The Stages of Burnout

By learning about the different stages of burnout, you’ll be able to spot them and help stop them before it spirals out of control. The first phase of burnout is the Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion stage.

Stage 1) Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

At this point, somebody who would normally be on top of things can suddenly start to feel like they have too much to do yet not enough time and resources.  That person might more responsibility than authority or resources to handle the tasks at hand. As a result, the individual tries to juggle a schedule that increasingly unmanageable. Before long, things begin to take a toll. With a brain under constant strain, they experience overwhelming feelings of exhaustion.

Stage 2) Shame and Doubt

As the burnout progresses, the individual no longer has the same level of confidence that he or she once had. Although the person might want to handle the tasks on their desk, there seems to be an inner voice that vigorously disagrees. It’s not necessarily logical, but it is psychological, and it makes the person discount their past accomplishments, feel lousy about their present circumstances, and feel hesitant about the future.

Stage 3) Cynicism and Callousness

The person now starts to feel insecurity, vulnerability, and a strong desire for self-preservation. They might seem to put on heavy emotional armor to shield themselves from everyone else. On the other hand, some people become accommodators, trying to be too friendly and fair with everyone else even at their own expense. Either way, the results are increasing stress levels, and skyrocketing frustration and anger. It can become even more unhealthy if that anger turns into suspicion. If not addressed it might even lead to chest pains or a heart attack.

Stage 4) Failure, Helplessness and Crisis

In this final stage, the individual in this feels like everything is caving in no matter what they try to do. They feel utterly helpless. It doesn’t seem to matter if they take action, or they don’t, whether they stay or leave, they are still damned. It is the infamous “Catch-22” where one feels disoriented, and all of the normal psychological defenses are worn out. The coping mechanisms seem to malfunction, and everything that one used to depend on seems to vanish. At this point, the person is likely to be highly irritable, and even unimportant things appear to get them upset.

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