How Stress Causes Burnouts: 5 Stages of Stress & How to Manage It

Anjali Singh

13 April 2022

4 Min

How Stress Causes Burnouts: 5 Stages of Stress & How to Manage It

Table of Contents

What is Stress?

Stress is our reaction to a situation that might make us feel threatened or under pressure. It could also cause emotional, psychological or physical pain. Our human bodies are designed to experience stress and react to it. We've all experienced stress, we always complain about it, and we do our best to avoid it: how does it still find a way to catch us.

There are five stages of stress, and knowing them can help us understand our bodies and focus better. Read further to be able to manage stress effectively!


Stages and Symptoms Stress

1. Fight or Flight Our bodies are designed to set off an alarm if we receive any threat. This alarm activates the thyroid and adrenal glands, and our bodies start to fill with adrenalin with an increase in heart rate. Initially, in this alarming stage, our mental well-being and focus also tend to increase for a short period. But if we don't pay attention to these alarms, our bodies go into a downward spiral. These alarms could cause an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones or even impact short-term memory, fear, anxiety and, in worst cases, depression.

It's only human to feel stressed. In this stage, if we solve the problem at hand, it returns to normal levels.

2. Damage Control If the threat we perceive is not momentary, like constantly increasing workload, stage 2 of stress is achieved. In this stage, our body releases anti-inflammatory hormones (cortisol) to control the ongoing inflammation from the stage 1 response to avoid severe damage to our system.

Remember, if you keep increasing the car's speed, it's bound to crash soon - that's the rule of life.

3. Recovery After the two stages of adrenaline and cortisol overflow, our bodies start resetting- which in GenZ language, we call the beginning of burnout, fatigue or exhaustion. Ideally, here's where you NEED to stop driving the car, park it and let it rest- this will give the car time to recover and return to normal levels. Like us humans, some power pausing and self-care can do wonders for us. All we need to do is reduce our overall output.

4. Adaptation Once we go through the first two stages and blatantly ignore the signs that our body needs recovery, it takes it as a signal to adapt. It accepts that this stress is not going anywhere soon and starts adjusting. However, this is highly unhealthy since it causes all long-term side effects of stress- overthinking, fatigue, loss of self-esteem, low performance, and more.

The car we're driving will learn to adjust to our terrible driving practices- however, that'll only impact the overall performance negatively.

5. Burnout If, as a true workaholic, we choose to ignore all four signs and stages of stress, we will find ourselves completely "burned out." This could lead to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, and we might lose meaning in everything we do. It could also lead to complete depression and even hospitalisation with psychological and physical complications in the worst cases.

stages of stress graphic


The car will stop working and start smoking up. You'll wonder why you didn't give it a break?

We're smart enough to know that we value ourselves the most, as one must- there's no benefit in exhausting ourselves- and what for? What's the cost of it? So don't let yourself reach the burnout stage, give yourself space and rest as and when required!

Come, manage stress with us! What if you're already stressed? How will you handle it? Of course, the first step would be to go easy on yourself! In this world where the hustle and bustle are glorified- we understand it isn't easy to take breaks, but remember, that's the only healthy way forward!

Here are some ways you can ease stress healthily:

1. Set realistic goals and expectations It's okay to aim high, but it's not okay to exhaust your mental and physical capacities to achieve it. Setting realistic aims, you wouldn't have to deal with failure, and only accessible success will come your way. Reward yourself for attaining baby steps and celebrate your wins.

2. Eat and drink healthy Alcohol and caffeine can add up to the effects of stress. However, planning and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help ease tension in the long term. So you feel healthy both internally and scientifically; you're fulfilling all essential nutrients that'll help you function in the best possible way!

3. Laugh and have fun Consciously laughing at the smallest, silliest situations and things can add so much value to your life. Laughing and doing something you enjoy induces happy chemicals like serotonin that help ease stress.

4. Meditation and mindfulness practices GenZ doesn't realise the power of internal self-care and me-time. Meditation is the most powerful tool for your brain to align your thoughts, needs and wants. It gives you some time away from the social chatter and work pressure and helps you to know yourself better.

5. Take breaks If you're working in an office, a quick stroll for your mental health can make you feel good. If you're studying, short fruit breaks and breaks to stretch your body can help you feel great about yourself. Listening to music to be away from unnecessary conversations around you can also help ease the stress!

6. Seek professional help If you think your stress is not manageable, or if you feel exhausted and burned out too often- then you can always seek professional interventions to help you understand yourself, your past and your patterns better. Professional and psychological intervention can make your life easier to understand too!


Don't exhaust yourself, emotionally, mentally or physically - if you feel like expressing and talking to a safe community about your struggles around stress, share your thoughts on our Now&Me app!

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