Psychology Today describes burnout as, “…a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” Burnout is usually associated with a person’s job, but it can come from personal relationships and household duties as well. Some signs of burnout include a loss of motivation, feelings of dissatisfaction and irritability, feeling tired or having trouble sleeping, and even social isolation. These symptoms may hinder your ability to work day-to-day or even cause you to have problems in your personal life. Though gradual, burnout can be measured by its stages.
The Stages of Burnout
Burnout is quite sneaky because it progresses very slowly. Many people don’t realize what’s going on until they are completely stressed and struggling to function normally. According to Integris Health, there are five stages when it comes to burnout.
- The Honeymoon Phase. This phase is filled with optimism, productivity, and overall satisfaction.
- The Onset of Stress Phase. In this stage, bouts of stress pop up here and there, and productivity begins to drop. There may even be signs of mental and physical fatigue.
- The Chronic Stress Phase. Now, as the name suggests, stress is more constant and may lead to the withdrawal from or neglect of work, family, and friends.
- The Burnout Phase. This is where your problems and stress seem to consume you and your behavioral changes are noticed by those closest to you. There may also be more physical symptoms like muscle pain, head and stomach aches, and even high blood pressure.
- The Habitual Burnout Phase. This occurs when burnout is ignored and becomes a part of your daily life. You may develop anxiety or depression as well as an inability to work or do other activities.
The Causes of Burnout
To fully understand what burnout is and how to overcome it, it’s important to know what causes it. Depending on your everyday life, burnout could come from any of your consistent activities. Some find that work is the cause; others find that a relationship is the culprit. Some parents have even discovered that taking care of their children has caused them to feel burned out.
Many people experienced burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were being stretched in different directions, having to handle a job or multiple jobs, working extra hard to avoid being laid off. With the Great Resignation still well under way, some may feel spread thin at work due to issues with understaffing. On top of that, many are trying to manage their family life, friendships, and romantic relationships. Once things feel out of your control or difficult to manage, a lack of motivation and energy may seep in, and you may not care to keep up with everything anymore.
Recovering from Burnout
It’s important to keep an eye on your mental health and how you feel about your daily activities and interactions. This could help you identify any red flags of burnout before you’ve fallen too deep. This Healthline article gives 11 tips to help you identify and work through your burnout until you’re back on your feet again. As I mentioned before, it can be very helpful to recognize the red flags and pinpoint exactly where your burnout is coming from. Another step would be to come up with changes you can make immediately. Eliminating these issues could instantly make a clear difference. Once you’ve had a chance to prioritize and delegate what needs to be done vs. what you need personally, you’ll begin to regain the power that was lost to burnout. Setting limits on the things that drove you to feeling burned out is how you will keep from succumbing to it again. It is ok to take a moment and assess your feelings, even outside of a burnout situation.
In a few of my previous blogs, I’ve talked about self-compassion. Ultimately, self-compassion is being kind and empathetic to yourself rather than being too harsh about mistakes or other upsetting things that happen naturally. Be realistic with yourself and your tasks. If you feel you’re starting to wear too thin, you owe it to yourself and your happiness to take a step back.
Finally, it is important to have people you can trust to talk to about what you’re feeling. They may have even gone through or are going through burnout themselves. It’s overwhelming and difficult to go through any form of recovery alone, so it’s best to talk with someone, especially a therapist, if things have gotten too far out of hand. Just like the lead-up to burnout was lengthy and gradual, overcoming it is the same way. Be patient with yourself and learn to balance your inner and outer life. If you think you may be struggling with burnout, please don’t hesitate to feel free to contact me. I am happy to help you with your journey. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options.