Burnout Is Hurting You More Than You Realize. Here’s How to Stop It.
It’s Friday night. Instead of going out to dinner, hanging with friends, or finally getting started on that book you’ve been meaning to read, you’re sitting on your couch. Watching Criminal Minds on repeat. You’re not really enjoying this, but it’s the easiest option because you’ve had a stressful week at work, and even the thought of planning a way to blow off steam seems overwhelming.
You’re not alone. So many of us feel trapped in unfulfilling careers, unable to see a way out.
Burnout is a real thing and yes, it affects us
Burnout is more than just feeling bummed or not wanting to go to work on Monday. According to the Mayo Clinic, work-related burnout is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” In other words, you’re feeling so stressed out, disillusioned, or just plain depressed that you feel hopeless and completely unlike yourself.
And, unluckily for us, millennials as a generation have the highest rates of burnout, with 84% of us dealing with burnout at our jobs, according to the Deloitte Workplace Burnout Study. I don’t know about you, but that seems way too high to me — that’s more than eight out of every 10 of us!
Burnout drags us down at every step
When our values don’t match up with how we make money, we’re left feeling helpless and isolated — and those feelings can have a huge negative impact on our health.
Of the top 10 health conditions among millennials, six are related to behavioral health. Not only that, but the prevalence of every single top 10 condition has increased over the years — major depression, which tops the list, increased a staggering 31% between 2014 and 2017.
This may not be all that surprising given the over-optimized, ‘always on’ work culture that is chipping away at us. Want to shut down after a long day at work? Too bad — because your work email is on your phone, and it’s pinging away! Want to slip away at lunch for a walk? Uh oh — your Skype is ringing off the hook and no, it can’t wait! No wonder we’re feeling insane amounts of stress. We never get the chance to actually unplug.
Feeling unable to choose how we spend our time and who we spend it with is clearly making us sick and miserable.
You should have it all
When I was in college, there was a joke about hard choices: between sleep, studying, and socializing, you have to pick just two. You can’t have it all, but you always have to be in pursuit of doing just that — while making sure that you’re ‘living your best life’ on social media so that everybody else can see what you’re up to. Which, in itself, can be a full-time job.
On top of that, everybody is hustling so hard to excel in that one career that’s going to bring them the stability they need to fully enjoy life. If only I could just get that promotion, or that pay raise, or that new set of responsibilities. If only I work harder, longer, faster to get that career success story.
And maybe that’s the problem.
Stop sticking the round peg in the square hole — try a minternship!
You’re feeling down about your job, isolated socially, and overwhelmed in every area of your life. Many of us may choose to double down on work, to hustle even harder to lift ourselves out of a slump. But that may not be the right answer at all.
In his book Range, David Epstein says: “Career goals that once felt safe and certain can appear ludicrous… when examined in the light of more self-knowledge. Our work preferences and our life preferences do not stay the same, because we do not stay the same.”
The answer is not to throw yourself even more into work, but to broaden your range. This is becoming more and more common — just check out the droves of mid-career professionals embracing the ‘minternship’ — a mid-career internship that allows you to hit the reset button, learn, explore, and find something that really fits you where you’re at right now.
In other words: don’t keep waking up thinking I hate my job. Stop burnout in its tracks by doing something different so you can stop feeling like a round peg in a square hole.
How to deal with burnout: you can take baby steps or big leaps
You don’t have to do something as drastic as quitting your job right away — for most people, that’s just not a possibility. But you can start to take little steps that can lead to big changes, such as:
- Try out a new hobby, whether that be a knitting class, a book club, or Painting with a Twist. You’ll pick up a new skill and start chipping away at any social isolation or stagnancy that you feel. As Steven John of Business Insider says, “Not all skills are transferable, but all experience is.”
- Connect with someone you admire on LinkedIn and ask if you can pick their brain — it’s super low-risk, and who knows, maybe a shiny new opportunity could come right out of that!
- Find a part-time internship that you really love, or volunteer somewhere you’ve always cared about. You can figure out if what you think you want is the same thing as what you actually want, before you make any big commitments.
- Now the big leap: quit your job. And don’t be afraid! So many of the most successful people in history have had very checkered, twisty paths — from Roger Federer to Frances Hesselbein, who went from photographer’s assistant to CEO of the entire Girl Scouts operation. In fact, their varied career paths paved the way for their later success!
Even if you don’t quit your job, all of the knowledge and skills you pick up during your explorations can only make you better at whatever comes next. No experience is wasted!
And sometimes, all you need to lift yourself out of the agonizing burnout cycle is something fulfilling on the side. Finding happiness and satisfaction in one area of your life has a fantastic way of bleeding into other parts of your life, too.
So don’t wait one minute longer. Be kind to yourself and just take that first little baby step.