The Stages of Burnout: What to Watch for & How to Prevent it

Stressed-out woman looking at a laptop on a cluttered desk.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is the significant depletion of both mental and physical energy, which diminishes the satisfaction you derive from your work, relationships, and family engagements. Consistent exposure to stress-inducing circumstances, such as providing care for an unwell family member, working extended hours, workplace trauma, or encountering other continuous overwhelming circumstances can contribute to the development of burnout.

The 12 Stages of Burnout

Burnout needs to be studied more rigorously, but initial research and anecdotal evidence suggest that burnout typically includes the following 12 stages. Note that everyone is different and you may not experience every one of the 12 stages, or may experience them in a different order. 1  

  1. Excessive drive/ambition
  2. Pushing yourself to work harder
  3. Neglecting your own needs
  4. Displacement of conflict
  5. No time for nonwork-related needs/revision of values
  6. Denial
  7. Withdrawal
  8. Behavioral changes
  9. Inner emptiness or anxiety
  10. Depersonalization
  11. Depression
  12. Mental or physical collapse 2


How to Prevent Burnout

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for maintaining energy levels, improving brain health, and preventing burnout. 3 Healthcare professionals recommend getting seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. 4 Getting enough sleep can be difficult, but following these steps may help you sleep better:

  • Implement a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it is time to wind down. This could include activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
  • Make your sleep environment conducive to rest by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Limit exposure to screens before bedtime. The blue light emitted by devices like televisions, smartphones, and computers can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.5 

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Studies show that eating a healthy diet may prevent or even reverse burnout. 6 Prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and support overall well-being. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting sugary beverages and excessive caffeine.

Work with a naturopathic doctor to come up with a nutritious meal plan and supplements tailored to your unique requirements.

Get Enough Physical Activity

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can reduce stress, boost mood, and improve physical health.7  Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit into your schedule, whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or participating in group fitness classes. Try to break up sedentary periods throughout the day by incorporating short bursts of activity, such as stretching or walking breaks. Even small amounts of movement can have significant benefits for both physical and mental well-being.

Ask for Help When You Need it

Recognize your limitations and be willing to seek assistance when feeling overwhelmed or unable to manage tasks on your own. Reach out to friends, family members, colleagues, or professionals for support and guidance. Delegate tasks and responsibilities whenever possible to lighten your workload and prevent burnout. Communicate your needs clearly, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when necessary. Remember that it is okay, and in fact necessary, to prioritize your needs.




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