The 5 Stages of Burnout: How to Deal With It

burnout and matchsticks

In our fast-paced world, it can be easy to become overwhelmed, and burnout is a common issue affecting many people from all walks of life. Chronic exhaustion and extreme stress can build whether it stems from personal fulfillment, work life, or social relationships.

Commonly, there are five burnout stages, and recognizing the signs can benefit your mental well-being as you can stop it from progressing into the next stage. Knowing how to deal with burnout can reduce stress levels, enhance productivity and prevent long-term consequences. 

What are the 5 Stages of Burnout?

The five burnout stages are the honeymoon phase, onset of stress phase, chronic stress phase, burnout, and habitual burnout. 

Burnout is a state of complete exhaustion that’s caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burnout can significantly impact a person’s life, affecting their well-being, relationships, and ability to function. Awareness of the five stages is crucial to recognize, address, and prevent burnout in your life.. 

Here are the five burnout stages, causes, and symptoms:

1. Honeymoon Phase

The first burnout phase is the honeymoon phase, where a person will experience high energy, motivation, and enthusiasm. They may experience increased levels of passion for a particular element of their life, such as volunteering to work extra hours. There is optimism at this phase, and any warning signs of burnout or stress are often overlooked. 


This burnout phase can be caused by several factors, such as the desire for success, the feeling of needing to live up to a certain expectation, or a trait of perfectionism. Neglecting self-care or pressure from the workplace may also contribute to this phase. 


Common symptoms of this stage are increased motivation and enthusiasm as more time is invested into work. Signs of stress may be subtle, but a sudden energy increase could be the beginning of burnout. 

2. Onset of Stress Phase

At this burnout stage, an individual may notice stress creeping into their lives, impacting their mood and well-being. The pressure of keeping up with expectations and an increasing workload can introduce stress-related symptoms. 


This phase can be caused by pressure to meet high standards continuously, looming deadlines, a poor balance between work and home life, or a lack of support from surrounding individuals. At this stage, the overwhelming feeling sets in, and stress rises. 


At this stage, individuals may begin to feel mentally and physically drained and fatigued. Sleep habits may change, as well as increased irritability and difficulty concentrating.

3. Chronic Stress Phase

This is the third stage of burnout, and individuals may begin to experience overwhelming stress that significantly impacts their daily lives. The prolonged stress challenges a person’s emotional and physical well-being as burnout creeps closer. 


This phase can be caused by increased stress at work surrounding deadlines, expectations, and a lack of support. Perfectionism and neglecting the need for self-care are causes for this stage, and without the correct coping mechanisms, a person gets closer to experiencing burnout.


Individuals may notice drastic changes in their sleeping patterns, concentration levels, and overall energy. Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, or an impact on bodily functions, like digestion, may occur. A person’s memory may be affected, as well as their limited desire for social interactions.

4. Burnout

At this stage, an individual will experience a lot of exhaustion, detachment, and stress. During this burnout phase, an individual will also feel a decline in their emotional well-being, leading to decreased self-care, productivity, and motivation.  


Burnout can be caused by factors such as increasing work demands, unrealistic expectations, a lack of control, and an unmanageable list of tasks and projects to complete. This burnout stage can also impact relationships with others and oneself if one struggles to keep up with the world around them.


Burnout symptoms can be mental and physical exhaustion. Individuals may feel a sense of detachment and be emotionally drained. Productivity and motivation levels may decrease as a person feels unable to face the tasks in front of them, and physical symptoms, like headaches, may persist in a person’s everyday life.

5. Habitual Burnout

This is the final stage of burnout, where individuals are immersed in chronic exhaustion, a lack of energy, and disengagement. Burnout becomes a habit at this phase; patterns are created, making it difficult for an individual to break the cycle. The overall functionality of a person’s life is affected at this point as burnout takes over.


The build-up of the prior stages causes this stage of burnout. Suppose the effects of increased stress, unmanageable workloads, and high, unrealistic expectations in the previous phases haven’t been recognized and addressed. In that case, individuals may find themselves in the final burnout stage.  


At this stage, individuals are entirely overwhelmed by exhaustion, and burnout is all-encompassing. Individuals are deep into burnout at this point, making them drained, detached, and unable to feel excitement or passion for the future. People at this stage may struggle with even the most basic tasks in daily life, and their overall well-being and outlook on life is severely impacted. 

How to Recognize the 5 Stages of Burnout

Recognizing the five burnout stages is essential, as you can prevent future phases from occurring. Once you notice symptoms of burnout, you can alter your routines and work towards avoiding it together to improve your mental health and prevent stress and overwhelming exhaustion.

Let’s look at some of the most common symptoms of burnout in further detail and examine ways you can recognize the five stages:

Honeymoon phase

  • Increased motivation, enthusiasm, and passion to complete tasks. 
  • Willingness and excitement to participate in extra work, putting in more effort.
  • Unable to notice subtle signs of stress.

Onset of stress

  • Increased exhaustion and fatigue. 
  • Increased frustration, low mood, irritability, anger, and mood swings. 
  • A decrease in productivity that leads to procrastination.
  • Finding it hard to concentrate and focus. 
  • Difficulty managing the work/life balance.

Chronic stress phase

  • Feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.
  • A constant presence of stress, even for the simplest of tasks. 
  • Physical symptoms, like headache, digestive problems, and aching muscles.
  • Unexplained changes in sleep and appetite. 
  • Increased feelings of detachment.


  • Unable to meet deadlines or live up to responsibilities.
  • A feeling of detachment and disillusion. 
  • Increased procrastination as motivation and productivity decreases.
  • Difficulty processing emotions or reasoning. 

Habitual burnout phase

  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • A strong feeling of detachment and avoiding work situations due to the inability to complete tasks.
  • Impacted relationship due to negative thoughts and feelings taking over. 
  • Physical symptoms may worsen. 
  • Severely impacted emotional wellness and mental health.  
  • Avoidance of duties and responsibilities. 

Recognizing the early stages of burnout can prevent it from worsening and getting out of hand. Take note of these symptoms, and you can remain on top of your well-being and exhaustion levels.

How to Deal With Burnout?

Once you know the symptoms of burnout, you can learn ways to deal with it, improve your mental well-being, and limit your exhaustion and stress levels. Recognizing the signs is the first step; from there, you can work to prioritize your time and work towards preventing burnout altogether.

Here are some ways to deal with burnout:

  • Recognize the signs. By recognizing the signs of burnout, you can consciously try to prevent it from worsening. If you realize a sign of burnout, it’s important not to see it as a personal failure but to tackle it head-on and work towards reducing your stress and putting yourself first.
  • Prioritize self-care. Putting yourself first and taking the time to do self-care activities can help keep you motivated and help to limit stress. Whether it’s exercising, going to bed earlier, or making time for hobbies you enjoy, it’ll keep your spirits high and reduce overwhelming feelings.
  • Work on your time management. You can increase your time efficiency and avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking more significant tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Completing tasks in good time will keep your stress levels down and increase your productivity. 
  • Take regular breaks to recharge. Setting time aside from responsibilities and tasks that need completing allows you time to restore, which helps with motivation. By taking some time to yourself, relaxing, and recharging your batteries, you’ll feel more motivated to tackle essential tasks when it comes to it.
  • Download an anti-procrastination app. Anti-procrastination apps, like Virtue Map, can be beneficial for combating burnout. By working towards a goal, enhancing your task and time management, and boosting your confidence and motivation, you can deal with burnout positively and effectively and get onto the right track to overcome it.
  • Make lifestyle changes if necessary. If you notice yourself feeling burnt out due to a particular aspect of your life, make changes to prevent it from worsening. Consider taking on fewer hours at work, improving your work/life balance, or including positive habits in your everyday life.

Dealing with burnout may be a slow process, and it’s not always a quick fix. By taking the time and effort to make changes to your life, you can avoid the negative feelings that come with burnout. Not putting pressure on yourself is essential as the process can be slow. If your burnout symptoms persist, consider talking to a professional for expert advice, and they can guide you through your transition journey to preventing it for good.  

Overall, understanding the five stages of burnout, the symptoms to notice, and the different ways to deal with them is vital to improving your well-being and limiting negative feelings of stress and exhaustion. If you feel the symptoms of burnout, or think you’re heading that way, improve your mental health and put your happiness, confidence, and peace of mind first. 
For the chance to combat burnout and prevent procrastination for good, check out Virtue Map today to transform your life and start your personal growth journey.


Is burnout common?

Burnout is common, especially in the fast-paced world that surrounds us. According to a statistic from 2021, 52% of workers experienced burnout, highlighting just how prevalent the issue is. It’s common for people in high-stress work environments, although burnout can result from personal reasons such as perfectionism and a lack of self-care, too.

How long do the burnout stages last?

The length of the burnout stages varies from person to person, and it may not be the same for everyone. The stages can range from a week to several months or longer, depending on the individual and their circumstances. Being patient and allowing yourself the time to make your way out of a burnout phase is essential.

Is there a 6th stage of burnout?

The sixth stage of burnout is the denial of emerging problems, where individuals lack empathy and view other workers as lazy or overly demanding. This stage involves individuals blaming their stress on work, time pressures, and others, rather than on the changes they’re experiencing in their life.

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