The 12 Stages of Burnout

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as this:

Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

• feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
• increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
• reduced professional efficacy.

People off work
Days lost

A recent Labour Force Survey found that over 828,000 people were off work with stress, anxiety or depression and over 17.9m days were lost due to these causes in 2019-2020.

Burnout is becoming a serious threat to the welfare of teams and to the culture of the companies in which they work. One difficulty in managing burnout is knowing what to look out for; what are the signs, passive and active, of burnout and when does stress become more serious?

There are 12 stages of burnout as identified through the work of psychologists Gail North and Herbert Freudenberger. Let’s talk through each of those 12 stages of burnout so you’ll know what to look for in yourself, your teams and those around you.

Please note: Burnout is a serious and crippling condition, and you do not have to go through that alone. If you’re feeling burned out or are suffering the effects of chronic stress, reach out to someone

Compulsion to Prove Oneself

Working harder and taking on more to demonstrate your worth.

Working Harder

Doubling down on work and pushing yourself.

Neglecting Needs

Skipping exercise sessions, meditation, taking breaks and so on.

  • Determine what your 1-3 daily non-negotiables are for your health
  • Defend your personal time as though it was an important business meeting
  • Make a list of things you do well to bring balance to your sense of self-worth
  • Give praise and measured feedback to the person
  • Role model the behaviours you wish to see in them
  • Gently explain that self-care is an important part of their personal development

Displacement of Conflict

Blaming others or your situation for your problems, including your stress levels.

Revision of Values

Work becomes your main priority to the detriment of friends and family.

Denial of Emerging Problems

Blaming others, avoiding responsibility, denial.

  • Reconnect with what’s important to you
  • Talk to family and friends and ask them for their feedback
  • Identify one thing outside of work that you can make a priority
  • Spend time with the individual going through their workload
  • Help them to prioritise their workload and delegate if appropriate
  • Coach them into understanding how taking time for themselves could improve their situation


Avoiding or dreading social interaction and possibly using alcohol or drugs to try to feel relief from stress.

Odd Behavioural Changes

For example, impatience, aggression or uncharacteristic sadness.


Low self-worth, detached from others and society, life lacks value

  • Share how you feel with a friend, colleague or HR professional
  • Consider working with a coach or therapist who specialises in burnout
  • Use movement, good nutrition and natural light to lift your mood
  • Approach them with sensitivity and empathy and let them know that you wish to help
  • Encourage them to talk to a professional who can provide appropriate support
  • Having the conversation during a walk or over the phone can be less intense than in person

Inner Emptiness

Feeling empty inside and to overcome this, looking for activity such as overeating, sex, alcohol, or drugs.


Feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark.

Burnout Syndrome

A total mental and physical collapse or breakdown.

  • Seek the help of a professional immediately
  • Share how you feel with a family member of someone you can trust
  • Arrange for time out from work to focus on your recovery
  • Arrange for them to get professional help immediately
  • Ask what else you can do to help
  • Ensure that they can take time out of the business and that this process is handled sensitively and discretely

You can recover

Burnout is usually something that you can reverse, and you can recover from it. No matter which of the 12 stages of burnout you feel you or your team members may be at. It is our belief that by focusing on the main areas of health, you can mitigate your risk of burnout and improve your resilience. Here are some of the areas to focus on, and we’ve produced a huge amount of content on the how – just search for the areas you’re interested in in our blog under the menu of our website.

Preventative Health

Burnout occurs because of a number of factors, relating to company culture, workload, your manager, personal circumstances, life events, your environment, childhood origins and your personality type.   We can ensure that we are as resilient as we can be however by focusing on the following key areas of health and wellbeing:


Ensuring high levels of cognitive performance and overall good health

Mental Health

Creating a culture of openess and providing a toolkit for employees


Staying happy, healthy and resilient


For the rigours of business and daily life


Maintaining relationships and sharing energy


To withstand the challanges of the working world


Proactively looking after yourself

Bodyshot Performance have produced a lot of content around these categories, so explore the Blog section of our website for videos, blogs and podcasts.

You can learn more about Leanne’s story of burnout and other case studies in her bestselling book Rise and Shine: recover from burnout and get back to your best.  You can download the first chapter for free. 

About Bodyshot Performance

Bodyshot Performance is an award-winning wellbeing company that uses technology and science-based solutions to create happy, healthy and resilient teams. Experts in corporate wellbeing and wellbeing strategy we help our clients to lead with wellbeing in their organisations.

Our clients have won awards for their wellbeing strategies and recognise that it directly improves employee engagement and retention, attracts talent into the business and improves the bottom line.

Our clients include a subsidiary of Disney; Moonbug Entertainment; ThoughtWorks; DAZN; Medical Research Network; Times 100 company Anderson, Anderson & Brown; iTech Media; Britvic plc; Zendesk; Brooks Macdonald; Zurich Insurance and many more.

Our services include the Business Athlete Workshop series, bespoke Wellbeing Workshops, Wellbeing Playbook, Wellbeing Portal and an award-winning Health MOT service for leaders using innovative tests and wearable tech to obtain personalised, actionable insights.

Want to Speak to one of our Team? 

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