by Paul O. Radde, PhD |
Do you ever feel at the end of your rope emotionally, physically, or spiritually? If so, you may be experiencing burnout. Learn to recognize it, then begin to reverse the effects. 

Burnout is a downward spiral of disenchantment or overload in a relationship — be it with a partner, colleague, your job itself, or a life decision like purchasing a home. Burnout is not simply being fed up or being a workaholic. Workaholics appear to be overworked, but the secret is that they are typically doing what they want, and have control over their situation. Burnout victims feel overwhelmed and helpless.

The Five Stages of Burnout
1. Physical
You neglect your body and feel chronic fatigue. One indicator that you are at this stage is you begin making uncharacteristic mistakes at your job. Note that if your basic attitude about the situation or your circumstances do not change, you will move to the next stage of burnout. 

2. Social
Lack of vitality from work can spill over to social or family life and vice versa. Life becomes dull and it feels like people are draining you. Social contact is postponed. On the job, your workload is perceived as “heavy” and you “never have enough time.” 

3. Intellectual
This stage is characterized with data overload — social media, the Internet, Skype, etc. You become tired of thinking. Even though you still care, you procrastinate and may miss deadlines. 

Beyond stage three, you should consider professional help as you are more likely to engage in risky behavior. 

4. Psycho-Emotional
You withdraw to protect yourself from the perceived demands of others. You experience boredom and lack vitality. You miss deadlines, but no longer care. You take foolish risks and might turn to alcohol, drugs, or affairs for escape. 

5. Spiritual
This is as low as you can go. You feel hopeless and doubt your own value, ability, and beliefs. You stop investing in others because now you see them as a threat. You may make a major change out of desperation.  

Reversing Burnout by Stage
1. Physical Development
Exercise is the single most effective way to begin recovering. Work toward aerobic exercise at least four days a week for 20-30 minutes. Also improve your sleep patterns and your diet. 

2. Social Interaction
Be realistic about what you can change at work that is stressful. Set job satisfaction priorities for yourself and improve your work/life balance. Strengthen your personal and professional networks and spend more time with loved ones and friends.

3. Intellectual Stimulation
Meditate, establish boundaries, better structure your time, take time for yourself, and complete tasks with short-term payoffs. Take courses or pursue a hobby. Mix with people who can both support and challenge you. 

4. Psycho-Emotional Revitalization
Seek solutions to your gripes, know your limits, and accept them. Take responsibility for what you do and what happens to you. Indulge yourself in a manner that does not harm you. Engage in personal growth activities, such as working with a career counselor. 

5. Spiritual Regeneration
Forgive yourself! Be kind, appreciative, and respectful. Revisit your basic life purpose, intention, life trajectory, and expectations. Learn from your mistakes and allow yourself to dream, but keep your expectations realistic. 

Paul O. Radde, Ph.D. is a practicing psychologist and author of Thrival! How to Have an Above Average Day Every Day. He speaks on burnout prevention, influence, and the power of professional presence. He can be reached at [email protected] or at www.thrival.com