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  • Writer's pictureCait Donovan

Mandy Lehto: The 7 Realistic Phases of Burnout

Dr. Mandy Lehto was a people pleaser for such a long period of time that she ended up completely disconnected from herself. She found herself snappy and irritable, consistently pushing herself harder and farther beyond the limits of what she could handle. After a scary moment collapsing while boxing, Dr. Lehto realized something was wrong that even the world’s strongest coffee would not be able to fix. Through her burnout recovery journey, Dr. Lehto identified 7 realistic phases of burnout which she uses to guide others through their own burnout recoveries.

As a perfectionist and people-pleaser, it is common to be so focused on external validation that you lose sight of what you actually want and need. Like most people, Dr. Lehto started off her burnout journey in phase 1, denial. It took fully collapsing and then developing an unfortunate face rash to finally admit to herself that there was a problem. She went into the triaging phase with the same perfectionist approach she used when facing anything, trying to be the absolute best at meditating and downing kale smoothies. She tried every method she could access for hacking her healing from cutting gluten to attending spiritual retreats until at last reaching the stage of reluctant surrender. It was not going to be possible to completely recover on her own, and she would need to allow others to help her. She accepted that it was finally time to release the false fire of that external validation and fuel herself from within, stepping into the chutes and ladders phase of experimentation to discover which parts of herself were real and which were performance. Lastly, she embraced the final stage that wholeness equals whole mess, acknowledging that it's okay to not be perfect.

Dr. Lehto’s seven burnout phases are deeply relatable for anyone experiencing burnout regardless of where they currently are in their recovery journey. If you struggle with people-pleasing and being your authentic self, consider approaching your healing through the lens of these seven phases.


“Being a people pleaser perfectionist, I wasn't connected to myself, to my own likes, dislikes, to my own needs, to my own wants, because it was always about external validation.” (15:09 | Dr. Lehto)

“There's a phrase by Cheryl Strayed, that acceptance is a small quiet room. And that's exactly what this phase felt like.” (20:24 | Dr. Lehto)

“Just because a system is one way in one place, that doesn't mean that it's that way in every other place.” (30:10 | Cait)

“I don't need to contort myself to be who I think I need to be so that other people will approve of me and validate me.” (40:19 | Dr. Lehto)


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