Are you drained of energy, emotionally exhausted, frustrated? Do you feel burned out? Many people do. The negative impact on individuals and organizations is staggering. Burnout has long been recognized as a problem in the helping professions, where it takes its heaviest toll. A few years ago, two brilliant studies by Christina Maslach at the University of California at Berkeley brought this phenomenon to the attention of researchers everywhere. Such widespread attention was paid for several reasons: Dr. Maslach’s method can readily identify burnout; her results are significant statistically; she has described the phenomena clearly and examined its causes with insight and perception; she has given recommendations for treatment which have already helped countless numbers of persons worldwide who are suffering from this distressing disorder.
Thanks to pioneers such as Christina Maslach, we have a lot of research on this growing problem. For example, 50 years of research show that more than half a million workers suffer from burnout each year. In the beginning, it was thought that this disorder affected only those who worked in jobs with high professional demands and social interaction – managers, counselors, therapists, and social workers. However, more recent studies have shown that many individuals working in less demanding jobs also suffer from burnout.
One thing is sure: Burnouts affect us all. Dr. Maslach has stated: “Every human being goes through periods when he or she feels tired and depleted.” The difference between burnout sufferers and others is that burned-out people withdraw from their usual activities because they feel incapable of doing them anymore – no matter how hard they try to push through it.
People burnt out feel frustrated and often feel that they do not see the results they want to see. Most people who suffer from burnout usually go through several stages before reaching this state.
Before individuals contemplate the thought that they might be experiencing burnout, they go through The Unseen Stages Stages. This early burnout occurs before the person starts feeling exhausted or incapable. This is usually a subconscious stage, and it is essential because it prepares an individual for future stages.
Most people overlook this stage because it comes before burnout’s physical and emotional exhaustion. Depending on who you ask, the stages of burnout can be characterized in many ways:
1) Unseen Stage: Individuals usually go through the Unseen Stage for a little while until they realize what is happening. Usually, individuals who reach this stage become anxious about their lack of productivity, loss of control, and feelings of isolation and helplessness. They start to worry about achieving goals and meeting demands without feeling like they can measure up. The onset of these feelings makes them question themselves and feel frustrated with how things are going in their lives. At first, individuals might try to ignore these thoughts; however, they find themselves obsessing over not being as productive and often attempt to work harder.
2) The Early Stage: This state is characterized by physical fatigue, as well as social withdrawal from routine activities. People also start experiencing negative emotions such as frustration and impatience. In this stage, people see that they do not see results from their hard work and effort, leading to anger and feelings of helplessness.
3) The Middle Stage: If the individual does not take steps to recover from burnout, they may experience a loss of personal identity as well as cynicism and mistrust toward others. In this stage, people will lose their sense of belongingness and become isolated from those around them.
4) The Crisis Stage: This is the final stage in the cycle of burnout, where individuals feel like giving up on everything and often wonder why they should bother with anything anymore. Individuals also dread taking action or making decisions because it requires too much effort for minimal reward.
5) The Recovery Stage: For some people, this stage can be reached right away; however, others need time to regain their bearings before moving forward. This is the point at which I would hope most individuals can check themselves and get back on track.
1) The Onset Stage: This stage is characterized by feelings of frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction. Individuals do not recognize these feelings as possible signs of burnout even though they are frequently experiencing them daily.
2) The Immersion Stage: As one continues to lose themselves in their work or personal life, they become increasingly dissatisfied with the things that previously brought them joy and pleasure. In this stage, one loses perspective regarding what’s essential in life and focuses their time and energy.
3) The Descent Stage: At this point, individuals find it difficult to function normally in everyday life due to exhaustion. In the initial stage of burnout, there is usually an unexplained or unexplainable decline in performance. For example, employees may perform poorly on particularly challenging assignments that they once would have accomplished quickly and with ease. It’s difficult for others around them to understand why their usual fast pace has slowed down so much. Individuals in this stage often don’t even notice at first; they become gradually aware of their situation when people ask questions about it. They feel lethargic throughout the day and may sleep excessively to compensate for the lack of sleep
3) Reaching Burnout: At one point, the early symptoms become exacerbated, and a person feels both physically and mentally drained, incapable of doing even simple tasks anymore, all while carrying a heavy sense of responsibility on their shoulders.
If, after reflection, you realize some of these stages sound familiar to you, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate what is most important in your life. Burnout rates are rising, so please don’t be a statistic and ignore the signs. The sad truth is that so many high-performing individuals are reluctant to get help for fear of stigma or loss of career advancement. If this is you, I encourage you to reframe these beliefs.
As a busy professional, who had to come to terms with my past burnout, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wanted to enjoy my life to the full, and I needed a work-like balance. So I focused on what was most important to me: my family, and I made my decisions keeping in mind the kind of life I wanted for my family and me. So to have that life, I needed to be the best version of myself, and I gave myself the grace to do what needed to be done to overcome burnout.