What is a burnout? Google defines a burnout as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
How does one identify a burnout? Its symptoms include feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job and reduced efficiency.
Like most of you, I’ve always associated burnout with midlife crisis.. you know people in their 40s and 50s who are immensely dissatisfied because maybe they’re bored of doing what they do or they think that they haven’t done enough — people with responsibilities, and people and things to take care of. But lately..I’ve been hearing a lot about this unwavering feeling of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and exhaustion among millennials. Just yesterday, a friend of mine shared this post on Instagram.
Personally, I don’t recall the last time I relaxed and wasn’t worrying. Honestly, I don’t think I know how to relax and in-turn feel energized enough to take on the world. My mind invariably feels like an operating system with hundreds of open applications, which I am constantly trying to switch between; In-fact my work screen is often an exact representation of that.
Even when on vacation, my mind is constantly wondering about the next 10 things I need to do post the vacation. Reading a book involves hours of googling a topic that was vaguely mentioned in it. Watching TV is always coupled with replying to a text/email or reading something on my phone, which by the way always ends up in guilt about how I should have watched a documentary instead of a Sitcom while my To-do list flashes before my eyes. At work, I am constantly contemplating about how to add more to my learning, how to innovate and create more, while worrying about my already overflowing To-do list. And trust me I am NOT the only one feeling this way..
So, with almost no responsibilities or baggage and no actual worries of the world and with the whole world to conquer ahead of us.. How did this even happen to us?
- Our incessant need to always do something — See the problem with having the world as our oyster is that we always feel like we have very little time and so much to do.
Humans’ spend 1/3rd of their lives sleeping. I understand that sleep is very important to hit refresh (If you disagree, do check out Matthew Walker’s “Why we sleep?”), so how do I do everything that I need to do in this limited time?
So even when we’re relaxing — hanging out with friends or watching a movie — our subconsious mind is always at work. We’re always multi-tasking. Personally, It’s almost impossible for me to sit down at one place and just think.. or not think or not do anything. It always ends up with me running to do something that I’d just remembered.
We need to learn how to be in the moment and to switch off the part of the brain that only thinks about the jobs to be done. We need to be better at uni-tasking and realizing that it’s okay to spend some-time not doing anything productive per-say.
- Overdose of Content — Living in a time where information dissipation has fundamentally changed and information is accessible literally at our fingertips and at all times, our generation is overwhelmed with this information. Quality content is available in so many different shapes and forms — news, blogs, vlogs, social media, documentaries, books, podcasts — information is like a blackhole, having no end to it. It’s very easy to get consumed by it. Don’t overwhelm yourself with excessive information and understand that it’s okay to NOT know everything right now. More importantly, it’s okay to say that you don’t know something — Nobody likes a know-it-all anyway.
- Our Social Media Usage — We live in the times of Internet being a necessity, not a commodity. Hotels and Restaurants no longer have Free Wifi in their description because wifi is just a given.
We snapchat and/or Instagram everything. Our lives are out on social media — the concert or match we’re attending, the political party we’re supporting, the party or restaurant we’re at, the vacation we’re taking and the award we’ve just won. Apart from giving access to very personal information of our lives to those who shouldn’t have access to it, the problem with this oversharing is that we only post the good stuff online. We don’t share our hardships and failures. When we look at someone’s profile on social media, we always have this negative thought that “How is this person always enjoying or taking a vacation when I am not?”. Well, the reality is that that person is not always enjoying but obviously we have no visibility to that. Don’t compare your lives with others’ lives, especially what’s being portrayed on social media.
- Lack of disconnect from work — Technology is underscoring every industry. Traditional businesses such as banks are calling themselves technology-led companies. What’s the consequence of this? More and more of our work can be done from home.. which is ideally great as it makes us more flexible but in reality it doesn’t allow us to leave work at work anymore. Adding to this, the fact that we work for global organizations with people working in all time zones leading to a 24/7 work environment and the innate necessity to do more especially in the early days in order to make a career is becoming a recipe to a disaster. We aren’t able to disconnect from work and be in the moment even once we’re back at home. Companies like Microsoft are introducing 4 work-day long weeks in some developed countries to increase productivty and here we are..working weekends, out of our own choice. Not giving your body time to reset is evidently going to lead to a burnout. Not checking work emails obsessively after work hours could be a great start to disconnect.
- Not running at the same pace as the rest of the world — As I mentioned in my previous article, our generation is filled with “go-getters”. Now the challenge with go-getters is that we don’t like to wait, we want to learn and do as much as we can and as fast as we can. We don’t wait for things to happen or fall in place, we make things happen. When we run and look back, and don’t find anyone else running behind us, we get extremely demotivated. I’ve only had this revelation quite recently (Thanks to my big brother!) that I need to learn to run with others even if it means to slow down a little and not over-stretch myself, because there is no point of waiting alone at the finish line.
I hope you were able to relate to this if you’re a burned out millennial and will make the needful changes to avoid/overcome this. I also hope the others will be more empathic and understanding towards us after reading this.
Thank you for reading! I look forward eagerly to your feedback/suggestions.