Woman at desk with head in hands with piles of work to do

Can We Avoid Burnout?

We often use the term "burnout" as a vague label for an exhausting day or week of hard work, but actual burnout is more than just feeling a little stressed out.

Left unchecked, burnout can show up as physical, mental, and emotional illness — and can have some pretty devastating impacts on people, their families, and workplaces.

Do you know the signs of burnout? Would you recognize them in yourself, in a colleague, or in an employee? Knowing the signs of burnout can help you take critical steps to protect yourself and others.

In their research on workplace burnout, Winona State University simplifies burnout into five stages:

  1. Honeymoon stage: You’re thrilled with the work you do and how you do it. You don’t mind skipping lunch or working late because you’re so excited by your new venture. This where you might develop patterns that become hard to shake later.
  2. Balancing act: You have good days and bad days. You might notice that even if you can keep up your performance at work, it’s taking more out of you to do so. You might start forgetting things or find yourself unable to sleep due to the onset of stress.
  3. Chronic stress symptoms: You feel stressed and uneasy more days than not. When people make requests of you, you feel resentful. You may be exhausted, apathetic, or dreading Mondays.
  4. Burnout: You feel the mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of burnout. You may start skipping work, procrastinating, or missing deadlines because it’s hard to work. You think about quitting to get out of your situation.
  5. Enmeshment: The term “enmeshment” means that burnout has become your new normal. You might not be able to remember a time before you felt like this. At this point, you may be diagnosed with anxiety or depression before you recognize burnout as the underlying cause.


This progression underscores the importance of addressing things early-on, and setting healthy work habits during the “honeymoon stage.” If you feel like you’re doing well in this department, think of how you can support others to do the same. This can be as simple as modeling breaks, using time-off, and replying to messages during work hours only. There are many ways to burnout-proof your workplace culture!


Calm picture of dock on a body of water with a large tree branch hanging over the scene

Burnout Self-Test

This quick tool can help you to check yourself for burnout. It helps you to look at the way you feel about your job and your experiences at work, so that you can get a feel for whether you are at risk of burnout.



Stress Awareness Workshop

This free workshop walks you through modules looking at the physical and psychological effects of stress, and the importance of looking after yourself and your staff. It points to practical steps you can take to talk about stress and to co-develop plans for recovery. Once you’ve completed the modules, you can also complete a short questionnaire to receive a Continuing Personal Development certificate.


Target with pens and pencils flying through the air towards the bullseye.
Gretchen Rubin

Habit for Happiness Quiz

If you’re experiencing high stress or burnout, you may be looking for new ways to rebalance your life and become happier. This quiz developed by Gretchen Rubin, author and host of the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast, is a great place to start. The answers can help you decide where to focus your time, energy, and resources and provide many ideas and resources to explore. At the end of the quiz, you can click “Skip this” to go straight to your results.


Respect in the Workplace

This intermediate-level program is for leaders and colleagues alike and is often used as a complement to mandatory anti-harassment training. Through scenarios featuring women and LGBTQ+ people, this program encourages learners to take action to prevent, recognize, and respond to workplace harassment. It also encourages learners to advocate for policy changes wherever gaps are identified.

This program was co-created by Adriana Leigh, a workplace human rights lawyer, facilitator in gender equality, and the Principal Consultant of ALG Consulting.

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