Millennial Burnout Is Why We’re Tired All The Time
“If only I had 10 more minutes of sleep,” I tell myself when the alarm blares in the morning. I catch the crowded bus to work and pour myself bottled coffee as fuel to start the day.
By 11pm, I’m in bed trying to fight insomnia with a fixed bedtime, but to no avail. I spend hours tossing and turning. Somehow, I get a little shut-eye, which gives me enough energy to perform my job, but not much left for anything else.
I feel tired all the time and I’m tired of feeling that way.
Why Singaporean millennials are burnt out
“Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”
—Malcolm Harris, Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials
As Singaporean millennials, we are obsessed with efficiency and perfectionism. According to Nas Daily, we are the “almost perfect country” after all.
Desiring perfection has made us extremely demanding and constantly subjected to others’ demands at the same time. Life has become a clusterf*** of demands and we don’t even know who we are trying to please anymore.
We’re being burnt from both ends of the stick and the only solution we have is going on an overseas holiday.
Burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”
No longer just a millennial problem, burnout in the workplace has been classified as an illness by the World Health Organisation. It is nothing short of an epidemic.
In Singapore, doctors and psychiatrists have reported a rise in workers visiting them regarding burnout-related issues.
Sufferers often cite toxic work culture such as office politics, excessive and inefficient meetings, and bosses who expect employees to be contactable at all times as the cause of their burnouts.
Employers don’t seem to realise that happy employees are more productive and loyal to the company.
While we wait for our work culture to improve, we can also be more aware of our own burnout-inducing habits.
Millennials feel like they have to hustle all the time
A friend recently explained to me that for millennials, apart from your burnout-inducing job, you also need a side hustle. You need to develop an app, vlog or be a micro-influencer; just being yourself is not enough.
You need to be the most unique and marketable version of yourself because that will lead you to personal and financial freedom.
We know we should not play the comparison game on social media, but when we feel down, it is the most convenient marker to see if we are doing okay compared to our peers.
Burnout gives us a hazy, negative perception of reality and all social media tells us is that it’s because we haven’t hustled hard enough.
How to fight burnout
The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you.
I like the idea of working hard, but I feel like as a generation, we no longer know when to stop. Sometimes attacking a problem with sheer diligence, doesn’t always translate into a solution.
We keep punching at a brick wall, hoping it will topple, but the only thing that is breaking apart is ourselves.
Singaporeans and millennials need to take a step back and realise we are only human.
This is why many millennials around the globe have been embracing the trend of mindfulness.
Fight Millennial Burnout With Mindfulness
As clichéd as it sounds, being mindful means realising you are a human being, not a human doing. That is the essence of simple mindfulness practice: learning to be aware and appreciating the simple pleasure of being alive.
One to 10 minutes of mindfulness practice daily can reduce stress and fight burnout.
The practice grounds you and sharpens your sensitivity to your needs, instead of using caffeine or alcohol to numb your pain and fatigue.
I like this quote by bestselling author Dan Harris, who discovered how non-religious meditation helped transform him from a burnt-out go-getter to someone who is slightly happier and less of a jerk.
Meditation is unlike anything else you do in life, in that here, “failing”—that is, noticing you’ve gotten distracted and starting again—is succeeding.
—Dan Harris, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book
Tampering his expectations of results also helped him to become more whole as a person.
Being burnt-out is a result of tuning out of our need for rest and balance whereas mindfulness allows us to accept our limits again. When we become more attuned to our needs, we can be more productive without sacrificing our physical and mental health.
Cover illustration by Asher Mak