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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Baker

5 Stages of Burnout

People are often surprised when we tell them that burnout usually emerges gradually - over several weeks or months - and is preceded by a series of distinct emotional states. Recognising these 5 stages of burnout early is key to preventing burnout from taking hold.

The Resilience – Burnout Continuum

Conceptualising resilience and burnout as polar opposites on a continuum offers valuable insight:

Resilience is a personal resource that provides the skills you need to navigate challenges in your life. It constantly evolves as you successfully overcome stressful events, allowing you to grow your ability to cope with challenges in the moment and to overcome future hurdles. 

Burnout, on the other hand, marks a crisis state characterised by profound emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. Feelings of overwhelm undermine your normal coping mechanisms, and plunge you into feelings of hopelessness and despair, leaving you stuck.

5 stages of burnout

The 5 Stages of Burnout

1. Striving

Characterised by working harder and longer, this stage is a subtle precursor to burnout. It may feel like you are coping but in reality you will be gradually succumbing to raised stress levels. 

2. Questioning

As stress levels rise, you may find yourself questioning your abilities, grappling with self-doubt about whether you can cope. You may start neglecting your personal needs and experiencing declining work performance.

3. Languishing

Succumbing to negativity, cynicism and emotional numbness, your passion and motivation for work wanes. You might be in denial, despite others expressing concern about you.

4. Losing Control

A stage where coping mechanisms falter, leading to anxiety and low mood, as overwhelming feelings escalate.

5. Crisis 

Complete emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion—a defining moment where burnout reaches its peak.

Reaching Out

No matter where you find yourself on this continuum, taking action now can pull you back from the brink. Whether confiding in a loved one or seeking professional guidance, reaching out provides the opportunity to identify external pressures and hone coping skills, setting the stage for you to rebound from burnout.

Your Return to Resilience

Building self-awareness is key to burnout recovery and enduring resilience.

By recognising your unique burnout indicators and embracing evidence-based techniques, you pave the way for a return to the fulfilling life you cherish—with help and support guiding your journey every step of the way.


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