In this blog post, we’ll consider 5 stages of burnout that are obvious and several stages of exhaustion that are not as easy to notice. But before we move to the stages themselves, let’s define burnout and how it manifests itself.
Burnout is a condition with a mental and a physical component that results from unrelenting stress and is characterized by total exhaustion. While we think of people facing burnout at the workplace, other aspects of daily life, such as caring for another, can also result in burnout.
Luckily, it’s possible to identify burnout and treat it. Some of the most obvious burnout symptoms are exhaustion, frequent illnesses, aggravation, and withdrawal.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you might already have burnout. In the next sections, we discuss the stages of burnout, both obvious and subtle, to help you analyze your emotional and physical state and take steps to fight burnout as early as possible.
While psychologists define more than ten stages of burnout, five of them can be easier to spot and associate with burnout than others. In order of their appearance we list these 5 stages of burnout:
It can be hard to believe, but the earliest signs of burnout can appear when you don’t expect them – at the beginning of something new and exciting. A new position, company, or project can make you feel inspiration and energy so that you’re ready to work hard in pursuit of success.
During this period, you may take on a lot of tasks and accept more responsibility than you’ll be able to handle in the future. You feel full of ideas and initiative, and fail to notice how your work-related ambitions can lead you to the next burnout stages.
At this stage, you feel less optimistic about your working life than you were before. You start noticing that your plans don’t work as you hoped, you miss deadlines, and your stress level begins to increase.
You don’t want to accept your role in the problem so you start blaming anyone else. You may feel that your boss is too demanding, your colleagues are unproductive, and the world is against you.
Internal emptiness, or feelings of anxiety, can result in people searching for unproductive ways to cope with their feelings. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, or food as a coping mechanism. This doesn’t really help, or solve the problem, it simply allows people to forget about their issue for a short time.
A prolonged condition that can last for weeks or months, depression can make people feel hopeless. Simple things like going to work or doing household chores can seem overwhelming. People suffering from depression have trouble seeing a reason to wake up in the morning, don’t see the future, and don’t believe that anything can improve their situation or help them.
This is the most severe of all stages of burnout syndrome. At this stage, a person can’t cope alone and needs medical attention. A mental breakdown can manifest itself in the form of hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, or even suicidal thoughts. Physical collapse can be an illness the person is susceptible to, including migraines, intestinal issues, high blood pressure, etc.
Stages of exhaustion are tricky, and some are less obvious than others. Even if you spot them, you may not realize their significance since almost anyone can experience them at some point or another. While these signs don’t always mean you’re experiencing burnout, you should pay attention if you start experiencing them.
This stage can follow the very first stage we described in the previous section. Once you’re excited about a new job or project, you want to do more and achieve better results. That’s why you may find yourself working beyond your scheduled time, finishing work tasks at home in the evenings or on weekends, or participating in work-related discussions after business hours.
In this stage, your work obsession becomes all-consuming and you start forgetting about your needs, even basic ones like taking time for food or going to bed on time. You also sacrifice your hobbies and sport classes to devote more time to work.
Going through the various burnout stages affects not only you but also your relationships. You may stop going out and stop calling your friends and relatives. Joining a company of friends on Saturday evening feels like a chore instead of something fun..
You struggle to avoid admitting that you are having difficulties. You may feel impatient and blame others for your failures. At this stage, you can also attempt to numb burnout symptoms by consuming more coffee, sweets, or junk food.
Going through stages of burnout, you may start behaving differently, and even if you don’t notice it, others will. If your colleagues, friends, or family point out your impatience, rudeness, or aggressiveness, you should give this serious consideration.
In the later stages of burnout stress, you may feel disconnected from your own life. If you feel that you act like a robot, don’t care about what happens around you, or can’t experience strong emotions, it’s time to ask for help.
Burnout is a more serious problem than you may have imagined. It may begin as an enthusiastic trip towards a better future, but it can turn into a mix of emotional and physical issues that can require real effort to recover from. Knowing the stages of exhaustion can be the first step toward taking care of yourself or getting the help that you need.
Some of the basic things you can do in order to avoid such a condition include keeping an eye on your work-life balance, giving yourself time to rest, having someone you can talk to, and asking for help when you need it. Take care of yourself and let your work bring you joy and satisfaction!