How to Combat Burnout in Young Adults
It’s no secret that after being in a heightened state of anxiety you’re not just burned out…you’re crispy. But how do you combat burnout? You know that anxiety is a part of life and something you need for your survival. You have your day-to-day anxieties like getting out of bed in the morning so you don’t get fired or running across the street when you see a car barreling down the road.
There are also anxieties like giving a major presentation. You feel anxious leading up to the big day, more anxiety as the day goes along and the biggest jolt during the actual presentation. Then the presentation is over and as the high wears off, you can feel your body start to relax to the point where you feel mentally exhausted and need a nap.
This is where you are right now. You’ve been sitting with this anxiety every single day for over a year and now, as the world starts to open up, the sense of fear is decreasing and now the exhaustion of the comedown is setting in.
There is one part of you that knows it’s OK to feel burned out. A recent study conducted by Indeed shows burnout is at a record high right now with 52% of participants reporting feeling burned out and 67% saying burnout increased during the pandemic. Yet there is another part of you that feels like if you were smarter, stronger or maybe, more focused, you can simply put your head down and keep going.
The real reason why young people, like yourself, are struggling with burnout is not that you don’t know you’re burned out, it’s that what you need to do to address your burnout goes against so many of the habits and behaviors you adopted in school and brought with you to the workplace.
For many years now young adults have been struggling with perfectionism. According to the American Psychological Association perfectionism has been on the rise among young people since 1980. There are several factors that contribute to this increase in perfectionism but the one that affects young people the most is social media and the messages they receive as they scroll.
It’s impossible to scroll through social media and not get into “comparison-itis.” No matter what you do there is always someone with more “likes,” followers, friends and comments and even when you’re feeling “pretty good” about life, somehow scrolling through those images just makes you feel like you’re not doing enough.
You’re at a crossroads right now. You can embrace your burnout and address the problem by making some daily changes or you can keep scrolling and comparing and believing the only way to feel valuable is to achieve. You have an opportunity to redefine success and change your relationship with stress.
Here are the three most critical changes you need to combat burnout:
1. Set Boundaries Around Work
When you went from working in an office to working at home, you quickly filled your commute time, chats with colleagues and drinks with friends with…more work. No more commute = start work an hour earlier. No more colleagues = no social time = more time to work. No drinks out = working in front of the computer.
You get the picture.
Stop replacing free time and space with work and more importantly, stop thinking that if you’re not working, you’re not a hard worker. It’s really tough because you entered the workforce in a time where you had the ability to work anytime, anywhere which makes it really hard to know when to work and when to relax. While it’s easy to see what time your colleagues sent you emails, don’t fall back into that comparison-itis hole and feel like because they’re working on a Saturday you need to work too.
Determine how many hours each day you need to get your work done that doesn’t leave you depleted by the end of the week. There will always be longer (and shorter) days in the future but think about what works best for you and stick with that number. This means that if nine hours a day is best for you and if your first meeting is at 7 a.m., then you need to finish by 4 p.m. and make sure you take some breaks! When the clock strikes 4pm, let the work day end. Even if you have nothing to do in the evening, don’t work; your brain needs a rest.
2. Do Something Just For You, Just Because It Makes You Feel Good
Not everything you do has to have a purpose. Sometimes the best things we do for ourselves are the ones that make no sense but make us feel joy and excitement. At the beginning of every week identify what you’re going to do for you each day. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to do something (non-work related) that is just for you and no one else. One of the biggest symptoms of burnout is not being able to enjoy yourself, which then leads to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
When you focus all of your mental and emotional energy towards tasks you’re missing out on the joy of simply being in the moment. When all of your energy goes out and you get nothing in return, you become an empty vessel. In order to fill up that vessel, you need to start doing things that bring you a sense of joy, accomplishment and relaxation.
3. “Nothing” Is Actually Something
Once upon a time when someone would ask, “What are you doing?” it used to be OK to say, “Nothing.” Social media had made it impossible for you to “do nothing” because on social media you always have to be #doingsomething. There’s nothing wrong with spending a Saturday lying around the house, not traveling for a holiday weekend or not working on the weekends and not posting about it.
You’re not a machine that can run endlessly without breaks. You’re a human being, which means you need days off, time away from others and hours and days that are simply about napping and reading books you’ve read a million times before. Not every day or every event has to be momentous and social media worthy.
You’ve gotten to the “other side” of the pandemic but your brain and body are still trying to play catch up from years and years of hyper-achievement and the need to always be #hustling. It’s OK to take a break, ask for more help and take a social media vacation…it’ll be there when you’re ready to come back.