In recent years, young people have begun valuing themselves based on their productivity. The busier we are, the better. We are told that in order to get ahead, in order to land our dream jobs, we must operate at 100 per cent, all the time. In other words, we must always be working. This has led to many young people reporting that they feel “burnt out.”
Burnout is the name that we’ve given to feelings of exhaustion, worthlessness, hopelessness, and boredom that can be caused by overworking. These feelings can be assuaged, but if they’re not taken seriously they can have catastrophic effects on one’s mental health.
The first step in dealing with burnout is recognizing that you are experiencing it. While this phenomenon has been more widely reported as affecting millennial women, anyone, of any gender, or age can find themselves experiencing burnout. If you feel tired or bored, if you find yourselves neglecting your health and friendships, becoming disinterested in work that you were once incredibly passionate about, you are more than likely experiencing burnout.
The best way to deal with burnout is to catch it before it happens. Draw firm lines between your work, school and personal lives. To do this you must recognize that all aspects of your life are important. Allow time to work and study, but also allow time to exercise, spend with friends and relax. Make sure that you can get enough sleep every night.
Of course, this is all easier said than done, the expectations set on us are often unrealistic. Professors expect that you make school your top priority; employers expect that you make your job your top priority. You’d like to have family, health and relationships be your top priorities, so you attempt to give as much attention to each aspect of your life as possible, but eventually you’ll fall flat in one area. It’s impossible to devote yourself entirely to so many things in the way that we are sometimes expected to. Eventually, certain aspects of your life will be neglected, and often, it is our health that falls by the wayside.
Burnout is suspected to be caused by near-constant stress that high achievers place upon themselves. University students must be careful of how much responsibility they put on themselves. Can you really handle a part-time job, an internship, a full schedule of classes, volunteer commitments, and all of your other personal responsibilities? Is it realistic to expect yourself to give all of your energy to more than one thing? Burnout ultimately happens when we give more energy than we have. Symptoms of burnout can manifest both mentally and physically. Anxiety and depressive episodes are common symptoms but so is insomnia, muscle soreness and forgetfulness.
If you feel burnt out, it’s important to take a step back. Is there something you can do about it? Will your professor give you an extension on the paper that’s due the same day as four other projects and a work commitment? Can your boss give you a day off? Are there plans that you can cancel to give you time to yourself?
Organization will ultimately help you to make time to recharge. When you have your schedule laid out in front of you, you’ll begin to see time free up. Take advantage of this time, don’t use it to try to get ahead on your work like we are so often tempted to do, use it to relax. Watch a movie, take a nap, go out with your friends. Separate your work life and your personal life, if only for a few hours at a time and you’ll begin to see the changes. Your career is important, and so is your schoolwork, but your health should also be a priority. Try to get these priorities in order because you cannot treat many different commitments as your top priority and maintain a healthy balance.
Your priorities can change based on what needs to get done. School might be the most important thing during exam season, it might be family during the holidays and when you feel burnt out, your priority should be your health.
Ultimately, if you feel that this is more than you can handle, speak to a professional. If the feelings of anxiety and depression, become too much to bear, it is okay to admit that you need help. It’s possible to remedy these issues and regain your passion and energy.