Why are millennials suffering with burnout and what can we do about it?
You may have heard of the term burnout recently and wondered what exactly it means, who suffers from burnout and whether it's something you should be concerned about. Unfortunately, many of the clients I work with are struggling with burnout and therefore it's become something I am passionate about educating others on, especially how to spot the symptoms and how to prevent it from developing in the first place. Burnout isn't the same as being stressed although there is a relationship between the two, and it's more than just working long hours or taking on too many tasks. Too much stress can be a factor in burnout so it's important to learn about our physiological and mental response to stress so that we can reduce triggers and improve our wellbeing, to read more about stress head to the blog post I wrote for National Stress Awareness Day here.
What is burnout?
Burnout is characterised by being mentally & emotionally exhausted, feeling helpless & hopeless and unable to complete tasks efficiently. Whilst chronic stress can be a factor in producing burnout, people that are stressed are often aware of stress in their bodies, and strive to overcome it however someone suffering with burnout may not be aware of what they are feeling as they have become so detached from their emotions. They may wake up constantly tired and feel completely demotivated, but the burnout causes them to feel paralysed and frozen, making even simple tasks seem impossible. The exhaustion of burnout is not resolved by a good night's sleep and those experiencing burnout often feel as there is no way forwards resulting in feelings of emptiness & apathy.
The causes of burnout.
Burnout is often caused by how you feel about the tasks you are required to do rather than just long hours or a full schedule. For instance burnout often occurs for people that are working hard towards goals that do not align with what they truly desire in life, in jobs that they have little control or direction over, or that are in a career that does not feel meaningful or purposeful to them. It's not just work that can cause burnout however and people do experience it in other areas of their life, for instance carers (parents or carers for elderly family members etc) that are stretched to the max with little support or recognition are also at risk of experiencing burnout, as are those with a strong inner critical voice or perfectionist tendencies. These people push themselves to the limit and pressure themselves to maintain such high standards that they end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Parents and carers suffering burnout often also feel extremely guilty for feeling this way, believing others will judge them for it, and therefore do not confide in anyone and which exacerbates burnout through isolation & lack of support.
What is millennial burnout?
First off millennials aren't the only ones who can experience burnout, anyone from any generation can experience it and I am sure it has been experienced by people throughout human civilisation. However there does seem to be a rise in burnout amongst millennials and this seems to be happening due to the different ways we are now working and how society functions in 2020. Technology has enabled us to be far more flexible in the ways that we work and how we form our careers but it has also meant that it is difficult for us to be boundaried with our work/home life, meaning that we never truly switch off, there is always something pressing to do and on top of this social media has introduced social pressure into our lives like never before. Many millennials find it hard to truly switch off and relax as we have internalised a belief that we are only worthy when we are being productive, that any down time is waste of time and this pressure is intensified by the economic & environmental uncertainty that we are all too aware of. Millennial parents are caught in a competitive and comparison rife environment where it can feel as though you are never doing enough for your kids, and that you are a bad parent if you aren't constantly filling their lives with enriching activities. If this resonates with you then I highly recommend reading this Buzzfeed article by Helen Anne Peterson "How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation" and her follow up book that was published earlier this year. They are written from a US viewpoint but I believe that many of the issues & contributing factors of burnout in the 21st century will resonate with UK millennials also.
Tips for preventing & dealing with burnout.
Stress in life in unavoidable but with the right recognition of factors & symptoms we can prevent burnout. Identifying stressors and triggers in your life is a great place to start, as well as getting in touch with your emotions and reflecting on how you really feel as this will make you aware of burnout before it becomes a big problem for you. Looking after your physical & mental health will improve your emotional resilience, therefore getting enough sleep, exercise and eating a healthy diet is important. Humans need social connection and a lack of support can be a factor of burnout so reaching out to others and being able to ask friends & family for help can also reduce your risk of burnout. We all need rest and downtime, however when we are experiencing burnout we find it impossible to relax and feel guilty for taking any time off when we have a long to do list, but this does not mean we shouldn't do it. In fact if you are feeling this way then it is even more vital that you take time for yourself! if you are finding this difficult schedule it in to your diary and treat it as a necessity, you must find a way to have down time and recharge otherwise you will experience burnout and other negative impacts on your mental & physical health.
Understanding yourself, your motivations, your ambitions, your desires and your past experiences will all help you to work through burnout and configure your life in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling, but this can be a difficult thing to achieve on your own. When I work with clients we examine all areas of their lives and unpick what factors & perspectives have gone into creating the situation that has resulted in burnout. Reframing thoughts & beliefs is a key part of my approach as is learning to retell and own their story, and this can be helpful in overcoming burnout and connecting with meaning once again. If you would like to find out how I can help you in this way, please get in touch to book a free consultation call.
I am an integrative therapist & I help anxious, lost & overwhelmed millennials to feel good enough by nurturing self worth via supportive online therapy. I work collaboratively with people to support them in their emotional wellbeing, to develop skills in self-care and to foster a deeper understanding of themselves. If you would like to find out how I can help you to understand your emotions better, please book a free consultation to see if we are well suited to work together. Alternatively, please come connect with me over on Instagram - I would love to get to know you further.