Short answer, no.
Before I begin, allow me to talk about this whole “blame the millennials” trend for a second. According to the Pew Center (Dimock, 2019). who researches millennials, if you were born between 1981 and 1996, you are a millennial. That means that among us millennials, there are adults almost 40 years old.
Stop assuming millennials are young, lazy entitled kids- really, we are grown-ass adults!
Okay, I’m done! Haha Let’s talk about the point… is burn-out for millennials who are simply lazy? It wasn’t even created by a millennial. In fact, it was first coined as burn-out in the early 1970s and its symptoms are documented as early as 1901. For those of you who have been told, “we didn’t have burn-out ack in my day…” prepare to feel validated!
Herbert Feudenberger was the first to call it “burn-out.” Mr. Feudenberger had overcome his own traumatic experiences, surviving the Holocaust and moving internationally to the United States, where he later opened up a successful psychology practice. He is described in an NPR segment as a “serious, driven man” who was successful in helping others (King, 2016).
His daughter, Lisa Feudenberger, describes the stress he was feeling: “he was getting more and more fatigued.” (King, 2016). he describes a family vacation where, after the entire family had gotten ready to leave, he “couldn’t move”(King, 2016). He attempted to understand what was going on, wondering if he was experiencing simple exhaustion or maybe even depression. However, he knew this was different. He named it “burn-out,” and described it as a “response to stress. It’s a response to frustration. It’s a response to a demand that an individual may make upon themselves in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive (King, 2016).
Reading that felt like a bucket of cold water. “It’s a response to a demand that an individual may make upon themselves in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive” (King, 2016). Holy crap! Duh, right? We have talked about perfectionism and how it can impact our mental health. Here is a psychologist in the 1970s who described the exact same thing happening to him. #validation, am I right?
The idea of burn-out did not stop being researched there. Social psychologist Christina Maslach furthered the work Mr. Feudenberger began. She studied how human services workers coped with “emotional arousal,” while performing their jobs. She found what we’d expect… “that workers often felt emotionally exhausted, had developed negative perceptions and feelings about their clients or patients, and they experienced crises in professional competence as a result of their emotional turmoil” (Schauefi, 2017). Since then, she has created the Maslach Burnout Inventory and has become a leading researcher in the field.
Mrs. Maslach, along with Michael Leiter later described burn-out as a three-dimensional syndrome, which includes:
- “overwhelming exhaustion,
- feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job,
- [and] a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment” (Leiter & Maslach).
This is the, “I can’t stop sleeping” feeling, the “what is the point” feeling, the “I suck” feeling. Each of these feelings contributes to our mental health and without dealing with them, leads to burn-out.
Have you ever daydreamed about working another profession because you just feel like you can’t handle yours anymore? Have you felt like you are simply terrible at your job, can’t get your footing, and continue to feel as your drowning? What about if you are a parent? It can be difficult to feel accomplished about what your children are doing until they are older and productive; I’ve often noticed mothers do not want to take any credit when their child turns out great, but blame themselves if they make a mistake… doesn’t make sense, does it? Anyways… what if it feels like your child isn’t talking as fast as other children? Walking? Wasn’t as creative or well-behaved? See how we can all quickly spiral into burn-out?
Next time you hear burn-out is for millennials to get out of their responsibilities, you will KNOW this is simply not true. But then why does it feel like it’s more prevalent these days? Here’s a few reasons that may be:
Have you ever tracked how much time you spend on your phone? I recently discovered that my phone has a Digital Wellbeing app (I have a Pixel 2) and it tells me how much screen time I have. I flipped through a few weeks; I average over 4 hours a day on my phone. That’s insane to me! While most of it is mindless scrolling- Facebook, Instagram, etc., some of that is for work. Because we have cell-phones, versus landlines now, we are always accessible. Have you ever received and responded to a work email or text from your boss after hours? I don’t know many people that haven’t.
Take a look at your usage if your phone does the same; how much time are you spending on your phone? Do you think these attributes to your burn-out? Feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed?
The rising cost of school doesn’t help either. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Lane), student loan debt now makes up 69% of the debt for average 25-30 year old Americans. Do you have student debt? I graduated with over 6 figures of it, and among my friends, this is very common. Although loan companies say they have “loan forgiveness programs” and “income-based repayment” it does not necessarily help. My payments at my previous job were $81.00 a month, which was great for my monthly budget, but I didn’t even make a debt in my student loans. How could I for $81.00 a month when they are six figures. Basically, I will be student-loan free when I die.
Movements We Are Creating
The other piece is the movements we are creating… talking about the uncomfortable stuff. Mental illness, sexual assault, racism, sexism… we are no longer keeping those things as private as generations past have. We are talking about it! I’ve mentioned before that I have anxiety. Looking back, I struggled with it in high school as well. We just had no idea that is what it was. I had never even heard of anxiety. My mom and dad didn’t realize my levels of worrying had anything to do with anxiety. And that’s not for lack of care, support or encouragement. My parents are literally the best: my mom is the most kind-hearted, caring, supportive, empathetic person I know. Seriously. She makes Ellen DeGeneres look like a bully. In a recent conversation with her, we were laughing about the ways my anxiety had come out in high school. I had hives almost daily before school, I psycho-called my ex-boyfriend 23098243 times in a row while we were fighting (this is real), I worried, worried and worried some more.
My mom said, “I thought you were just very conscientious. And also your age, because you just didn’t have the wisdom yet to see the things you were stressing about were not things that would matter in the long run.” And yes, that’s ALL true. But my level of worrying, the calling 23098243 times because what could happen if we didn’t talk RIGHT THIS SECOND, that was anxiety. And we recognize that now, because times are changing.
Here’s how we win against burn-out
We KNOW these things exist, stress us out. We KNOW we can experience burn-out, sometimes at a higher rate than previous generations. We also KNOW burn-out is real and needs to be treated versus the common, “if I just ignore it and push through, it’ll go away” solution. Most importantly, we are talking now. They say knowledge is power, and we sure have a lot of it.
Dimock, M. (2019, Jan. 17). Defining generations: where Millennials end & generation Z begins. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/
King, N. (Host) (2016, Dec. 8). When a psychologist succumbed to stress, he coined the term ‘burnout’ [Podcast]. In C. Watson (Executive Producer), All Things Considered. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2015/04/20/394867832/the-all-things-considered-staff.
Lane, A. Beyond the Headlines: Is Student Debt Strangling Millennials’ Chances for Success? Bentley University. Retrieved from: https://www.bentley.edu/impact/articles/beyond-headlines-student-debt-strangling-millennials-chances-success
Leiter, MP. & Maslach, C. (2016, June 15). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry. 2016 Jun;15(2):103-11. doi: 10.1002/wps.20311.
Schaufeli W.B. (2017) Burnout: A Short Socio-Cultural History. In: Neckel S., Schaffner A., Wagner G. (eds) Burnout, Fatigue, Exhaustion. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.