What are the 5 Stages of Burnout?

Burnout can creep up on the best of us. You start a new job or project, realize that it’s going to be a challenge and buckle in eager to crush it. Slowly your motivation starts to slip away and the stress of your undertaking sets in. Your usual coping mechanisms – eating well and working out after work – are replaced by vending machine snacks and late nights at the office, catching a few Z’s when and where you can. Eventually, it becomes hard to get out of bed in the morning and go to your job, and all that motivation and energy you once had has melted away.

Does this sound like you? Because it sounds a lot like where I’ve been in the past.

The 5 Stages of Burnout

Stage 1: Honeymoon Phase

When we start a new job or project, we are often excited, energized, and committed to proving ourselves. This stage is characterized by creativity, high productivity and a big dose of optimism. As the stress starts to build, you’ll need positive coping mechanisms to stay in this stage.

Stage 2: Onset of Stress

Stress begins to manifest physically, emotionally, and mentally. Anxiety, fatigue, headaches, irritability, lower productivity, and much more starts to creep out signaling that you are no longer managing the stress well.

Stage 3: Chronic Stress

This stage is characterized by apathy, cynicism, anger, panic, a lack of control, escapism, exhaustion, and procrastination. The motivation from the honeymoon phase has melted away and you are now simply surviving.

Stage 4: Burnout

All the above symptoms become further exacerbated. Often personal needs go unaddressed, escapist activities (binge eating, drinking alcohol, etc.) continue to spike, your outlook becomes pessimistic, the urge to isolate becomes stronger, and a sense of emptiness and depression starts to well up.

Stage 5: Habitual Burnout

After being in a state of burnout for a sustained period you slip into this stage. Fatigue, both mental and physical, starts to chronically take over. Sadness and depression become your dominant feelings, and all love for your craft is gone.

Avoiding Burnout

I’m happy to tell you that burnout isn’t inevitable; if you see the warning signs early. The goal is to stay in the “Honeymoon Stage” for as long as possible without letting the stress overwhelm you. How can we do this? By ensuring we take care of ourselves!

  • Set boundaries with when and how long you are willing to work.
  • Ensure you get enough sleep (typically 7-9 hours a night).
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated.
  • Get moving! It’s recommended that adults get 2.5 hours of moderate intensity activity weekly.
  • Consider meditation and/or yoga to stay centered.
  • Make sure your hobbies are “refilling your bucket.”
  • We’re social creatures; make time for friends and family.

What if these things start to slip?

If you start to see your health and relationships declining that’s a sure sign that you’ve slipped in to the second stage of burnout “Onset of Stress.” If you find yourself in stage 2, it might be time to talk with your boss about the fact that you’re starting to feel the onset of burnout. They may be able to help you course correct, especially if they want to retain you. This might not always result in a positive outcome but at least you’ve communicated that you’re struggling and given them the opportunity to make adjustments before simply leaving.

But what if nothing changes and you feel yourself slipping into stage 3 “Chronic Stress” with no glimmer of hope on the horizon? Then it’s time to get out. I mean it; these things are the basics and no job is worth compromising on them unless you truly have no other choice. I say “truly” here because I bet you do have a choice, you can schedule a call with me HERE if you want to talk it through (30-minutes, free).

If you’re already in the “Burnout” or “Habitual Burnout” stage

These stages can be crushing to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Often when we’re in a state of full-blown burnout or habitual burnout we’re nursing depression, anxiety, a lack of motivation, poor eating and sleeping, and a variety of other things. We’re often too exhausted to make time for others and the people we need most in our lives may start to distance themselves. It can get really ugly, really quick.

To put it frankly; it’s not worth it to stay at a job that’s toxic. I have a great article on this topic for my patrons HERE. It may feel like things can’t get any worse when you’re in a state of burnout but I promise you they can and they most likely will. Cut your losses and move on as soon as you can and focus on your wellbeing.

Summary

  • The 5 stages of burnout are:
    • Honeymoon Phase
    • Onset of Stress
    • Chronic Stress
    • Burnout
    • Habitual Burnout
  • Avoid burnout by staying in stage 1 or the “Honeymoon Phase”
    • Do this through a focus on boundaries and self-care.
  • If you start to see yourself slipping in to stage 2 “Onset of Stress” it’s time to talk to your boss and make sure they know you’re struggling
  • Suppose nothing changes and stage 3 “Chronic Stress” starts to rear its head, it’s time to GET OUT if you can.
  • On the chance that it’s too late and you’re already in “Burnout” or “Habitual Burnout” then it’s become even more critical that you make a change. Lean on Worklife Pathways to help you.

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