Four stages of burnout

·3 min read

WE HEAR people talk, tweet, and rant about being “burned out” a lot. It’s a common and very concerning phenomenon. Before we can fix it, we have to identify whether or not we’re truly suffering from burnout and which stage of it we’re in.

So, how do you know you’re experiencing it yourself? Here are the four stages of burnout:

Stage 1. Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

One day you could be happy doing your tasks one after the other and then finding yourself stuck on what to do the next. You start dozing off at 2 p.m. or zoning out in bathroom breaks. Hopefully, you’re just tired—but that prolonged state of exhaustion is only the beginning of one of the worst mental and emotional cycles.

Stage 2. Shame and Doubt

At this point, you haven’t been performing up to standard because of how tired you are. You start to realize this with the kind of awareness where you criticize yourself for every single thing you do. It starts small, like the kind of self-shame from being late for a deadline but then your boss starts to notice. Here’s where the doubt kicks in. You start to doubt whether or not you deserved the job or anything else you’ve gotten in life. You doubt whether or not your existence has any meaning at all.

Stage 3. Defensiveness, Cynicism and Callousness

You start to get defensive. It’s a natural response—like survival of the fittest. You try to defend yourself by blaming other things—excuses spout out like popcorn from a machine. Then comes the cynicism. You aren’t paid enough. People don’t appreciate you enough. Others have a lighter workload. Then you stop caring. Your boss points out that you could’ve done a better job at your deliverables—meh. It doesn’t matter to you anymore because you just feel so numb about it.

Stage 4. Failure, Helplessness and Crisis

Eventually, you’ll start to think about how everything didn’t turn out as you would have liked it too. Your work isn’t great. You feel like a failure. You’re helplessly trapped. That’s when the panic starts. That sense of crisis—like you’re in a glass case that keeps getting smaller and smaller as you watch the world outside go on like nothing is happening. You can’t move. You can’t breathe. All you can think about is that there’s nothing you can do to help it.

THE FOUR STAGES IN SUMMARY:

  • Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

  • Shame and Doubt

  • Defensiveness, Cynicism and Callousness

  • Failure, Helplessness and Crisis

All of those four are put together in a single concept—that’s burnout. It’s caused by excessive or prolonged stress—but there are so many layers to it. Your job, your relationships, your lifestyle—even your personality because of the way you process and cope with all the external factors.

Luckily, there is a way to help. So how do we stop it from happening?

FEATURED READS:

Burnout —A Pandemic: What it is and how to deal with it (Part 1 of 2)

Burnout --A Pandemic: What It Is and How to Deal (Part 2 of 2)