Mental Health Awareness Month: The Truth About Burnout

by Betsy cardenas


 

The struggle is real and exhausting

Millennial burnout is hot topic. A quick Google search generated 80,000 hits! A recent Fast Company noted that women are leaving the workforce in high numbers and it’s not necessarily because they are having children but because of burnout.

In a world where being “busy” has become synonymous with being important and productive and getting into college has become a competitive sport it’s easy to see why we burn out in our 20’s. We’ve been running non-stop since high school!  

This overscheduled lifestyle continues once we enter the workforce as we compete for promotions, work on our side-hustles, and take on volunteer roles.

A Georgetown study found that about 40 percent of college undergrads work at least 30 hours per week. In college I had a full calendar. I attended school full-time, interned for at least hours a week, and had job as a tutor. I was fortunate that my internship was paid, that my tutoring job offered me flexibility and that I had a reliable vehicle to get me places. Even with all this it was hard to manage at times. I worked hard in the hopes that I would land a coveted job after college.

At the age of 27. I woke up one day and felt like a permanent fog had permeated my life. I was clinically depressed, anxious and feeling the effects of running non-stop for 10 years. I didn’t understand why this life I had worked so hard to have was causing me so much misery.  

Then I felt guilty for not being satisfied with the things others would have killed for. I felt guilty for having such mundane problems. My parents never sat around wondering if they were “satisfied,” they were busy surviving. I felt awful that they had put so much hope in me and here I was miserable while seemingly having achieved some elements of the American dream.

I was exhausted, mentally drained. I had not taken a vacation since I was 19. I didn’t even think I was allowed to vacation until I was “successful.” I thought that taking breaks meant I was a slacker.

I was mistaken. Don’t be like me.

I had been running so fast I forgot to assess if I was running in the right direction or why I was running at all.  

Burn-out is terrible. It also makes you realize that your career will never be enough to sustain you.  In my case it took a depression and anxiety diagnosis to get my full attention.

I tend to need to mess up and crash to make changes in my life. I still tend to take on too much. But now I always stop to assess if i’m doing things that I love. Even on a week when I have deadlines, dealing with family issues, and managing a home remodel writing this column brings me great joy. Writing gives me life and vitality and it helps me make sense of my life. Writing also gives me the solitude I sometimes desperately crave.

While I never regret working hard in my 20’s I know try to say no to things if i’m too tired. Time is a scarce resource so I only agree to go to things that I know I will truly enjoy or learn something from. I used to say I was “busy” but then I assessed time I wasted doing things I didn’t really want to do.

I am not telling you to stop pursuing your dreams. But just know that a lifestyle of endless hustle and bustle might leave you exhausted a few years into your career.

If you are thinking well I don’t have time for self-care. I will tell you it doesn’t take too long. But more importantly there is a cost that comes with not taking care of ourselves. 

Take a few minutes TODAY to assess what bring you joy. It might be making 15 minutes a day  for your hobby, it might be spending time in nature, it might jetting off to a new place, it might be finding a significant other, it might be giving back to your community, it might be spending time with family.

Be deliberate about finding time for those things. Believe me time won’t just magically appear in your life. You have to fight for it!

As Latinx’s we can sometimes carry the weight of the expectations of others on our shoulders. We want to maximize every opportunity. For some us it will never be enough, we will never be satisfied, we will always want to be more successful, and have more accolades. This ambition can be a motivator but it can also feel like a sickness when it leaves me feeling burn out.

My challenge is to make my sure desire to pursue new opportunities doesn’t come at the expense of my well-being.

The comes the hard part. Saying no to things that will intervene in this time.

I schedule coffee with a friend. I set a special date with my partner. I plan an activity with my son.

If this time feels like a waste remember that you need time away from your work to nurture your creativity and re-fuel your personal reserves.

Now it’s your turn. Go look at your calendar and schedule something that gives you joy!

Keep that appointment with yourself. You matter too. Sometimes it’s ok to just exist.

For Mental Health Awareness Month I am sharing my favorite pieces on the topic of Mental Health. This piece was originally published on Be Visible Latinx.