Where do you find yourself across these five stages of burnout?
In an ideal world, nobody would experience burnout. It’s the state of mind that comes with long-term, unresolved stress, and it can negatively affect your work and your life.
In our guide, How to Deal with Stress at Work, we discussed how stress can be both a positive and negative state of mind. With burnout, the best option is to take regular steps to prevent it.
Have a read of this guide to understand burnout’s five stages, and join us on our free e-course, The Reignite Project, to start preventing burnout from affecting you.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the loss of meaning in one's work, coupled with mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion as the result of long-term, unresolved stress.
Burnout can affect anyone, however there is a growing number of entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers who are reporting symptoms of burnout - up to 60% in the UK.
General symptoms of burnout include:
Lower resistance to illness
Pessimistic outlook on work or life
Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion
Time away from work
Demotivation and detachment from your work
Depleted energy levels
Detachment in personal relationships
The 5 stages of burnout
Burnout can affect anyone, at any time in their lives. However, burnout is most common in people between the ages of 25 and 44. Our guide is inspired by Winona State University’s burnout study, as well as our own psychological research.
As with any illness, symptoms of burnout change from person to person, however these five stages are commonly observed:
1. Honeymoon Phase
When we undertake a new task, we often start by experiencing high job satisfaction, commitment, energy, and creativity. This is especially true of a new job role, or the beginnings of a business venture.
In this first phase of burnout, you may begin to experience predicted stresses of the job, so it’s important to start implementing positive coping strategies, such as taking practical steps in your job, or prioritising your mental health through one of Calmer’s programmes.
The theory is that if we create good coping strategies at this stage, we can continue in the honeymoon phase indefinitely.
Readily accepting responsibility
Sustained energy levels
Commitment to the job at hand
Compulsion to prove oneself
High productivity levels
2. Onset of Stress
The second stage of burnout begins with an awareness of some days being more difficult than others. You may find your optimism waning, as well as notice common stress symptoms affecting you physically, mentally, or emotionally.
High blood pressure
Inability to focus
Lack of sleep or reduced sleep quality
Lack of social interaction
Unusual heart rhythms
Avoidance of decision making
Change in appetite or diet
General neglect of personal needs
Grinding your teeth at night
3. Chronic stress
The third stage of burnout is chronic stress. This is a marked change in your stress levels, going from motivation, to experiencing stress on an incredibly frequent basis. You may also experience more intense symptoms than those of stage two.
Common symptoms of Chronic Stress:
Lack of hobbies
Missed work deadlines and/or targets
Persistent tiredness in the mornings
Procrastination at work and at home
Repeated lateness for work
Social withdrawal from friends and/or family
Uptake of escapist activities
Anger or aggressive behaviour
Decreased sexual desire
Denial of problems at work or at home
Feeling threatened or panicked
Feeling pressured or out of control
Increased alcohol/drug consumption
Increased caffeine consumption
Entering stage four of burnout is where symptoms become critical. When burnout is talked about more generally, this is the stage that is often referred to. Continuing as normal is often not possible, and it’s key that you seek intervention (for clinical issues, please refer to our partner Thrive Your Life).
Common symptoms of Critical Stress:
Development of an escapist mentality
Feeling empty inside
Obsession over problems at work or in life
Pessimistic outlook on work and life
Physical symptoms intensify and/or increase
Chronic stomach or bowel problems
Complete neglect of personal needs
Continuation or increase in escapist activities
Desire to "drop out" of society
Desire to move away from work or friends/family
5. Habitual Burnout
The final stage of burnout is habitual burnout. This means that the symptoms of burnout are so embedded in your life that you are likely to experience a significant physical or emotional problem, as opposed to occasionally experiencing stress or burnout.
Chronic mental fatigue
Chronic physical fatigue
How to prevent burnout from affecting you
While burnout can cause issues at work, at home, and in life, it is always possible to take action and move towards Stage 1. Even if you are not experiencing stress or burnout now, the wisest course of action is to proactively take up self-care and build your mental resilience.
Join The Reignite Project
If you are particularly interested in preventing burnout from affecting you, we recommend joining in with The Reignite Project, our free e-course that will enable you to identify and prevent burnout, as well as reignite your passion for work and life.
We believe everyone deserves support with their enterprises, especially when working alone. With more than 5.7 million entrepreneurs and small businesses in the UK, we’ve made it our mission to support at least 10% of these freelancers, lone workers, and business owners through The Reignite Project.
With the right support, you are more likely to succeed in business and in life.