5 Stages of burnout and signs to spot them

Burnout, the term first introduced in the 1970s is used to explain a state of extreme exhaustion. Prolonged periods of stress at work result in severe burnout among the global workforce. Professionals in different fields, for example, healthcare, legal, finance, marketing, human resource, engineering, manufacturing, etc. are all prone to burnout.

Burnout affects the mental, physical, and emotional states of a person. It leaves you feeling as if you can no longer continue to work and function. 

However, burnout does not happen suddenly rather it appears in stages as the stress level advances. There are 5 major stages of burnout each with its signs and symptoms. 

5 stages of burnout 

Let’s briefly explore each stage to find out more about burnout

1. Honeymoon phase

At the beginning of a new assignment, the energy and excitement levels are high. The honeymoon phase of burnout is likely to go unnoticed as it is full of optimism, creativity, and zeal. The sense of job satisfaction, growth opportunity, and development avenues all make you feel super excited.

However, the new task is also the beginning of new stressors and mental fatigue. The process to achieve your best and being on top comes with its consequences. 

Signs and symptoms

Signs to look out for the honey phase of burnout are:

  • Commitment to work
  • Keen to prove oneself 
  • Job Satisfaction
  • High energy levels
  • High productivity
  • Optimism and excitement

2. Onset of stress

At the onset of stress, you begin to realize that not all days are the same. You start to feel the burden and come close to reality as the initial excitement settles. Early signs of stress and fatigue appear as the days go by. 

In the second stage, you are likely to ignore self-care and struggle to keep focus at work.

Signs and symptoms

Signs to look out for at the onset of stress.

  • Irritability
  • Neglecting self-care
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Lack of sleep
  • Low productivity

3. Chronic stress

It is the point where stress becomes persistent and chronic. The stress continues to affect your routine, appetite, productivity, and quality of work. You are likely to experience more physical symptoms as you advance through the third stage of burnout.  

Signs and symptoms

Signs of chronic stress to look forward.

  • Anger and aggression
  • Feeling panicked
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol intake
  • Frequently missed deadlines
  • Resentfulness

4. Burnout

Stage four is hitting burnout itself. It is the point of complete exhaustion and peak of stress. The symptoms of the early stages become chronic and your overall well-being starts to deteriorate. Ignorance of burnout and its signs may result in the development of clinical issues. It becomes difficult to function as normal and cope as you enter this stage. 

Signs and symptoms

Signs of burnout to look out forward.

  • Behavioral changes
  • Chronic bowel problems
  • Social isolation
  • Feeling empty
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Low self-confidence

5. Habitual burnout

Burnout becomes habitual when its signs and symptoms are left ignored for a long time. Mental, physical, and emotional fatigue become a part of your life. A person with habitual burnout experiences anxiety, depression, frequent headaches, and recurring stomach, and bowel problems. It not only affects your productivity at work but also your relationships.

Signs and symptoms

Signs of habitual burnout to look out forward.

  • Burnout syndrome
  • Depression
  • Mental fatigue
  • Poor physical health
  • Persistently overworked
  • Desire to escape work and life

Strategies to combat burnout symptoms

It is extremely important to take care of your well-being to stay healthy, happy, and productive. Be mindful of the signs and consider the following strategies:

  • Prioritize work-life balance and establish healthy boundaries
  • Create a manageable workload and plan your day in advance
  • Discuss your stressors with your manager 
  • Do not forget to tend to your personal and family needs

Final thoughts

Burnout can hit anybody. It is the state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by chronic work stress. The initial stages show subtle signs of fatigue and tiredness before you finally reach burnout and habitual burnout. Leave untreated, and it will result in mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety, depression, headaches, stomach, and bowel problems.

The only way to combat burnout is to remain mindful of its signs and take appropriate action.

I hope you found this article useful and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms then don’t be afraid to talk about them and seek professional help. Also check out our other articles on how to cope with burnout and depression.

About the author

I am a Girl, that wants to live a Simple Life, and I am in a search of the recipe for happiness.  I invite you to join me on this journey! It will be an exciting adventure in which we will look for the simplicity of life, joy in everyday things, and free time outside the usual hustle and bustle.

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