Burnout isn’t a sudden onset like many people believe, it’s a long, slow process of exhaustion. But if you feel like you’re starting to experience it, you should know that at each stage of the burnout lifecycle, you have different choices that you can make that will help you cope.
The Newcomer – At this point, you’ve likely just started a new position. You’re satisfied, high-energy, and eager to continue. This becomes the first stage when you start to get into things and start to see the usual stresses of work. At this point, you want to focus on preventing the onset of worse stress.
Focus on: establishing good habits and prepare for worse days.
Early Stress – You’ll start to notice some bad days when you struggle throughout the day, and likely find yourself beginning to have some waning optimism. At this point, you might find the physical manifestations of anxiety and stress beginning to pop up: Fatigue, grinding teeth, headaches, and heart palpitations or similar issues.
Focus on: Taking regular breaks, focus on why you were eager, to begin with.
Chronic Stress – This is when burnout is right on the horizon. This stage of the process is marked by constant low-level stress and exhaustion, apathy, being emotional ‘on-edge,’ and increased bad habits like smoking or alcohol that you might find yourself using to cope. The worst aspect of this is social withdrawal – many find themselves less interested in friend and family time at this point.
Focus on: Family time and socialization – you’ll find it harder at first, but the socialization is important to cutting stress. This is when it’s important to think about time off and vacations for you to recharge yourself.
Burnout – While each stage beforehand is a step in the process, true burnout happens when these issues are chronic – headaches, stomach issues, and other physical manifestations of stress have become constant. You find yourself completely isolated from others and find your behavior strange or different, even to yourself. The worst aspect is the feeling of being empty, apathetic, and wishing to run away from your life.
Focus on: Yourself – at this point, you need to seek out a professional, or bare minimum take a sabbatical in which you can re-assess the direction your career is taking you that this is where you find yourself.
Habitual Burnout – This is the worst point when burnout becomes a truly clinical matter.
Focus on: Clinical intervention – when burnout takes over, depression, chronic mental, and physical fatigue will follow. Ask for help and guidance to turn this around.