The 5 stages of burnout and how to get out of them

Are you tired? Feeling unmotivated? Getting angry and snapping at your partner, kids or farm hand? Generally not feeling a sense of purpose or accomplishment on the farm? 
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, you may be in burnout.

In the farming community, we value hard work. Maybe you were told that you needed to work 7 days a week, 12+ hours per day, so that’s what you’ve always done. Maybe you think you have no choice if you want to be successful, that you simply have to work yourself to the bone to get ahead. And maybe, the exhaustion and stress has become so normal that you don’t even know anything different.

That’s why it’s so important to talk about burnout today. Because the truth is:

It’s not healthy to work this way

The 5 stages of burnout

Stage 1 - The Honeymoon Phase 

You know when you start a new diet, exercise regime, or project and you feel excited for the challenge and committed to getting results? That’s the Honeymoon Phase.

This stage occurs before the real symptoms of burnout start.

Stage 1 is marked by high job satisfaction and commitment to the job at hand. You’ll also have high energy levels, good productivity, creativity, and optimism.

You may start to experience some light stress. But generally, you’re working from a high-energy, good-mood place.

The good news: Even if you’ve been running your farm 10, 20, or 30+ years, you can still get back into the Honeymoon Phase!

Doing things like developing a positive mindset, creating a strategic business plan, and growing a team to help you manage the farm will help you focus your energy on the tasks and projects you like best and produce great results.

Stage 2 - Onset of Stress

As time goes on, some days feel more difficult than others.

Some days are still exciting but others aren’t. You may start to lose enthusiasm and momentum as tasks and projects don’t go as smoothly as you expect. And you may find your optimism waning and notice stress affecting you physically, mentally, or emotionally.

The symptoms of Stage 2 of burnout appear at three levels:

Stage 3 - Chronic Stress

If you’ve been putting up with Stage 2 for a while, it often progresses to Stage 3: Chronic Stress.

You’ll notice a marked change in stress levels and may experience more intense symptoms than Stage 2.

Stage 3 symptoms include everything in Stage 2, PLUS:

If you feel like that is you, there are things you can do to turn this around. 
Cut yourself some slack. Accept that you’re feeling overwhelmed, and that’s okay. Almost all farmers and business owners have felt this way. All you can do is your best, so try to have realistic expectations…and not feel pressured to achieve superhuman results overnight.

Take care of yourself. You know the drill! Drink enough water. Eat quality foods. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Spend time doing things you love, with people you love.

Focus on the lessons, not the losses. You’re always growing and changing as a business owner. There’s no such thing as failure, remember. Every so-called “loss” is a lesson that will help you do better next time. Embracing “failure” as a natural part of the road to success can help you feel less stressed when things don’t go perfectly.

Do what you can to reduce your stress levels. Maybe it’s hiring a farmhand. Re-organising your business to take some things off your plate or working with a coach. Think of what will help YOU (because everyone’s different) take your stress levels down a notch or two so they feel more manageable.

Stage 4 - Burnout

Burnout is the result of chronic, long-term stress. And it’s much more than feeling overwhelmed.

It’s a constant state of exhaustion and it becomes increasingly difficult to cope. Continuing as normal is often not possible and many people have some sort of breakdown when they’re in burnout.

Here are the symptoms of Burnout:

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