobby

Stress-relieving hobbies might help you manage your day-to-day stress. Listen to instrumental music, go to a poetry reading, read a book, attend a dancing class, do a pottery class, or do anything you enjoy.

11. Meditate 

Remember to set aside some time for yourself to reflect. You could gain some insight on how to tackle your problems. Make certain that you are fully alone with your thoughts, with no interruptions.

Take a big breath in and gently exhale. Make sure you’re in a calm and quiet location with no distractions. To meditate, you simply need a few minutes of spare time. Make time in your schedule for meditation because it is an important stage for clearing your mind and resetting your mind.

12. Consider counseling

Speaking with someone will make you feel better and less alone. Some employers have extended mental health benefits as a result of COVID-19. Make use of these services if your organization provides them.

woman attending counseling sessions

If you’re experiencing one of the burnout stages I highly recommend trying the above-mentioned 12 strategies for bouncing back from burnout.

Going through the stages of burnout can be intimidating, but you may have more options than you realize. If you’re having trouble, change your everyday behaviors and seek assistance from others. Taking positive action can assist you in regaining your equilibrium in your overall life and increasing your job satisfaction.

If you’re always exhausted, unable to focus, and on the edge of losing your mind, it’s a significant indicator that you should do something different.

It strongly implies that you are dissatisfied with what you are doing. And, NO, feeling that way is not normal, or should not be the norm. This is not the way it should be!

You shouldn’t have to continually force yourself to be or feel okay about your job. And, no, you should not feel obligated to say things like, “I should be grateful that I have a job at all,” or “Who am I to ask for anything else?”

Everyone has the right to pursue their passions. So get out of your comfort zone, quit wasting time, and go find something else to do.

You got this!

Read more: Atychiphobia – Fear of Failure: How to Overcome It?

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