Since we’re all talented, driven business owners around here, we know that being an entrepreneur can be tiring, overwhelming, and challenging.

In fact, in the U.S., 45% of entrepreneurs are more likely than other workers to report experiencing stress a lot of the day “yesterday” – Gallup Wellbeing Index.

But what many of us DON’T realize is that there are 5 stages of burnout that show up in our lives, and that recognizing them can save our sanity and our businesses!

Burnout is something that happens so slowly and insidiously, that we often don’t realize we’re experiencing it until it’s too late. Once we’re completely tapped out, the idea of resuscitating our businesses and getting back in the game may sound absolutely nuts.


If we catch the cycle in time, and halt the progress of burnout, we can make adjustments that enable us to plow ahead toward success. And do it in healthier, more sustainable ways.

Let’s look at these 5 stages of burnout one at a time:


Entrepreneur burnout Stage 1: Unbridled enthusiasm

This is the beginning of it all: You’re driven to succeed, you pour your heart and soul into your business, and you obsess over every tiny detail.

You work at home, so you also live at work, and there is always something that needs doing.

You tell yourself that a constant state of working is OK, because you’re living the dream!

You’re running your own business! You’ll slow down later, when things are more stable.

Entrepreneur burnout is the last thing on your mind, since you’re absolutely consumed with building your business into a thriving success.

Entrepreneur burnout Stage 2: Feeling trapped

After running yourself ragged for months or years, you begin to resent your clients.

They suck up all your time and energy, leaving you depleted and unable to do anything fun with friends or family.

But you’re also afraid to say “no” to your clients because you need the money, and still want your business to do well. It’s a vicious cycle you can’t seem to escape.

You’re only in the second stage of the 5 stages of entrepreneur burnout, but things are already starting to get ugly.

Entrepreneur burnout stage 3: Exhaustion

At this next stage of entrepreneur burnout, you are constantly, crushingly exhausted.

Your work day starts before dawn and ends somewhere south of midnight.

You try to keep your enthusiasm up and your creative juices flowing, but you’re so danged tired all the time that you can barely focus.

Self-care is non-existent, because the tiny amount energy you have is poured into the business; there’s no time for the gym, or healthy eating, or relaxation.

Constant working is taking its toll on your health and well-being.

Entrepreneur burnout stage 4: Apathy

By the time you hit the fourth of the 5 stages of entrepreneur burnout, you’re unmotivated and indifferent.

Your creativity has all but vanished, and it’s all you can do to meet deadlines.

Your work is shoddy and often late, but you just can’t force yourself to care.

You’re still plodding along, but without any enthusiasm.

At this point, you’re working from muscle memory and hoping no one will notice.

Entrepreneur burnout stage 5: Hopelessness

As you enter this final stage, you begin to fantasize about going back to the corporate world.

After all, at least when you had a regular job, you got to take weekends off.

You’re fed up with working all day every day, feel like you may never make progress again, and are ready to give up on your business forever

You believe you’ve made a terrible mistake striking out on your own, and long for the routine and security of a 9 to 5.

How do you avoid the 5 stages of burnout?

Well, lovely, you probably can’t actually avoid them all.

If you create a business that is fueled by your passion, it’s quite natural to drive yourself hard toward success. In fact, the first of the 5 stages of burnout is almost essential to a good launch!

And feeling resentment and exhaustion sometimes is utterly normal.

So, since total avoidance isn’t on the table, here’s my advice:

  • Be self-aware, and know which stage you’re in. By doing this, you can adjust your behaviors so things don’t get progressively worse!
  • Make self-care a true priority. I mean it. Put family time, exercise, girls nights out, and vacations in your calendar, and hold yourself to them.
  • Ask for help. Outsourcing some of your workload won’t fix all of your problems, but it can definitely help you work less, rest more, and grow your business at the same time.
  • Remember that you are NOT your work. Cultivate your non-work life, and don’t let work-related successes or failures rule your world.

All 5 stages of burnout are related to how you manage your stress.

If you make self-care mandatory and ensure that work isn’t the center of your existence, you can ease your stress load and keep burnout at bay!