Stages of Burnout

5 Stages of Burnout and 5 Simple Prevention Strategies

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Burnout is characterized by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, usually due to a heavy workload. The burnout-afflicted person feels hopeless, cynical, disillusioned, and emotionally drained. Burnout not only reduces productivity at work but also negatively affects social life.

The gradual progression of burnout is explained through stages of burnout. American Psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger first described 12 stages of burnout. Later, the 12 stages were compressed into 5 stages for simplicity in understanding. To take preventive measures, it is imperative to know about the 5 stages of burnout.

5 Stages of Burnout

Honeymoon Stage

The first among the five stages of burnout is called the honeymoon stage. The honeymoon stage is usually associated with new jobs, tasks, and business ventures. As you take up a new job or start your new business, you are full of enthusiasm, energy, and creativity. Your job satisfaction is high, and you are ready to put in your best efforts to perform well. Productivity is very high in this phase.

The key is to stay at this stage forever and not proceed towards the next stages of burnout. To this end, you need to adopt coping strategies to deal with the stress which would inevitably come with your work. Neglecting your personal well-being and focusing on your professional life only will push you toward the next stage.

Onset of Stress

This is the second among the five stages of burnout, and the problems commence from this stage. You get a feeling that some days are more difficult than others. Your optimism saps, and you have less time for friends and family due to preoccupation with work. 

You also notice symptoms such as lack of concentration, irritability, dissatisfaction with your job, high blood pressure, headache, anxiety, loss of appetite, heart palpitations, fatigue, and more.

Chronic Stress

This is the third stage of burnout characterized by frequent stress. You experience a high level of stress frequently and not just occasionally. You regularly miss deadlines for various tasks, and your efforts do not yield results. To escape the pressure, you hesitate to take decisions and try to shrug off your responsibilities. Your nature becomes irascible, and you distance yourself from friends and family.

In order to cope with chronic stress, you may resort to medications, alcohol, and caffeine, which destroy your physical health.


This is the critical phase among the stages of burnout because this stage is burnout itself. The symptoms of 3rd stage become critical at this stage. It becomes very difficult to cope with work demands, and a feeling of despair and powerlessness causes you to give up on your work. You develop an escapist mentality and simply want to leave the society. 

Physical symptoms such as chronic digestive problems, chronic headaches, and fatigue worsen, but you are not concerned about your physical health anymore.

Habitual Burnout

This is the final phase of the stages of burnout. Reaching this stage implies that you have failed to recover from burnout, and the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of burnout have become part and parcel of your life. 

Chronic sadness and depression make you feel like doing nothing. Both your professional and personal life are adversely affected. You also experience constant physical and mental fatigue.

Professional help is needed at this stage. 

Now that you are aware of the 5 stages of burnout, have a look at the ways to prevent burnout.

5 Strategies to Prevent Burnout

Make Exercise a Priority

Exercise not only keeps you physically fit but also prevents stress and burnout. The aim should be to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Instead of a 30 minutes session, a regimen comprising of 10 minutes of quick physical workouts 3 times a day can also be adopted.

Activities that engage both the arms and the legs are recommended. The most suitable activities are running, swimming, weight training, aerobics, and martial arts.

Take Time Off

Extreme preoccupation with work is not good and can lead to burnout. Thus, taking time off from work is essential. Utilize your quota of holidays to disconnect completely from your work and relax at home, spend quality time with friends and family, pursue your hobby or anything that pleases you.

Taking breaks from work rejuvenates your mind and prevents stress from getting hold over you.

Reach out To Those Closest to You

Seek help and support from people who are closest to you. It can be any person such as a best friend, spouse, parents, sibling, or anyone else. Bottling up your emotions and feelings leads to stress. Thus, confiding your thoughts to your closest people helps unburden yourself and seek their advice and support. 

Strong emotional support from important people in your life immensely help in preventing stress and burnout. Having friends at the workplace to break the monotony of routine office work by way of casual chats and jokes also help in keeping your mind relaxed.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep deprivation or bad quality of sleep worsens the symptoms of burnout. This is because lack of adequate sleep causes both physical and mental fatigue. Concentrating and working hard take a hit when you do not sleep properly. Thus, ensuring 8 hours of sleep each day is necessary to prevent burnout.

The time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning must not vary. Otherwise, your body’s biological clock gets disrupted, adversely affecting your sleep quality. 

Try to Find Some Value in Your Work

Resenting the nature of your work hastens burnout. Thus, focus on the positive aspects of your job and figure out how your work is making a difference even on a limited scale. A sense of purpose is instilled in your psyche when you value your work. It prevents stress and burnout.


The aim should be to remain at Stage 1 by adopting the various burnout prevention strategies. Even at the later stages, changes in lifestyle and work habits can ensure recovery.

Despite these measures, if you still find yourself constantly stressed and feel burnt out, then why not talk to a mental health counselor available with your Vital health plan? To know more visit


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