84% of Millennials are burned out. How do we turn the tide?

  • 4 min read

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

When Nurhaida Rahim was an aid worker, she thought she was thriving off the long stressful workdays and the non-stop party lifestyle. She was living on fast food, beer and cigarettes, sleeping shared accommodation, and working herself to the bone. Sure, she felt exhausted and constantly irritated...but she was living her dream. Everyone else around her was working just as hard and feeling just as exhausted — so it’s totally normal, right?

This is a classic tale of Millennial burnout. Pushing ourselves to succeed, to work hard and play hard, all without losing face.

Sound familiar?

Burnout isn’t an exclusive issue for aid workers, high-powered lawyers or medical interns working 16-hour days

Burnout is extremely common in Millennials across the world, no matter their profession. And it can manifest itself in a number of different ways.

For journalist Ann Helen Peterson,her burnout caused “errand paralysis” — the inability to complete small tasks on her to-do list. 

Burnout can have physical symptoms, like fatigue or illness. It can result in anxiety or depression. Most worryingly, many of us can still function on a normal and productive level, even at the peak of our burnout. It’s like we’ve been programmed to shoulder the burden and carry on at any cost.

Millennials have internalized the notion that we should be constantly working, juggling our successful careers and side-hustles, while still maintaining a social life, seeing family, finding a partner and getting regular exercise. 

In fact, it’s really not surprising at all that 84% of Millennials say they have been burnt out. Our generation has been brought up in a system designed to benefit the rich and powerful — mostly at the expense of working people, trying to make an honest living. And when the system is against you, it’s easy to run out of steam. 

So how can we overcome Millennial burnout?

Mindset is 95% of the challenge. We don't have to accept a life of burning the candle at both ends; pretending that it’s okay to be constantly exhausted or on the brink of collapse.

Self-care helps treat and combat burnout. And no, we don’t mean the commercialized version of self-care — like overpriced candles and $100 yoga leggings. Though we like those too. 

We’re talking about actually prioritizing your wellbeing. Treating yourself isn’t about consumption and consumerism, it’s about recovery and healing.

Forget what you know

When was the last time you said “no” to a commitment because it risked spreading you too thin?

We’ve all become far too wedded to these perceived obligations. In the rat-race reality that the media pushes on us, we value our worth by how packed our schedule is. 

But what if that’s the totally wrong way to see things?

Train your mind to promote self-care

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy reprograms your brain to be more compassionate and forgiving of your “shortcomings”. We all need to learn the power (both good and bad) of internal dialogue and CBT helps you identify, and reconsider, distorted thoughts.

Yes, CBT falls under the umbrella of mindfulness — a topic that can feel a bit pseudoscience-y,  especially when every other celeb is launching their own meditation app. But learning to practice mindfulness, and making it a daily routine, can lift the mental state of anyone experiencing burnout. 

Mindfulness encourages you to slow down and take a second to check in with your body and mind. It helps you re-centre, re-energize, and refocus your attention on caring for yourself. 

Explore community care

Community care is about lending support to the people around us, particularly those less fortunate. It can be as simple as running errands for a neighbor, donating money to local organizations, attending protests, or using social media to spread important — factual — information. 

American individualism has trained us to think in a very me-centric way. Community care is about breaking out of that mindset and sharing our resources with the people around us.

Taking time to show compassion and care for others help our own mental health as well. Being a part of a community gives us a renewed sense of purpose. And it’s a support network when we’re struggling, too. As we’ll cover in other posts, being a valued, integral part of a community is essential to our happiness.

Is burnout closing in? Here’s what you can do right now

Burnout can feel inescapable; the physical and emotional symptoms can be debilitating because it makes us feel like we can’t help ourselves — and that we’re unworthy of the help of others. But you can turn the tide if you want to.

  • Look into CBT. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies can help you find a therapist or you can look into practicing it on your own
  • Try an app like Headspace or Insight Timer for guided mindfulness practices.
  • Find a neighborhood group or local charitable organization you can donate your time or money to. There’s a shortlist of 1,600+ right here.
  • Talk to your friends about how you’re feeling and share your stories of burnout. It may sound simple but just knowing you’re not alone can really help.
  • If joining an organization can feel like too much, as it often has for us, you can start strengthening your existing community by helping your friends, family, and neighbors in small ways like writing a gratitude letter or making a meal for a friend in quarantine.

Millennial burnout is largely the result of a society that places importance onall the wrong things. So let’s try something new by taking steps to build the lives that we have earned — and that we deserve.

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