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

Anjali Singh

08 January 2024

5 Mins

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural response to situations that can make us feel threatened or overwhelmed, causing emotional, psychological, or physical discomfort. Our bodies are inherently wired to experience stress and react accordingly. We've all encountered stress in our lives, often trying to evade it and complaining about its impact. Yet, somehow, it manages to find its way into our lives.

Understanding the five stages of stress can provide valuable insights into how our bodies and minds function under pressure, enabling us to develop effective strategies for managing and mitigating its effects. Explore further to gain valuable tools for navigating the complexities of stress and achieving a healthier, more balanced life.

Stress is a silent killer that might seem normal at first but keeps making you fall into a deep void if you do not manage it on time. Talk to a counselor and learn effective ways to manage your stress for free.

Stages and Symptoms Stress

1. Fight or Flight

Our bodies are designed to set off an alarm if we receive a 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 of time. 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 the 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

When we perceive a persistent threat, such as a consistently increasing workload, our body enters stage 2 of stress. During this stage, the hypothalamus in our brain triggers the release of cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, as part of the body's stress response. Cortisol helps regulate the ongoing inflammation that arose from the initial stress reaction in stage 1, preventing excessive damage to our system.

It's important to remember that if you continuously increase the speed of a car, it is inevitable for it to eventually crash. This principle applies to life as well.

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 can even result in severe depression and, in the worst cases, lead to hospitalization due to various psychological and physical complications.

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. So don't let yourself reach the burnout stage. Therefore, it is important to give yourself space and rest as and when required.

Come, manage stress with us! How will you handle stress? 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.

Healthy Ways to Ease Stress

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!

How Can Now&Me help?

Don't exhaust yourself, emotionally, mentally or physically - if you feel like expressing and talking to a safe community about your struggles around stress then Now&Me has your back.

Now&Me provides a safe and supportive platform to connect with experienced mental health and self care professionals who can offer you guidance and support.

Our peer community is welcoming, non-judgmental, and inclusive, creating a warm and supportive environment to share your thoughts and feelings.

You can interact with like-minded peers or seek guidance from experienced experts like therapists and life coaches, instantly. What are you waiting for? Download for FREE!

Learn healthy strategies to manage your stress before it completely devours you with an industry expert for free.

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