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  • Writer's pictureThe Convergence

Breathe, don't be a victim of millennial burnout

Commentary | Rebecca Metteo, Opinion Associate Editor

As usual, in between my reading breaks, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and limited myself to 10 minutes of relaxation before continuing with readings.

While I was engrossed in scrolling my social media, I realized I was already at it for 15 minutes.

Am I one of those social media addicts who is too distracted by modern technology? Should I learn to be more discipline and keep my phone away?

Perhaps. However, one thing for sure is that all of us have felt this sense of guilt whenever we divert away from tasks we are supposed to be doing on the to-do-list.

I was actually spending 20 minutes reading “How it feels to have ‘millennial burnout”, talking about young adults being ‘snowflakes’.

In my early 20s, my generation has always been titled as the ‘strawberry generation’ who needs to be pampered and lacks in ability to handle pressure.

More often than not, we often hear that ‘things were tougher in the past’, ‘you must learn to be strong’ and the likes of such.

To some extent, this may be true depending on individual personality and circumstances. However, at times it could be because we are suffering from millennial burnout.

What is millennial burnout?

“We’ve internalised the idea that we need to be working all the time, and that being average is no longer enough; we have to always be achieving.” Rhian

We feel guilty when we take a break from study or important commitments. We feel that we should be doing something all the time. We feel guilty when we are doing nothing. Why do we see ourselves as so underserving of rest?

The article that sparked the discussion on millennial burnout is by Anne Helen Petterson, who is a BuzzFeed news reporter.

Her article “How Millennials become the burnout generation” discussed at length about “errand paralysis” and having endless thing on one’s to-do-list that eventually leads to stress, anxiety and burnout.

It is a narration from student debt to adulting and the need to stay ahead and keep winning, further complicated by the completeness of others' lives one sees on social media.

In gist, it is about trying to manage your school, work, social life, family, pets, self-time, and many more that you have committed to. It is about trying to achieve as much as you can.

It is about seeing successful people on social media and feeling like you should work harder. It is about constantly thinking that you are not doing enough.

All these, sufficiently results in motivation, but excessively causes unnecessary anxiety and even depression.

Nothing to do with resiliency

As the “strawberry generation” article suggests, Singaporean youths have greater access to information and opportunity to contribute to the society.

They have the ability and passion to commit to social activities such as community groups, overseas missions and so forth. They possess strong national pride and willing, keen planners of our future and willing to work hard for our families, too.

We are resilient, but resiliency should not be mistaken as over commitment.

In fact, as “Millennial burnout won’t be helped by ‘resilience building” suggests, measures to enhance the resiliency of children or young adults can be counterproductive.

Furthermore, it is people who seem resilient who may be susceptible to burnout.

The solution to burnout does not refer to mechanisms and stress managing abilities but rather being “happier, less anxious and more able to relief stress”.

Certainly, one can argue that this consist of one’s ability to manage stress and not to over commit. As good as it sounds in theory, it may be difficult to practice in reality due to our endless pursuits of goals and dreams.

May affect mental health

Mental health has been a hot topic recently in the society, about how it can be a silent killer. Much debates and discussion has been on-going about stereotypes, stigmatization and seeking help for mental health issues.

Likewise, millennial burnout, if not handled appropriately, may escalate and thereby affecting one’s mental well-being.

Why so? Because burnout is a complex emotion of exhaustion, being tired, stressed and feeling of inability to control life. It can even affect physical health from a lack of rest and constantly being stressed.

As such, “More Young Professional are suffering from burn-out”, which long-term stress from work and commit can snowball into insomnia, depression and even hypertension.

More generally, the topic of mental health was aptly brought up by Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Anthea Ong, advocating that mental health is a “basic need” and should be a “national priority”.

Ms Ong drew on the analogy of mental health being an issue like climate change, which often goes unnoticed but has the potential to affect future generations who are the pillars of our society.

Way forward

Although millennial burn-out is not a new phenomenon, scant attention given to it could possibly account why more people, working professionals and young adults are feeling the stretch.

Reasons for millennial burn-out can be from parental expectation, social norms and personal expectations, or a mixture of all of these factors. These are key mediating channels but never easy to change in a short period of time.

Certainly, it requires time to re-adjust ourselves, our life and learn to rest when we need to.

As an end, during my internship days, I remember interviewing a local chef about her career and also her favourite pastime. She told me, “Doing nothing.

By doing nothing I also mean not thinking about anything and just looking at the sky, the cars that pass by the roads and listening to the nature.” She added that it was really difficult to actual do nothing.

At 19, I didn’t understand what it meant. Now, I finally understand and couldn’t agree more that it is difficult to do so.

However, we should definitely allow ourselves time breathe and simply think about nothing.


About the author: Rebecca is a year 2 political science major at NUS and is on staff with The Convergence as Associate Editor (Opinion). She is an avid reader of current affairs and (some) books (& occasionally memes on the internet). She hopes to be able to engage in meaningful conversations regarding a wide range of social policies and international affairs with fellow readers, students and everyone interested in world issues. Finally, she is also a muggle who has unexplainable love for dogs!


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