Burnout is a prevalent and serious issue in our fast-paced, demanding world. It’s a state of chronic exhaustion and reduced motivation that affects both your personal well-being and professional performance.
To effectively determine if you have burnout and address it, you need to understand the three phases that burnout typically has. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of each phase, you can evaluate where you stand in your burnout journey. And take action to heal and eliminate your burnout before it’s too late.
Please read on to learn about the three phases of burnout and how you can assess which phase you might be in. I’ve also developed a complimentary “How Bad Is My Burnout?” quiz to help you figure it out. Understanding your burnout phase is the first step towards healing and reclaiming a healthier, happier and more balanced life.
Phase 1: The Honeymoon Phase
The initial phase of burnout is called the Honeymoon Phase. During this stage, you experience high levels of enthusiasm, motivation and commitment to your work or a specific task. You willingly invest long hours, take on additional responsibilities and display an overall positive outlook. However, the excessive workload and relentless pressure gradually begin to take a toll, indicating the onset of burnout.
To evaluate if you’re in the Honeymoon Phase, reflect on the following questions:
- Are you frequently working longer hours than necessary, neglecting personal time and relaxation?
- Do you find yourself taking on more responsibilities without considering the impact on your overall well-being?
- Are you experiencing an increasing pressure to meet unrealistic expectations and constantly striving for perfection?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be in the Honeymoon Phase. It’s crucial to be mindful of the signs and proactively address them to prevent burnout from progressing further.
Phase 2: The Onset of Stress
The second phase of burnout is characterized by the Onset of Stress. During this stage, you begin to experience heightened levels of stress: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The initial enthusiasm you had starts to wane as the demands of work or life take their toll on your overall well-being and performance.
Signs and symptoms of the Onset of Stress may include:
- Increased stress levels, manifesting as persistent anxiety and unease.
- Fatigue and exhaustion, even after getting enough rest and sleep.
- Difficulty concentrating and finding it challenging to complete tasks efficiently.
- Emotional instability, like irritability, frustration or frequent mood swings.
To evaluate if you’re experiencing the Onset of Stress, consider the following questions:
- Do you frequently feel exhausted, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, despite attempts to rest and rejuvenate?
- Are you finding it harder to concentrate and struggling to complete tasks efficiently?
- Are you experiencing emotional instability, such as heightened anxiety, irritability or a sense of frustration?
If you identify with these symptoms, it’s crucial to acknowledge that you may be entering the Onset of Stress phase of burnout. Taking action to address these issues and implementing self-care strategies can help prevent burnout from progressing further. You may want to consider professional help from someone like me to ensure you’re getting to the root cause of your burnout so that it doesn’t progress to phase 3.
Phase 3: Chronic Burnout
The final phase of burnout is the most severe and debilitating, called Chronic Burnout. In this stage, you experience a state of chronic exhaustion on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. You may feel emotionally detached from your work, experience a sense of hopelessness and develop a negative attitude towards your job or work-related tasks. Physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia and frequent illnesses, may also manifest and are common.
Signs and symptoms of Chronic Burnout may include:
- Chronic exhaustion, even after resting and time off.
- Emotional detachment and cynicism towards work or previously enjoyed activities.
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and a lack of motivation.
- Decreased job satisfaction and performance.
Physical symptoms related to stress, such as headaches, insomnia, dis-ease or frequent illnesses. (I’m purposely writing it as “dis-ease” to emphasize that disease is merely the body in a state of un-ease; bring ease back to the body, and healing begins. The energy healing work I do with clients works beautifully for this.)
To determine if you’re in the Chronic Burnout phase, reflect on the following questions:
- Do you constantly feel exhausted, regardless of how much rest and relaxation you build into your routine?
- Have you developed a negative attitude towards your work or tasks, finding it increasingly difficult to find motivation?
- Do you frequently experience physical symptoms related to stress, such as headaches, insomnia, dis-ease or a weakened immune system?
If you resonate with these signs, it’s crucial to acknowledge that you may be experiencing Chronic Burnout and you need to take immediate steps to address it. Support from loved ones, practicing self-care, setting boundaries and seeking professional help are actions you can take towards healing and recovery.
In my personal experience, I went through the first two stages of burnout without really understanding how serious burnout can become if ignored. At the time, I didn’t have the knowledge or a proper support system and before I knew it, I was in the Chronic Burnout phase experiencing all the debilitating symptoms mentioned above.
The scariest part was a serious dis-ease taking its toll on me physically as I experienced excruciating joint and muscle pain, painful burning in my stomach and other GI issues, poor quality sleep, night sweats, fevers, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and frequent ankle and foot swelling. It lasted for almost 2 years as the traditional doctors and western medicine approaches kept treating the symptoms rather than the root cause. Multiple visits to “specialists”, and multiple rounds of steroids and antibiotics prescribed without any diagnosis or true healing, sound familiar?
I was suffering and struggling, yet kept prioritizing work and trying to “push through it”. That’s when a friend led me to energy healing as an option which – methodically and gently – provided the ease and relaxation I didn’t realize I so desperately needed. I began to feel better almost immediately and felt healing on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The healing was on a deeper level addressing the root cause and big positive shifts were the result. Shortly after starting with the energy healing sessions, I was led to other professionals who actually diagnosed my dis-ease and provided comprehensive treatment plans that included healthy lifestyle changes for permanent results.
What’s your experience in dealing with stress and potential burnout while trying to balance a fulfilling career with an equally fulfilling personal life? Do you think you may be prone to burnout or in the middle of one of these burnout phases? Understanding the three phases of burnout – the Honeymoon Phase, the Onset of Stress, and Chronic Burnout – provides a framework for evaluating where you might be in your burnout journey.
If you’d like more help in understanding and evaluating burnout in your life, here’s the link to take the complimentary “How Bad Is My Burnout?” quiz that I created to help you determine which phase you’re in.
Recognizing what stage you’re in is the first step. Then, you’ll become aware of the signs and symptoms to watch out for as you take proactive steps to address them and heal your burnout, and prevent it from recurring at some future time when life gets challenging.
Learn from my experience, and don’t ignore your burnout in the earlier stages. You can’t “push through it” hoping it’ll get better by chance.
Remember, seeking support from loved ones, practicing self-care, setting boundaries and seeking professional help from someone like me are crucial in navigating and overcoming burnout. Prioritizing your well-being and taking appropriate action will pave the way towards a healthier, more fulfilling career and joyful life. Remember, it’s never too late to address burnout and embark on your own healing journey of self-restoration.
Photo by twinsfisch – Unsplash
In today’s fast-paced world, burnout is becoming more and more common. And the connection between burnout and your physical health and wellbeing is undeniable.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. It’s a condition where you’re completely depleted and feeling hopeless, frustrated and fatigued. Chronic stress that’s tied to burnout has a significant impact on your body and mind, and it’s essential to understand the effects of this type of stress to prevent burnout and maintain good health.
Chronic Stress Causes Burnout
Chronic stress is the most common cause of burnout. It’s the result of prolonged exposure to stressors, like work-related stress, financial stress, relationship stress, or health-related stress.
In your body, chronic stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the body’s “fight or flight” response. When this happens, your body releases stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, to help you respond to the stressor. These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, preparing your body for action.
While the fight or flight response is needed for you to respond to acute stress that lasts from a few hours or days to a few weeks, it can be harmful when it’s chronic (lasts for months or years).
Burnout’s Detrimental Effects on Your Body
Chronic stress can lead to the overproduction of stress hormones, which has detrimental effects on your body. These effects include:
Chronic stress is known to increase the risk of heart disease by causing the heart to work harder than necessary. It can also lead to high blood pressure, which can damage the arteries and increase the risk of a future heart attack or stroke.
Immune system dysfunction
Stress hormones can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to getting sick by picking up contagious infections and illnesses from others.
Chronic stress can also increase inflammation, which has been linked to a range of chronic health conditions, including chronic joint pain, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and cancer.
Stress can also lead to digestive problems like heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux and excess stomach acid. Chronic stress is linked to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Mental health issues
Chronic stress can have a significant impact on your mental health, leading to brain fog, the inability to concentrate, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. It can also worsen symptoms of existing mental health challenges and conditions.
Stress can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep issues. Lack of sleep can, in turn, worsen stress and lead to a vicious cycle.
Muscle tension and pain
Chronic stress can cause muscle tension and pain, especially in the neck, shoulders and back. It can also worsen existing chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Managing Burnout and Chronic Stress
It’s important to understand that the effects of chronic stress are cumulative. The longer stress is present and not addressed, the more damage it can do to your body. So don’t ignore the signs of burnout and chronic stress. It’s crucial to take steps to prevent burnout and manage stress levels quickly.
Here are some ways to manage stress and prevent burnout:
Self-care is essential for maintaining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Taking care of yourself can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout. Some examples of self-care include exercise/regular movement, getting good quality sleep, eating a healthy diet and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or intentional breathwork.
Practice time management
Effective time management can help reduce stress levels by allowing you to prioritize tasks and manage your workload effectively. This includes setting realistic goals, breaking tasks into manageable steps, delegating tasks to others, and scheduling time for breaks and relaxation.
Crucial for preventing burnout is the setting of boundaries. It’s important to learn to say “no” to requests that are not essential or that will put too much strain on your resources. It’s also important to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, and allow and plan your time to include rest and relaxation. Hint: add it to your calendar.
Seek social support
Talking to friends, family or a professional can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout. Having a support system can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness that often accompany burnout..
Practice being present (mindfulness)
Being present, or mindfulness, is a practice that involves being fully conscious of what you’re experiencing in the now – your present moment experience. And being fully engaged with it without distraction. If you’re lost in thought, reliving the past, worrying about the future, or going through the motions, it interferes with how you act in the present.
The famous philosopher Lao Tzu said “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Being present by focusing and listening to others during conversations, or with practices like meditation and deep breathing can help you feel more connected, reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Fully enjoying the little things in life, like savoring a hot cup of tea or coffee, or joyfully appreciating the blooms and wildlife in a garden during spring or summer, are other examples of being present.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout. It may not always be feasible, but a 5 to 10 minute break every hour is ideal. Taking a short walk, practicing deep breathing while stretching your body, or taking a brief nap helps recharge your batteries and keep stress levels in check. Listen to your body’s cues and don’t push through what it’s telling you it needs. Take that 10 minute nap if you’re exhausted. You’ll feel better afterwards.
Seek professional help
If stress levels are severe or chronic, it may be necessary to seek professional help. As an intuitive healing coach who specializes in burnout and stress relief, as well as a Corp HR burnout survivor, I believe everyone suffering with burnout deserves help to recover more quickly and effectively than suffering alone. I know first hand how important getting the right professional is to help you develop coping skills, manage stress and prevent burnout.
The connection between burnout and your physical health and wellbeing is clear. Chronic stress has a significant negative impact on your body, and can lead to a range of health problems like cardiovascular disease, immune system dysfunction, increased inflammation, digestive problems, mental health issues, sleep problems, and muscle tension and pain.
Because of this direct link, it’s crucial to take steps to prevent burnout and manage stress levels before it’s too late. Prioritizing self-care, practicing time management, setting boundaries, seeking social support, practicing being present, taking breaks and seeking professional help are all effective ways to manage stress and prevent burnout. By taking care of yourself and managing your stress levels, you can maintain good physical and mental health and wellbeing and avoid the detrimental effects of chronic stress.
Additionally, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout. These can include physical symptoms like exhaustion, headaches, and muscle tension, as well as emotional symptoms like irritability, cynicism, and a lack of motivation. Burnout can also lead to a decrease in productivity, quality of work, and job satisfaction.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout, it’s important to take action sooner than later. Get professional help, adjust your workload or take time off to rest and recharge. Ignoring burnout can lead to long-term and serious health issues and a decreased quality of life.
Photo by Alexander Grey, Unsplash
Why does your work mean so much? I get it – the clients I work with are ambitious, hard-working, driven, and growth-oriented. I am too. In the past, a bit too ambitious, and overworking to the point of exhaustion and eventual burnout.
That’s why I’m writing this blog. To point out the benefits and other qualities of work, including the deeper psychological meanings that drive our choices and behavior. My intent is for you to gain an increased understanding about why your work means so much; and subsequently provide you with clarity so you can make choices about maintaining balance and harmony between your personal and professional lives, while still being able to excel and find fulfillment at work.
Benefits of Your Work
We spend a good amount of our time working, maybe 35, 40 or 50 hours or more per week; that allocation of time in and of itself gives work a prominent role in your life.
Work has many benefits and fulfills many needs; it’s a source of income that allows you to support yourself and loved ones with basic things like food and shelter. It also provides the funds to do activities you enjoy and to build wealth long-term.
At work, you learn new skills, meet new colleagues and clients, and definitely get challenged by different work situations.
Work allows you to contribute to the good of others and important causes. Many people link their work to a higher cause, it’s their bigger purpose and strong motivator. For example, I have a friend who became a pharmacist and eventually a pharmaceutical company executive with the higher purpose of helping to find a cure for cancer.
Work gives you a sense of identity and connection; it anchors you to your “work family”. It provides a sense of stability too, especially if you’re going through a challenging time.
When my mother died, and years later my father died, I was in my high pressure corporate HR career. The outpouring of sympathy from my colleagues helped so much. And the ability to focus on work activities in the following months was beneficial to healing my grief.
The Deeper Meaning of Work
This passage below really resonated with me. Internationally acclaimed poet and author David Whyte, wrote the following in his book: Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
“Work is frightened with difficulty and possibility of visible failure, failure to provide, to succeed, to make a difference, to be seen and to be seen to be seen.
Work, therefore is robust vulnerability, and a good part of the time, a journey leading us through very unbeautiful private and public humiliations.
We find the core essence of work, firstly through its fear-filled imagining, secondly, in the long necessary humiliations of refusal, courtship and apprenticeship, thirdly in the skill and craft we learn by doing and finally in the harvest of its gift and its gifting and, the surprising ways it is both received and rejected by the world and then strangely, given back to us.
Profit, recognition, wealth: are beautiful by-products only when they come as the children of this falling in love, this patient courtship; this falling down and getting up, this learning to live with and this long careful parenting of our work.”
I think this really speaks to the deeper significance of work and “to be seen and to be seen and to be seen”; especially true for those of us with a strong work ethic.
Balance and Harmony in Work, and in Life
I hope you now have a better understanding about why your work means so much. Keep this in mind when making choices about maintaining balance and harmony in your work, and in your life.
It is more difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance in certain organizations and industries, depending on the company culture, its values, and expectations. Before taking on a new role, ensure it’s a good fit for you.
Throughout your career, pay attention; stay aware of things like overwork, overstress, burn out, lack of boundaries, unhealthy competition, unrealistic expectations and work politics and how they are affecting you. Address them quickly and swiftly for your own wellbeing before they escalate.
I’ve seen the good and the bad of being hard-working and driven, during my HR career and now as a life coach working with career-focused professionals. It’s wonderful to work with people who have high standards and integrity. However, sometimes that quality leads to the imbalance that causes mental and physical exhaustion and illness.
If this blog resonates with you and brought you a deeper understanding of the role of work in your life, and what may be causing some of your challenges, let me know more in the comments.
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash