Burnout is becoming an increasingly problematic illness in our fast-paced world. In order to learn how to identify, prevent, and manage burnout, we must first begin at the source. We must learn what triggers burnout and when exactly does it begin. Is it when you start losing sleep or when you feel stressed every day? In reality, burnout starts way earlier than that and the answer might surprise you.
The Honeymoon Phase
The first stage of burnout is called the honeymoon phase. As with any honeymoon phase, during this stage, we feel very enthusiastic and happy about our job or new role. In and on itself it does not sound like a bad thing, right? Well, the honeymoon phase is when we begin planting the seeds of burnout.
During this phase we feel very enthusiastic about our job, so we tend to take more responsibilities than we want, or can take. We become yes-sayers, agreeing to work more hours, work on weekends, and continually fail to set boundaries. This ultimately affects our mental health and contributes to our work-life imbalance. This is when our internal alarms should sound. This is when we should pause, reflect and take action. Even if we are enjoying our job very much, this is the critical moment where we can make the conscious choice to change our habits, adopt healthy coping mechanisms and create boundaries between our work and life. Unfortunately, during this phase, we tend to think that it is not important, that we can handle the pressure, that we are thriving, and that burnout is not something we should be worried about. So, we hide it under the rug and keep going, planting the seeds for the next stage.
The Onset of Stress
So, we keep going and continue prioritizing work over other domains of our lives. We then can begin to have negative thoughts, ruminate, and start developing sleep problems. This is the onset of stress. We feel grumpier in the morning, more stressed out, and present physical complaints such as headaches and heart palpitations. If this continues and we fail to change our habits, we set the ground for the next stage: chronic stress.
The chronic stress phase is characterized by feeling very stressed every day. We begin to feel physically tired and agitated, especially during the mornings. We start to procrastinate tasks and display some of the characteristic symptoms of burnout. Namely, cynicism and detachment. We begin to feel cynical about work and life in general, we act more sarcastic and become more irritable. We also detach from our work environment and work in general. We simply do not care as much anymore.
The Burnout Stage
This stage is when the burnout symptoms become more critical. We report chronic physical symptoms such as recurrent headaches and stomach problems. We neglect our emotional needs every day and get stuck in this loop where we wonder what is the point of changing our life and habits. We begin to completely lose meaning in life and, therefore, we isolate and doubt ourselves a lot. The symptoms of burnout exacerbate during this stage and, if left alone, it can develop into chronic burnout.
If we do not take action during the burnout stage, it can evolve into chronic burnout. This refers to experiencing burnout symptoms in a chronic manner. It can lead to severe depression, chronic sadness and mental and physical fatigue. You can learn more about the symptoms of chronic burnout in this article.
Managing the Phases of Burnout
Whether you are struggling with work-related burnout, parental burnout, or social media burnout, please remember you are not alone. Thousands of people are struggling with burnout at the moment and trying to cope with the increased pressures of a digital worklife. As discussed, burnout begins in innocuous ways, during the honeymoon phase. As such, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when you need to pause and change your habits. We invite you to self-reflect and try to become aware of when you are putting too much on your plate.
If you suspect you have burnout or that you are planting its seeds, there are many resources that can help you balance your life. For instance, CBT has been found to be a helpful method for overcoming and preventing burnout. Burnout can be caused by a myriad of factors, such as perfectionism or lack of self-care. Searching for professional support can help you mitigate the symptoms of burnout and reclaim your power over your life. If you need a helping hand, here in AntiLoneliness we are always happy to help.
Take it easy and take care!
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