While we all deal with stress differently, one thing is for sure: everyone experiences stress at some point. If stress is left unmanaged for too long, it can eventually lead to a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion called burnout.
After a universally stressful 2020, many people are noticing that their stress tolerance isn’t as high as it once was, and that they’re struggling to manage stress adequately. For these individuals, busier stressful environments cause chronic stress can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout. To best understand how to address stress positively, it is essential to understand the difference between stress and burnout, and how they are closely related before burnout occurs.
What is Stress?
Stress is how the body and brain react to a demand or challenge. We all encounter stress in various forms, like work, life changes, and trauma. Ongoing or frequent stress can have severe and detrimental impacts on both your mental and physical health. Ultimately, stress is something everyone experiences at one time or another.
There are different types of stress, and while all forms of stress carry certain medical and physical health risks, not all stress is bad. In a dangerous situation, a stress response signals the fight or flight response in the body. This response spurs activity and stimulates essential functions for survival. For example, it is good that your stress response is triggered when you have a bear chasing you in the woods. While that might not be totally relatable, an example of good stress in non-life-threatening situations could look like a job interview or an academic final exam. In these situations, stress can motivate you to push yourself and do your best.
Whatever the case is, long-term or chronic stress can be detrimental to your health. While acute (or short-term) stress frequently resolves with time, stress from long-term sources often does not adequately resolve without therapy. Long-term stress can eventually result in physical difficulties within the body, including immune problems, cardiovascular health problems, and changes in sleeping patterns. Continued stress can also contribute to new or worsening psychological and emotional challenges, including depression or anxiety.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burnout happens when you reach a state where you feel overwhelmed, drained (emotionally and physically), and unable to meet constant demands either at work or at home.
Eventually, as stress continues without relief, someone who is burned out may begin to lose interest and motivation in things that used to bring them happiness. Burnout often brings about adverse impacts that spill over into day-to-day life outside of the stressful environment. It can cause difficulties at home and in relationships with significant others or loved ones. Burnout can also result in various physical and emotional consequences that make us more vulnerable to illness and disease.
Burnout is divided into five stages:
Stage 1: The Honeymoon Phase
At the start of taking on a new task, we often feel a high level of job satisfaction, energy, and commitment. This phase is similar to the beginning of a new relationship, which is why we call it the Honeymoon Phase.
Stage 2: The Onset of Stress
This stage begins with the awareness that some days seem significantly more difficult than others. At this point, you may notice you feel less optimistic and that you are experiencing some of the common symptoms associated with stress.
Stage 3: Chronic Stress
If the Onset of Stress continues, it graduates to Chronic Stress. At this stage, stress occurs almost daily, and as a result, motivation levels have reduced significantly. Also, your stress response is much more noticeable than in phase two.
Stage 4: Burnout
At this point, symptoms become more critical, and continuing as usual, is nearly impossible because you cannot adequately cope. At this time, therapy and intervention is critical to ensuring recovery.
Stage 5: Habitual Burnout
At this stage, Burnout symptoms are chronic, and ongoing physical, emotional, and mental health problems are common. Resolution of stress is extremely difficult without therapeutic intervention or dramatic life changes.
Stress Versus Burnout
While burnout is the result of chronic or unrelenting stress, it’s not the same as too much stress. The very nature of stress involves too much pressure, too much work, too much demand, whether physically or mentally. The difference between burnout and stress is that someone who is stressed can still see the light at the end of the tunnel. They even have a feeling that they can regain control.
With burnout, on the other hand, they cannot see that light at the end of the tunnel, and they may feel empty or completely overwhelmed. Burnout feels mentally exhausting, and individuals experiencing burnout may struggle with a lack of motivation and an overwhelming feeling of disinterest or hopelessness. Someone struggling with burnout might be unable to see any possibility of a change in their current situation. While many of us are aware of stress and its associated symptoms, we do not often realize when that stress escalates to burnout.
Burnout Is Becoming More Common
Over the last decade, stress and burnout have become increasingly common across the nation. The most common sources of tension among adults in the United States include health, work, and personal finances. In 2017, almost 40% of adults in the United States indicated their stress levels had increased over the past year; the top concerns among US employees include the amount of work and the type of work they do.
A 2017 survey indicated that 23% of employees reported their company provided burnout prevention programs. This effort demonstrates that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the difficulties employees face concerning stress and burnout, and the importance of providing means for stress relief and burnout avoidance among their staff.
Statistics related to burnout can be difficult to pinpoint. Burnout syndrome still lacks a proper and concise definition, however, a recent survey found approximately 14% of respondents between ages 18 and 29 knew a relative or close friend who had been diagnosed with burnout.
Therapy and Treatment
Stress and burnout can take a significant toll on mental and physical health. Each person’s experience with stress and burnout is unique, however, highly individualized, evidence-based approaches to therapy and treatment can help you recover and move forward in a healthy and balanced way.
There are many different levels of care available to those seeking treatment for stress and burnout. All Points North Lodge can help you adequately meet your treatment goals depending on your unique needs using APN’s full continuum of care. In some cases, virtual therapy sessions are an excellent means for developing a relationship with a qualified clinician. Telehealth is available at your time of need to help you sort through overwhelming and stressful emotions.
Burnout Treatment at All Points North Lodge
Any form of treatment for stress and burnout should begin with a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of your needs. From there, an individualized and comprehensive approach can be designed specifically tailored to your diagnosis, symptoms, and needs. Some of the most common treatment models include evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapies, EMDR, and support groups. All Points North uses a variety of healing modalities in conjunction with holistic and alternative therapies like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, nutrition, and massage therapy, along with cutting edge therapeutic technologies like Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS).
A successful treatment plan is one that is designed around your individual needs. Treatment will also be more successful when it begins early, before stress symptoms become overwhelming and lead to burnout.
Our team of caring professionals at All Points North Lodge understands stress can be overwhelming, and we also realize the decision to seek treatment for stress may increase your overall stress levels. Left untreated, burnout is a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to overcome, but we can help. Together, we’ll look at the impacts stress may have on your mental and physical health and teach you new ways to develop healthy stress management and coping techniques so that you can better manage stressful situations in the future. Call us at 855-510-4585 or through our online contact form for more information.
- “5 Things You Should Know about Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.
- Elflein, John. “Topic: Stress and Burnout.” Statista, 16 Aug. 2019, www.statista.com/topics/2099/stress-and-burnout/.