Are you feeling lazy or just burnt out?

Have you ever found yourself lying in bed, unmotivated when you could be doing a dozen other things? It’s tempting to label it as laziness, but you may actually be burnt out. There are common threads between the two, and telling them apart helps you determine if you need a motivational YouTube video or some critical self-care.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s important to understand burnout and its signs so you know when to take a beat and care for yourself. 

What is burnout

According to, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you become overwhelmed and are unable to keep up with your current work pace. 

Laziness, on the other hand, is a perpetual lack of desire to invest physical or mental energy in a project or activity.

In both states, you’re unable to exert yourself. The difference is, lazy people have the energy but are unwilling to use it. When you’re burnt out, you can’t find the strength to do anything.

The five stages of burnout

Burnout is a gradual process that begins with mild exertion and snowballs into perpetual and inescapable stress.

A study by Winona State University identified five distinct stages of burnout and their cardinal signs. Here they are.

Stage 1: The honeymoon phase

In the honeymoon phase, you’ve just taken on a new and exciting project. You experience high job satisfaction as you pour in energy and creativity. You’ll also experience predictable work stresses that while they get your attention, don’t affect your productivity.

Everyone experiences the honeymoon phase and experts believe that you can remain here indefinitely with the right coping and self-care measures.

Stage 2: Stress onset

In stage 2, you’ll begin to realize that some days are more difficult than others. You enjoy your work but productivity and output fluctuate. Common symptoms of this phase include anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and lack of social interaction. Many people recognize a need to rest and practise self-care by stage 2.

Stage 3: Chronic stress

If unchecked, stress compounds, and in stage 3, you experience it frequently. Every other day becomes a struggle as your excitement is replaced with indifference, and maybe even displeasure.

In stage 3, you’ll also experience more intense symptoms than stage 2, including anger and aggression, absence of hobbies, persistent lack of motivation, and missed deadlines at work.

Stage 4: Burnout

By stage 4, the symptoms become impossible to ignore as regular coping mechanisms fail. Some of the common symptoms here include obsessing over problems at work, desire to run away from your life, and an overall negative life outlook.

Everyone has unique tolerance levels so it may take you weeks or years of continual work to reach stage 4.

Stage 5: Habitual burnout

The final stage is habitual burnout where you’ve been experiencing these symptoms so long that they’ve become a part of your life. People in this stage are likely coping with an ongoing physical or emotional problem.

The symptoms of habitual burnout are chronic mental, physical and emotional fatigue, as well as, a combination of everything seen in the other stages.

How do you deal with burnout?

If you’ve found yourself progressing along this spectrum for some time, you’re probably burnt out, not lazy. 

According to the Winona State Study, the most important thing is to practise self-care as a primary preventive measure. Self-care means different things to people so it’s important to find what works best for you.

According to Psychology Today, some of the best self-care tips include 

  • Adequate sleep
  • Paying attention to your gut health
  • Regular exercise 
  • Knowing when to say no
  • Taking time to go outside

Visit Psychology Today to learn more about how to create an effective self-care routine.

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