We are in a constant quest to optimize life. A higher salary. A bigger house. A faster car. More things. More more more.
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It’s day 247 of burnout, and I’ve begun to think that my best option is to change jobs elsewhere.
But here it is: what if my burnout follows me? Is this sufficient motivation (or poor motivation) to seek change? How do I know that the job itself, right now, is the main source of my burnout, and that it’s not just part of my work behaviors or my personality?
Fortunately, it’s not entirely your fault that you burn out, but changing jobs won’t change the situation if you don’t understand the systemic and cultural reasons why you burn out. Hopefully, once the reasons are brought to your attention, you will subconsciously begin to make decisions to steer yourself down a different path.
We are only part of a race without a finish line. We live in a work-obsessed world, driven by our ever-increasing dopaminergic desire. We are in a constant quest to optimize life. A higher salary. A bigger house. A faster car. More things. More more more. We exhaust ourselves because we try to live up to the standards of society, by imitating those around us who are also caught up in this colossal economic machine of hyper-productivity.
In the famous scandal involving Lance Armstrong, which stripped him of all his Tour de France titles, he admitted to doping – using illegal performance-enhancing treatments to win multiple laps. However, at that time, he states that he didn’t think what he was doing was wrong.
Subjectively, we cannot argue with this seemingly narcissistic statement that floats at the boundaries of ethics. Doping was already rampant in competitive cycling, and he was doing what others were doing to stay on top of the race. He only became doping’s star child because he did it best. It wouldn’t be a problem if there was no problem if all the cyclists doped, but there was no collective agreement between them not to dope either.
The race without a finish line
I used this analogy because, whether we admit it or not, we are all addicted to efficiency. We all want to be at the top, whether we realize it consciously. Efficiency is supposed to promise us more time, but with more time we internalize that we should be working because the guilt of free time makes us think we’re not productive. We fill our free time with new projects. We see everyone around us thriving, and as human beings it’s in our innate nature to belong, so we strive to join the culture of the bustle – the culture that leads us to the rest. inevitable exhaustion.
Our lives may be getting better, but they’re not getting more manageable. Our tendency to imitate and adapt imprisons us in a fast-paced void that takes us on an endless ride.
The irony is that start-ups are popping up everywhere promising to help you automate all the mundane tasks to save more time – food delivery, meal prep, online shoppers, Task Rabbit and virtual assistants. Once we get used to certain luxuries, we can’t live without them. We have adapted to it. But to be able to afford these services, we need to keep our bank accounts full.
Time as a status symbol
Even though we know it’s not always “real”, we want what our friends on social media apparently have – the hobbies, the rewarding vacations, all the delicious foods eaten, the accumulations of partners, pets , children and property. It is the default state of our mind to compare ourselves to others. After all, community and acceptance is one of our deepest humanistic desires. Posting about your productive life is considered the fruit of your labor; thus, you have to accomplish more and more to keep up. As we mark ourselves, we are forced to keep up the pace, and when we document your life, there is no downtime. Life never stops.
Unless you were born privileged with opportunities, this fast and agile world requires quick adaptability of new skills and knowledge. Yet we are plagued by old ways of thinking that have yet to evolve into a new accelerated pace of life. School never taught us how to survive in an ever-changing world accelerated by technology but ruled by those who are still part of the old institution, some stubbornly resistant to change.
Millennials are plagued with anxiety, lack of sleep, debt and live under chronic stress while paying off expensive student loans that never landed them their dream job. And those who devour coffee and Adderall don’t like tomorrow to fuel the economic engine.
The problem is that we still think the only way to “succeed” is to accumulate college degrees, own property, and become massively wealthy. Yet we no longer have the cushion of a more stable economy and government pensions like those that did in the Boomer generation.
Think of our children
A tragic part of this story is that some of us pass this way of life on to our children because we are creatures who inherit our desires and habits from others around us as part of the collective consciousness. In the book, The secret of our success, Harvard anthropologist Joseph Henrich, showed that “in uncertainty, toddlers used cultural learning” by mimicking the reactions of adults they observed. When presented with an unfamiliar toy, they looked at the adults four times more for advice on approaching. We evolved to learn from our guardians. Yet the downside is that we will also inherit their bad habits unless we become aware of this behavior early in parenthood.
Society also forces us to erase our anxieties caused by burnout with medication. It reinforces the idea that we must shut up and continue to contribute to this endless machine. This leads us to blame an individual’s weakness for burnout, so we are less likely to investigate hostile work cultures, unreasonable expectations and ineffective leadership, which are the real cause of work culture. ‘burnout.
Self-care is not the solution
The personal care industry is designed to reinvigorate us to get back to work as soon as possible. It doesn’t take us out of the cycle; instead, it gives us the tools to work harder. Sunday meal prepping, inbox zero, and going to the salon to get my hair and nails done so I can feel better about myself is just another item on my list of things to do without end. I’m all for self-care and encouragement, but that’s just a band-aid and it won’t end your burnout. No amount of yoga classes, bike rides, massages, essential oils, and perfectly manicured French nails will fix toxic work cultures.
All of this may seem overwhelming, but it’s not the end of the world. Even to be alive in this vast universe, we’re an intelligent species that needs constant reminders not to get stuck in our brain’s default survival mode.
How to change this?
The first step to dealing with burnout is to recognize it, because if you don’t accept it for what it is, you won’t know how to deal with it.
A collective solution:
We live in an individualistic culture, but burnout is a collective problem. We may feel a sense of shame if we feel we can’t handle the pressures of work, but talking about burnout with your colleagues will remove the stigma, which will hopefully lead to workplace interventions. . Company management must prioritize a healthy work culture with a delayed gratification mindset because happier, healthier employees are more productive in the long run. It may be up to the individual to spark this movement in their workplace until the collective calls for broader systemic reform to inspire action to design ideal work environments.
Solution for an individual:
Again, self-care practices won’t solve burnout, and it’s understandable that people have bills to pay and may not have the flexibility. Yet, as an individual, there are things you can do to reduce cognitive overload and temporarily improve your quality of life.
Evaluate your options. Unfortunately, navigating burnout isn’t a linear path, but it might be time to find a new job with a healthy work culture that respects the well-being of its employees.
Schedule downtime. Incorporate relaxing activities like playing with your kids or pets, spending time with your family, or going for walks.
Prioritize your needs and your well-being. Sleep, exercise, and sunlight are among the most important non-negotiables for your well-being.
Mindfulness. Create moments of calm by practicing mindfulness, even if it’s 5 minutes of breathing in the bathroom or doing the dishes, if that’s all the time you have to yourself. It may not seem like much, but these small moments of peace will amount to exponential gains in well-being.
Look for support. Burnout can be overwhelming, so don’t feel alone, talk to your colleagues, friends and family. If you have the resources for workplace benefits, consider talking to a therapist – I consider therapy a privilege because we all need someone to talk to in a non-judgmental, non-biased environment.
Practice self-compassion. You’re not a failure if you have to take time off due to burnout.
Discover the underlying cause of why you choose to burn out. To be aware. Self reflection. Do you cause self-induced burnout by undertaking unnecessary projects because you are caught up in the machine? Be honest with yourself.
Just being aware that you are exhausted means that you have already subconsciously decided to work on finding solutions. Good luck!
Kate Pn writes about mastering a healthy work-life balance with a focus on hacking productivity. write to him at [email protected]