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How To Spot Burnout: The 5 Stages

Explained In This Article

What is Burnout?

Signs and Symptoms

5 Stages of Burnout

Prevention and Treatment


Burnout. It happens when you have long-term, unresolved stress. Burnout can affect your work and result in poor performance. It leaves victims feeling exhausted, purposeless and unable to deal with the many demands of everyday life.

In this article, we will explore what it is, the 5 stages of burnout and explain the prevention and treatment of burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental fatigue. It is caused by prolonged and unresolved stress.

Burnout occurs when you feel physically and emotionally exhausted and unable to cope with the demands of work and daily life. Imagine the enthusiasm and vigour when you first begin a new role. When work-related stress goes unresolved for a prolonged period of time, that enthusiasm begins to fade away.

You start to lose motivation and ultimately your productivity reduces. In many cases, there are five defined stages of burnout, and most entrepreneurs report feeling helpless, cynical and easily irritated after going through all five stages of burnout. 

As an entrepreneur who experienced burnout, it might be easy to ignore. However, the effects of burnout reach far beyond your work life. it can affect your private and social life, and the exhaustion caused can have adverse effects on your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu.

What are The Signs and Symptoms of Burnout?

There are general signs and symptoms of burnout. These are:

  • Depleted energy levels
  • Demotivation from work
  • Reduced productivity
  • A cynical view of the world

There are also specific physical, emotional, and behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout which are hard to miss.

Emotional Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

  1. Self-doubt
  2. Helplessness
  3. Loneliness
  4. A negative outlook on life
  5. Loss of motivation

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

  1. Exessive fatigue
  2. Frequent illness
  3. Muscle pain
  4. Constant headaches
  5. Change in sleep pattern

Behavioural Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

  1. Unwilling to take up responsibilities
  2. Self-isolation
  3. Reduced social contact
  4. Increased drug or alcohol intake
  5. Procrastination

Most people experience some of these signs and symptoms from time to time. You might think it could just be stress. However, there is a real difference between stress and burnout. In most cases, stress leads to anxiety disorders whereas burnout leads to depression.

Stress is usually characterised by over-engagement. Burnout is characterised by disengagement. There are all evident in the 5 stages of burnout, explained below.

The 5 Stages of Burnout

Most people experience the five stages of burnout, which starts with the honeymoon phase.

  1. Honeymoon Phase – The honeymoon phase is usually the first stage of burnout. You have extremely high levels of energy and the willingness to prove yourself in your job. There is high job satisfaction and your creativity is at an all-time high. This might lead to the onset of stress, the second stage of burnout.
  2. Beginning of Stress – During the second stage of burnout, you begin to experience anxiety about your job, dissatisfaction and even sleepless nights. Your enthusiasm begins to wane and fatigue begins to kick in. At this point, embarking on a stress relief activity such as a silent retreat could reverse the progression of a burnout.
  3. Chronic Stress – When you reach the third stage of burnout, your levels of stress are incredibly and consistently high. Symptoms include anger and aggressive behaviour, cynicism, illness, high levels of fatigue and alcohol consumption.
  4. Burnout – At stage four, your symptoms become critical and more alarming. At this stage of burnout, your behaviour begins to change and the feeling of emptiness, loneliness and self-doubt become critical. Stage four of burnout is usually when people realise that they cannot continue as usual. When nothing is done about it, you reach a stage of habitual burnout.
  5. Habitual Burnout – This is the final stage of burnout. During habitual burnout, your symptoms have become so critical and consistent that they have become embedded in your life. At this stage of burnout, your behaviour completely changes and you start to experience depression, chronic physical and mental fatigue and burnout syndrome.

How To Prevent Burnout

The best and most effective method of preventing burnout is to take action at stage one of burnout. When you begin to experience any type of stress, the best course of action is to take up a self-care regime to get your life back on track. Eating healthy, getting a new job or speaking more openly with your boss are great ways to prevent burnout.

Evangelina Demerouti, Professor and researcher suggests making changes to your work environment. By speaking to someone in the human resources department, you can discuss ways of creating a healthier work environment. 

Another effective burnout remedy is a burnout retreat. Travelling to the English countryside, Spain or Mexico on an organised burnout recovery program will help you recover from a recent burnout. 

Explore Burnout Recovery Retreats

burnout recovery

Contrary to popular belief, burnouts are actually reversible. It is not a permanent condition. Taking a vacation could offer temporary relief. Burnout recovery vacations have become a popular way for people to recover from burnouts. 

They are organised by health experts and packed with activities to help ease stress and give you the much-needed rest you need.