How Can You Mitigate Millennial Burnout?
Tip of the day: read this excellent article written by Anne Helen Petersen “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” It’s a great (and thorough) piece on how millennials have been conditioned from an early age to optimize every facet of their life for a hazy end goal that was never quite defined but were told was bright and encouraging. The author (among many others) found that the promise of career and family instilled in her from an early age did not come to fruition, due to a changing workforce and an economy that went into freefall at the start of her career. Instead, she faced an endless stream of tasks that were in theory designed to lessen the load and help her, but in actuality, contributed to her burnout. It's a very good read, and one we hope won't hit too close to home for you—but it got us thinking. You may not be able to avoid burnout entirely—but can you mitigate it? We're here to offer you some of our ideas, and hopefully give you some tips you can use.
Focus On Internal Processes, Not External Results
A favorite narrative of ours, success is a journey and not a destination, is worth repeating in this case because when we're too focused on the results, we often lose the process it takes to actually achieve in a way that doesn’t lead to burnout. Here’s what we mean—let’s say you have a test that you don’t feel prepared for, so you spend all day and night cramming for it, and you get a pretty good mark. Chances are the information you crammed is going to be forgotten almost immediately after you take the test, so rather than gain new knowledge, all you really did was pass that specific test—and probably didn't get a lot of sleep, and your stress levels went through the roof in the process.
Now let’s say you know that studying isn’t your strong suit, so you create a system that works for you—maybe it involves transferring notes onto notecards from your laptop, and scheduling 20 minutes a day to go over what was said in class, and read over your notes. By the time a test rolls around, you're prepared and don't need to spend nearly as much time studying the night before, so you're well rested. More importantly, you have a system in place that is repeatable, sustainable, and much less stressful. Which method sounds better to you? The second, right? (Even though we’re all guilty of the first, which is probably why we’re talking about burnout now….)
The second method is about building a process and doesn’t have a particular, rigid goal in mind (pass the test vs. make life less stressful.) It’s more flexible and prepared for success when the conditions inevitably change. In the first instance, the goal is set in stone—to pass a specific test—and everything you do leads up to it whether you like it or not. Whereas in the second, the end result becomes secondary to the process that supports it—and the goal can change, it’s not just about one test, it’s about how to save yourself time, stress, and be prepared, overall.
Talk About It
We cannot stress this one enough: if you’re starting to feel like everything is too hard, or that your hard work is leading nowhere, please talk to someone about it. Suffering in silence leads to alienation. We recommend talking to peers, friends, and yes, Advisors.
Everyone is different, but if you feel like your life is a constant stream of tasks, and that you’ll never get a leg up on anything/everything, there’s a certain solidarity in taking the first step and talking about it. It’s tough, the lens of social media provides a warped perspective of reality: at the end of the day, we’re all people behind those screens. Reach out for a human connection and tell people how you’re feeling. You may not get any amazing quick fixes that magically solve every problem (believe us, we’re working on that for ourselves) but you will find there are people who care about you, and those people might have the game-changing perspective that inspires your next bold step.
It’s About You
Here’s the big one—everything you’re doing in your life is for you. It’s incredibly easy to forget that when you get wrapped up in your job, adulting, and social obligations, but ultimately you only get one life to lead, here. Here’s where it’s going to get deep—the earlier you can figure out what makes you happy, the easier it is for you to focus on building a life and surrounding yourself with positive people that can support that. We feel that a lot of burnout happens because rather than figure out what someone wants at an individual level, they pursue the standard issue markers of “success” that we’re told by a larger society we should have: the house, the family, the high-paying job, the nice cars, the good job title. Those things can be nice, but they’re not the end all, be all in your life—but it’s up to you to figure out what you want. It’s healthy to try a lot of paths in your life when you’re starting out—there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to having a happy adult life. It’s about figuring out what you want in life, and not focusing on arbitrary outcomes of the work you do, because you always thought it was the magic key to unlocking “success.”
Take some time, and get to know yourself as an adult—what you like, what gives you purpose, and how you want to live your life. Finding out what makes you tick (and we mean really tick) can help you figure out what situations you want to be in, and what ones you don’t. For instance, if you’re driven by constantly experiencing new cultures, it doesn't really make sense to buy a big house and be tied to a mortgage, does it? So why do it?! Build a life where travel is possible because it will satisfy your drive. Don’t commit to things because you believe it’s something you have to do.
Once your motivation changes it will help you identify the changes to your lifestyle you need to make, and take, action. We know it’s hard, but the more you can tune out societal pressures on yourself, the more you can actually focus on yourself. Funny how that works out.
There’s no quick fix for burnout, and despite your best efforts, you may encounter it in your life—however, it’s also not a life sentence. Find solace in the connections we have with each other and the beauty in the processes you've built in your life, and hopefully, you can mitigate the effects of burnout in your own life.
We hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear your feedback on this subject—there are so many ways to tackle burnout, and we look forward to hearing your take in the comments.