The 5 Stages of Burnout and How to Break out of Them

By Greg Audino

Did you know that burnout isn’t just a destination you arrive at?

It builds up over a long time, and the signs can be difficult to spot along the way. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can beat burnout at any stage of its development. Let’s take a look at the 5 stages of burnout according to Winona State University’s research, and what you can do to bounce back from them.

Stages of Burnout

1st Stage: Honeymoon Phase

At this stage, it might not feel like anything is wrong! You love creating, you’re getting a good response, and you’re excited to keep doing more of it. You want to prove yourself, take on more work, and productivity is through the roof! It’s easy to be optimistic.

What You Can Do

Think about the important parts of your life that you’re making a little less time for. How can you make sure to keep them in your routine? While things are going well, think about what your boundaries are and how much time you can spend creating while still having balance.

2nd Stage: Feeling Some Stress, But Managing It

Things are still going well, and you’re pretty happy to be doing what you’re doing. But you’re starting to notice that some parts of content creation are stressful. You have a little anxiety before the tough days, and look for ways to distract yourself sometimes.

What You Can Do

Shift your thoughts from distracting yourself to taking care of yourself. Make sure that when you do step away from work, it’s healthy and re-energizes you. Think about how you can make creation more efficient, so that stepping away continues to be for self-care and not self-survival.

3rd Stage: Stress is an Everyday Thing

Anxiety is now happening every day, because every day feels like a tough day. All your focus is on the stress, you’re procrastinating and finding it harder to meet deadlines. If you’re still making time for a social life, you spend more of it blaming others or talking only about work troubles.

What You Can Do

Take responsibility for your work and stress, and forgive yourself. Keep making sure your escapes from work are healthy ones, like in the second stage. Emphasize time with trusted friends and family that you can open up to, but still have fun with.

4th Stage: Burnout

You’re feeling detached from life and work, without any sense of control. Your mental health is starting to suffer and good coping strategies seem out of reach. It feels like the only way to not breakdown is to make a drastic change, like moving or starting a new career.

What You Can Do

Take a breath before making any major decisions. Think about how you can make small adjustments - like in your habits and day-to-day life - that will make big differences over time. Consider getting help from a therapist, life coach or career coach.

5th Stage: Burnout as a Lifestyle

By now, burnout has become a way of life and may start to show up as a serious mental or physical illness. You think of content creation as only being a burden, but getting away from it feels impossible. Worst of all, this has been happening long enough that it all feels normal.

What You Can Do

If you’ve tried the solutions from the other stages with no success, have a serious talk with yourself or with a professional about what your values are, and if this career helps you to live through them. You are more important than your work, and if a big change is what’s necessary to improve your mental health, that’s ok.

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