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The 5 Stages of Burnout and How to Know if You’re in One


If you are feeling stressed, physically exhausted, and doubting yourself and your capabilities, you might be experiencing burnout – and you’re not alone. Studies show that 84% of Gen Z reported feeling burnout in the last year.

But how bad is it? The path to burnout is a personal journey. For some, the stages of burnout can be a long, cross-country road trip; for others, it can be a lightning-fast train ride to despair.

Let’s help you identify which of the 5 stages of burnout you’re in so you can explore the True Self Stop that can best help you. From there you can move forward to get to your Joychiever Happy Place on the other side of burnout.

What is burnout?

According to the American Psychology Association, burnout is “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others” caused by high-level performance for a prolonged period until stress or tension occurs.

Burnout isn’t considered a medical diagnosis but rather a syndrome impacted by mental health traits (like depression), personality traits, environment, coping mechanisms, personal life, and other factors.

Burnout is often referred to as an adverse workplace condition and is associated with occupational stress rather than personal tension.

Stress vs. Burnout

The terms “stress” and “burnout” are often used interchangeably despite varying severity. Burnout feasts on stress; it cannot exist without it. However, you can experience stress without burnout.

Look at it this way: stress can be a fleeting moment, and burnout occurs when the stress doesn’t end.

Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout manifests differently for everyone. You may experience the stages of burnout physically, emotionally, and mentally. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may be in one of the 5 stages of burnout.

  • Fatigue
  • Apathy or dissatisfaction with your work
  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained digestive issues

Did you check all the boxes? If you did, we’re glad you found this resource. Keep reading to find out which of the 5 stages of burnout you’re in currently and how to recover before it’s too late.

What are the 5 stages of burnout?

Understanding the 5 stages of burnout can help you identify the severity of your burnout. Each phase dramatically affects your mind and body, so it’s important to catch yourself before progressing towards the final stages of burnout.

  1. Honeymoon Phase
    When you start a new job or project, it’s normal to experience “first-day jitters.” In the beginning stages of burnout, the unfamiliarity of a new challenge can be both stressful and exciting, making it easier to cope as you get more familiar with your new responsibilities. You may feel minor stress in this phase, but you recover quickly.
  2. Onset of Stress Phase
    After the excitement of the honeymoon phase ends, you may feel anxiety, irritability, or fatigue more often than you’re used to. During the onset of stress, you’ll start to feel physical effects like fatigue and mental effects like trouble concentrating.
  3. Chronic Stress Phase
    In this most pivotal phase of the 5 stages of burnout, stress levels increase quickly, and you feel stressed more often. Occasional feelings of stress have been replaced with unexplained physical ailments like headaches and digestive issues. The chronic stress phase is a dangerous turning point, and managing recovery is crucial before you slip into the severe burnout phases.
  4. True Burnout Phase
    When you’ve reached the final stages of burnout, it’s challenging to recover. Because prolonged stress has taken its toll on your body and mind, the chances of making critical errors at work increase, and your body will feel the adverse effects.
  5. Habitual Burnout Phase
    Habitual burnout is the most severe of the 5 stages of burnout. Habitual burnout harms your physical and emotional state and may devastate your wellbeing. At this final stage, you are likely considering quitting your job as a last resort to fixing your burnout.

How do I avoid or recover from burnout?
There’s no quick fix to alleviate burnout, and it’s difficult to avoid stress entirely. However, with careful attention to maintaining balance in your personal and professional life, you can ease the pain of stress and avoid significant burnout. To prevent or recover from the stages of burnout:

 

  • Recognize your burnout. Now that you know the symptoms of each of the stages of burnout, you are better equipped to combat it early on. As soon as you suspect burnout, take action.

     

  • Identify the true source of your burnout. Does stress cause your burnout from a particular project at work? Perhaps it’s due to a strained relationship with a coworker. Do you need additional resources while transitioning to a new role? Identifying the cause can help you brainstorm solutions.

     

  • Communicate. Once you’ve identified the root of burnout, share it with a trusted colleague or peer. Communicate that you need help and share how they can support you. Being honest and upfront is valuable.

     

  • Strategize the best ways to manage chronic stress. Trusted confidants can help you solve problems no matter the stages of burnout you’re currently in. Explore life hacks that can help manage stressful situations.

     

  • Prioritize self-care to manage particularly stressful moments. To avoid progressing through the stages of burnout, prioritize yourself and take advantage of self-care time. Self-care activities, like breathing exercises, physical fitness, a walk outdoors, and a warm bath, are great ways to take time for yourself.

     

  • Talk to a professional. Look for a burnout coach or therapist specializing in stress management. You’ll learn coping mechanisms and mindfulness activities that can ease the effects of stressful moments and help you avoid being overtaken by the 5 stages of burnout.

Need to dive headfirst into recovery? Say no to burnout. Join the Alleviate Burnout and Design Your Life For More Joy program to dedicate yourself to fixing the stress and get back on the road to recovery.

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