As a Registered Nurse, I’ve had my fair share of feelings of “burn out.” In my first year and a half of working as a nurse, I worked far too many night shifts, over-trained athletically and neglected proper sleep like it was my day job. Needless to say, at a certain point I began constantly feeling fatigued, listless, apathetic and worst of all, I made myself physically sick, coming down with a wicked case of bronchitis and pleurisy that I’m still healing from today. I share this simply as a word of caution that our fast-paced, success-driven way of life is not sustainable for long term mental or physical wellbeing.
Our American culture promotes a sense of urgency—from clickbaity ads online telling you to “act fast,” to the instant gratification we’re accustomed to from scrolling through a social media feed, to that feeling of hurt when you text someone and they don’t immediately reply— we are far too tied in and yet so disconnected.
In a blog post from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mother comments on the general sense of anxiety she has observed from her “millennial” children (Marie, 2019). In a 2018 Gallup poll, 28% of millennials surveyed reported that they feel burnout either “frequently” or “constantly” at work. Another 45 % of millennials reported feeling burnout sometimes, which means a staggering 73% of millennials feel burnout (Pendell, 2018).
With millennials being approximately 24 to 38 years old, we still have a long way to go before retirement, and feeling burnout so early in our careers does not bode well for long term productivity or health.
Here’s how we can take charge and combat burnout:
1. Find ways to disconnect and tune in to yourself.
I’ve sometimes gone days where I think the only time that I’m not listening to or engaging with something is when I’m trying to fall asleep. Do you know how difficult it is to turn your mind off and rest when you’ve had 18+ hours of podcasts, meetings, work, phone calls, etc.? It’s simply setting yourself up for failure.
There have been multiple studies on the usage of mindfulness-based stress reduction on decreasing burnout and improving job satisfaction (Fortney, Luchterhand, Zakletskaia, et al., 2013). Turning off your podcast while cooking and paying attention to what you’re doing as you chop vegetables can become meditative if you allow it to be. Disconnecting can even mean fully tuning in to a conversation (i.e. when you go to meet a friend for coffee, leave your phone in the car so that you can really tune into the interaction).
2. Create tech boundaries.
A study from San Diego State University suggested that young people who spent more time on their phones reported markedly less “happiness.”
If there are any iPhone users out there, you might have noticed the new weekly report that tells you how much time you’ve spent on your phone. Tech companies have found over the years that their initial ploys to get people hooking on their smart devices, may have been too effective. In their attempts to backpedal, tools like the weekly screen-time reports are becoming more and more common as researchers continue to prove that people are actually becoming addicted to their phones.
Another alternative is using apps like Social Fever, App Detox (for androids) or In Moment and Space (IOS) to help mediate some of your screen-time, help you to set usage goals and even in some cases offer meditations instead of more face time with your phone.
3. Find ways to reconnect and grow your real-life social network.
Although Facebook may have recently highlighted their “groups” as a way of interaction, we need to step out from behind the computer or phone screen and physically be with people. While these groups may be an excellent way to find people who you want to spend time with, they aren’t a substitute for social interaction.
A study evaluating physical health and social networks by the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Psychology suggests that by having a diverse array of social interactions people tend to live longer, healthier, more resilient lives (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2009). With websites like Meetup, you can conveniently plug in which dates you’re looking to socialize and find folks with whom you share common hobbies.
4. Open the communication lines with your boss or supervisor.
We all have limitations and believe it or not so does your boss. Learning to say “no” or asking for the resources you need and deserve can be keys to your success. Turnover and burnout in the workplace are just as detrimental to your employer as it is to you. The Association for Talent Development estimated in 2015 employers spent “$1252 per employee on training…” (Atd, 2017).
If you’re not satisfied at your job or don’t feel like you have the tools you need to be successful, odds are, your management would like to know. Voicing your concerns may help you feel more satisfied and supported in your work and may also help elucidate deficiencies that your employer is not yet aware of.
Combating burnout can feel daunting, especially when you’re in the midst of feeling depressed or unmotivated. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process, and that lasting change doesn’t happen instantaneously. Best of luck!
Fortney, L., Luchterhand, C., Zakletskaia, L., Zgierska, A., & Rakel, D. (2013). 05. Abbreviated Mindfulness Intervention for Job Satisfaction, Quality of Life, and Compassion in Primary Care Clinicians: A Pilot Study. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(1_suppl). doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.097cp.s05
Goodman, M. J., & Schorling, J. B. (2012). A Mindfulness Course Decreases Burnout and Improves Well-Being among Healthcare Providers. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 43(2), 119–128. doi: 10.2190/pm.43.2.b
Marie, J. (2019, February 27). NAMI. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2019/Millennials-and-Mental-Health
Pendell, R. (2018, July 19). Millennials Are Burning Out. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237377/millennials-burning.aspx
San Diego State University. (2018, January 22). Screen-addicted teens are unhappy: A new study finds that more screen time coincides with less happiness in youths. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 22, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180122091249.htm
I’m a nurse, endurance athlete, Reiki Master and Doctorate of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine and Herbalism student based out of Asheville, NC. I have my Bachelors of Science in Nursing and have experience in a variety of healthcare settings from the Cardiothoracic ICU to Occupational and Community Health and even travel nursing. I obtained a certification as a Holistic Integrative Healthcare Certified Specialist from the American Institute of Healthcare Professionals and fell in love with weaving complementary health practices into our Western paradigm. I’m passionate about individualizing one’s healthcare as wellness is not a one size fits all journey. As a competitive athlete, I’ve run multiple Boston Marathons among other endurance races and relatively recently began my foray into powerlifting and triathlon. I completed my first Ironman 70.3 in May and look forward to many more races in this sport.