What are the Stages of Burnout?

Feeling exhausted all the time or feeling like you’re stuck in an endless fatigued cycle could mean that you are experiencing burnout. Although many people don’t recognise the signs of burnout until it hits them physically, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to recognise the early signs of burnout in yourself. Here are the main overarching stages of burnout which can help you to identify what you’re experiencing.

  1. High levels of emotional investment

Burnout is normally a result of overworking or experiencing a great deal of stress after investing much of your personal emotions into something. This could be related to a work project, a family event, or even a friend or romantic interest. People often feel highly energetic and motivated at this stage and exert high levels of physical and mental energy. If you find yourself putting huge amounts of investment into a particular project, especially for a prolonged period of time, stop and ask yourself whether this is a balanced and sustainable approach. If not, it could be leading you to burnout.

  1. Becoming consumed

High levels of emotional investment in a project normally leads to becoming consumed by it. Initially you might feel like this is a good approach, but as things may not progress as quickly or in the way you expected, you will begin to feel disappointed as well as consumed by stress. Fatigue may begin to set in at this stage, and sufferers often become frustrated with the outcomes of their work and time.

  1. Guilt, distance and low self-esteem

As you become more tired, disappointed and further down the road to burnout, you are likely to experience feelings of guilt and shame – feeling like you didn’t do enough or you could have tried harder. You are also likely to stop enjoying hobbies and social interactions like you did before, and your opinion of yourself may change for the worse. The overall frustration and disappointment is overwhelming and you feel tired almost all the time.


  1. Peak burnout

You may start feeling physical aches and pains, and may need to take time off work to recover. Short walks to the kitchen or bathroom may become increasingly difficult due to weakness and body aches, and headaches and shortness of breath may become a regular occurrence. The emotional exhaustion on top of this can lead to severe depression and other mental health problems if not treated properly. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

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