I listened to an interesting audiobook the other day called, The Burnout Generation. It talked about millennials and how they are increasingly facing burnout. Why?
- They graduate from college with an average of $35,000 in debt hanging over their heads and then get jobs that don’t pay enough for many years.
- They are the first generation where it is not assumed they will have better lives than their parents.
- They are priced out of the housing market.
- Cell phones have made work difficult, if not impossible, to leave “at the office.” They are expected to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Many suffer from anxiety and depression.
It was a harsh reality to read about. I was from the last generation of folks who could, “work their way through college” and graduate without debt. My undergraduate classes were about $150 a semester and books were another $50. Now a single textbook can cost $350!
We tell people that they need a degree to get meaningful work, but the jobs they get aren’t paying enough to even make minimum payments on the debt they stack up. It’s overwhelming for me to even think about it.
I believe America is headed for burnout. Many things are contributing to burn-out. Working too much, taking on too many volunteer activities, working with emotionally intense populations, being a single parent, parenting in general. It’s a difficult issue, rooted in some systemic problems, like the college student loan situation. But, mostly it’s the American culture, even the Christian culture, which seems to celebrate busyness as a virtue. There is nothing Biblical about that. If we look at Jesus as a model of life, he even left his healing ministry while there were still people waiting to be healed, and went off for some alone time with God. (Mark 1:35ff) God created Sabbath rest because we need it, yet how many of us really take a day to rest?
So, how do we begin to heal burnout? It’s a complex problem, but here are some ideas.
- Intentionally limit your time on social media. The stress of constantly comparing yourself to others’ “online” personas is exhausting.
- Limit your time on the news stream. It can be toxic.
- Set your phone to silent, not vibrate, but silent. You can check your phone for messages, but the constant vibration and buzzing is stress-producing. I’m not sure how to turn off notifications on a watch, but I hope there is a way.
- Intentionally put short getaways into your life. Take a weekend to walk by the ocean or in the forest and reconnect with God through creation. I try to do this monthly. Try turning your phone to airport mode for a few hours of these trips.
- Allow yourself five minutes to sit still in silence each day. As your thoughts quiet, priorities can become clear.
- Learn to take naps, even if you don’t fall asleep, just lie down for fifteen minutes and rest. I’ve been trying this one. I rarely sleep, but it is nice to rest.
- Make choices for a simpler life. My husband and I have always lived simply, which led to no debt, paid off cars, house, and no credit card bills. We live way below the standard of most of our friends who have more very attractive luxuries. But we are debt-free and happy.
- Find a group, a tribe, a community to help support your “less busy” lifestyle. Invite folks over for potluck dinners, or game nights, where all the phones get put in a basket upon entry.
- One of my favorite things from The Burnout Generation was the story about a church that was raising money to help pay off student loans. What a wonderful idea! What freedom that would bring to those individuals!
- The book also mentioned the importance of therapy. As a therapist, that made me happy. If you have insurance or can afford private pay, a therapist can help with the anxiety, depression, or PTSD that contributes to burnout. They can also help you assess your quality of life and offer solutions to life problems. Life Coaches and Spiritual Directors can help with that too.
I’d love to hear how you have dealt with burnout in your life. Maybe together we can figure out how to turn America from a “Burned out nation,” to a healthy one.