A couple years ago, my premature self-had dished out “4 ways to combat burnout in your 20’s”, without truly understanding its grip- I was stuck in the middle of COVID, directionless in life. Just like any other early 20’s kid.
Today, at 25 years old, I am documenting what a real burnout feels like! No advice this time. Just a raw account of my journey through the trenches of ultimate mental and physical fatigue.
Symptom #1: Refusal to take my foot off the pedal at work
I had bought myself into the myth that success came to those who were “on” 24/7. I started believing that the “optics of staying late and stressing” can lead to an impression that you are a hard worker. Blame it on a workplace that is vibrant and challenging, however always buzzing with urgency where every task seems like code red.
The perpetual overachiever in me was awakened and my inner workhorse pounced at every message. I had started to close the curtain on a “work-life balance”.
Symptom #2: Guilty for taking breaks
Taking breaks started feeling like a negative connotation to progress. The FOMO (or fear-of-missing-out) on work haunted every moment of respite. I’d check my phone constantly during breaks, complaining and whining about the work, even though I was on a vacation. The illusion that my presence was necessary for the team’s smooth running blinded my sense of decision making! If taking a vacation meant a rejuvenating remedy, for me it felt like uneding sense of guilt.
Symptom 3: Body breaking down
The holy grail of a burnout. It started with an upset tummy and then proceeded with multiple episodes of fatigue and bloated tummy. It was the most apparent rebellion. My face mirrored sleep depravity while on the contrary, I was getting 8+ hours of sleep.
The breaking point? Tears streaming down at work, followed by an anxious call to my parents.
I realized anything beyond this point was colossal destruction to myself. I went into almost 4 days of hibernation. Eat. Sleep. Sleep more. It was an attempt to silence my inner critics and give myself a much needed time-out.
I’m not yet claimed victory of this burnout, but I’ve contained the suffocating slump. The harsh truth is that our culture glorifies pushing individuals. To the point where the work of one individual equates to the work of three!
true that in this country, you will be pushed to do tasks of atleast 3 people, for the price of 1. Call it a growing economy struggle or simply because the employees know no better.
HOW AM I CURATING WAYS TO TRY AND EASE THE SPEED?
1. Weekend to myself- Seizing the non-work travel on weekends all to myself! Clouded judgements of ultimate productivity, even during downtimes, have now temporarily been replaced with the need for R&R.
2. Making peace with “I can’t do it all”- This factors the disagreement to all the reels that say your “20’s” is all about chasing everything. Well guess what? I can’t right now! I can’t be a good daughter or friend or sibling or go-getter. What takes precedence is my well-being for clarity of thought. Juggling so many responsibilities is a task I currently reject.
3. Embracing selfishness — Lastly, prioritizing a drink with friends over a work powerpoint, because the sun rises in the east tomorrow and life will go on!
This has been incredibly hard for me, but still I persist and try to incorporate habits that shape my identity outside of work and truly make me happy.
CONCLUSION: THE 25- YEAR OLD REALITY CHECK
At 25, I am a sensible, aware and mature woman who supports the narrative of the need to slow down. Reflecting on this period, I realize discipline (thanks to sport) remains my compass.
The big takeaway? You can’t outrun a burnout. In a generation that is sprinting toward unsustainable metrics of success, a sound mind and body are the real currencies to value.
I urge you to ponder. Are you swept up in the same whirlwind? What would you do to slow the roll?