Burnout seems to be the latest darling of internet thinkpieces. Ever since Buzzfeed's thoughtful, well-presented article on Milennial burnout, I've seen at least a dozen spin offs with different hot takes on Late Capitalism's latest gift to us.
Take me for example: I just started a 9-5 (well 10-6) office job that has me spending 2 mind-numbing hours a day in my car barely going over 10mph. This means I leave at 9am and come home at 7pm, mentally and physically drained. Then it's time to feed the dog, plan out the next day's instagram post , respond to any collaboration emails, oh yeah and eat. I'm usually done around 10pm, which is just about the time that my long distance boyfriend is available to facetime, which we then do for an hour. Then it's 11 and I guess it's time for bed.
I'm writing this article on a Sunday, a day that I used to have for quiet reflection that I affectionately referred to as spa day. Today I've done a photoshoot, started the laundry, and picked up around my apartment. It's 9am. I'm eating while I type, and I'm drinking a cup of spearmint tea that I poured into an empty glass of yesterday's matcha, hoping that somehow there are still some caffeine molecules clinging to the dregs.
Make no mistake: I know many, if not most, people have it much worse. The single mothers with three jobs and two kids, the college students working both full time and towards their degrees. We're all in this shit, just varying degrees of it.
Instead of speculating about the whys and the hows of burnout culture in America (which, btw, what is up with us being the only ones doing this to ourselves?) I wanted to offer some insight into both how to recognize burnout, and what to do about.
When I first started reading that Buzzfeed article, I stopped within the first few paragraphs because I couldn't relate to the author's description of burnout. I could get errands done, I had no problem responding to emails or paying bills. Don't even get me started on those "I just can't bring myself to vote" people. But then I realized that burnout has a whole range of effects that can't be neatly summarized.
I can only talk about the burnout I recognize in myself, but I'd like to think it may help those experiencing it to see some of it's more subtle symptoms.
1. Sleep Issues
I've always had a tumultuous relationship to sleep. I had night terrors from the age of practically birth to 12 years old. My entire 22nd year was only made bearable by Zzquill. The year I spent flying back and forth between New York and France I consumed probably my weight in melatonin. I haven't needed sleep aids for several years now, thank god, but I do still make it a habit of reading for an hour before bed to help my mind settle down.
Whenever I'm starting to get burnout, one of the earliest signs is trouble falling asleep, followed by a super not fun thing that has a fun name: hypnic jerks. Ever tried to fall asleep and then get jolted awake because you feel like you're free falling from the Empire State Building? If not: I envy you, If so: I feel you.
Hypnic jerks haven't been studied extensively enough to really know their causes, but at least one of the known causes is Anxiety, which brings me to number 2:
2. Worsened Anxiety
I started experiencing Anxiety about two years ago, and I discovered that mine was greatly exacerbated by interrupted/changing sleep patterns. Now that I'm traveling less it's become much more manageable. I also started using a CBD vape in the mornings and evenings (my fave are from HelloMD). About a week or so after starting full time commuting, I started noticing that awful tight, panicked feeling in my chest. It'd been a while since I'd had real physical manifestation of Anxiety, so it was a pretty big bummer once I recognized it for what it was.
3. Skin Issues
This is more applicable to those of you out there with bacterial acne, not hormonal (PS go figure out what causes your acne like I did!). It's a known fact that stress and burnout lower your body's immune response, which in turn helps our dear acne pals back through our skin's protective barrier.
These are the three signs of burnout that I've found to be more difficult to tie back to burnout. I hope if you recognize a few in yourself that you'll take some time this week to check in with yourself. Next week I'll be posting about some of the things I've been trying to help alleviate burnout.
Have any other subtle burnout symptoms I haven't mentioned? Drop em in the comments below <3