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how gen-y and millennials can avoid the pitfalls of burnout

04/09/12 , , ,

by noch noch for forbes.com:

What’s happened to Generation Y? With the opportunities and affluence around us, we seem to be more depressed than ever. There is a sense of void and emptiness within us despite our achievements. What can we do to prevent ourselves from falling into an emotional rut?

I was diagnosed with major depression in 2009, at the age of 28 years old. Today I’m recovering but still struggle. However, I have become more open about my challenge and actively seek ways to recover. Writing has become my therapy suggested by my doctors, and I also started blogging about my plight and reflections. I was caught by surprise. I had not expected people to actually read and resonate with my thoughts.

When I first received readers’ emails identifying with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, I was slightly shocked. I had not known how widespread the issue was around the world. Perhaps I hadn’t read much about it prior to my own fall, and maybe because most people do not necessarily chat about this over coffee. In fact, I think many of us still hide it from others, wary of how we’d be judged.

I was even more surprised when my friends, or people I went to school with, wrote to me and told me that they have been diagnosed with the same for a few years already. However, they were more reluctant to publicly admit their struggles. I would not have imagined these people whom I had known for so long to suffer from depression. But likewise, no one could believe I was taking anti-depressants and woke up everyday just wanting to die. After all, we all struggled hard to maintain the cool, calm, collected image.

More Gen-Yers than ever suffer from depression, anxiety, or some form of mood disorder. Of the 120 million depressed in the world, the World Health Organization estimates that the highest percentage belong to Gen Y, and in China, 50 % of those who suffer from depression are in the age bracket of 20-35 and have had a university education. More than half of the respondents in Canada and the US reported to have felt depressed because of work in the past year, which is a much higher proportion than respondents in generations older than us.

We Gen Yers are fast paced, energetic, demand flexibility, and look for more than just a job. “Happiness” is now not sufficient; we want “betterness,” as termed by one of Harvard Business Review’s thinkers, Umair Haque – fulfillment, satisfaction, and the opportunity to chase our dreams. We demand flexibility and immediacy, and get annoyed when responses take more than 2 seconds to arrive. Instant gratification is paramount. We do not follow a set path of finding a well-paid job after university and stay there till retirement. Instead, we want to chase our dreams, especially as we are more geographically and occupationally mobile.

Yet, we are overwhelmed.

We were taught to expect a lot and that we had choices to do whatever we wanted. So we went about doing it. We expect a lot from ourselves too, and become disappointed when we finally realize that we are not omnipotent, and that we are stressed out. It is this discrepancy between our expectations and the reality that trouble us. We have titles, status and money, but we feel void and empty inside.

We lack purpose.

We have drive and motivation to succeed, and yet, we don’t know what or why we need to succeed. It seems that everything society bestows upon us becomes robotic and meaningless. Our passion for life works against us. We place challenges on ourselves that we don’t even know how to tackle. We want many things, and to accomplish too much in too little time. We are plagued a deadly virus, “Affluenza,” as coined by Oliver James that is responsible for the surge in depression and anxiety.

Nonetheless, we can avoid the pitfalls of burn-out, depression, stress, anxiety and the likes easily.

1. Know our thresholds

Know when to stop stretching ourselves. Improving ourselves is one thing, spreading ourselves too thin is quite another. Unfortunately there is no blanket solution for we have different limits at different times in our lives. What is important is to remember, that we are human and we will get weary. So sometimes, it’s okay to stop sprinting for achievements and take a break by the side of the track.

2. Prepare for melancholy

Prepare ourselves to face the challenges in mood. Everyone would get stressed once in a while but it’s how we manage the stress that makes the difference. When we are upset or feeling down, find the coping skills that match our personality. We need to be comfortable with our low moods, and for some it might be spending time alone to read a book, and for others, they need attention from friends. Whatever it is, be prepared.

Every now and then, take some time to spend only with ourselves. We could talk to ourselves, write, or go shopping on our own. Removing ourselves from demands of life and work – and people – will help us focus on our own well-being, be it exercise, diet, or just some time to spend on our hobbies, through which we find more satisfaction and fulfillment.

4. Determine our purpose

There needs to be an overarching purpose in our lives, as my shrink tells me. Is it to help others? Or to create and innovate? Is it to lead, or to be a team player? We need to find something that is the umbrella goal and vision for our lives. It’s not easy to find, and it took me a long time. Through my writing and therapy, I’ve come to realize that I get this little tingle of excitement in me when someone tells me they resonate with my thoughts and feelings. Slowly, I realized that I get excited when I can influence others. That is my purpose.

5. Increase self-awareness

Bring into our consciousness our thoughts and emotions behind our behaviour, and also our reactions to external stimuli. Self-awareness takes practice. The more we understand ourselves, the easier it is to find purpose in our lives and to control our emotions to avoid slipping into that dreaded darkness. I found Jay Uhdinger’s simplified and interactive version of cognitive behaviour therapy most helpful in setting off for self-awareness.

Phenomenon shows that Gen Y is more susceptible to mental illness, but this does not mean you have to slip into depression or burnt out zone like I did. You can pull the plug before you get there. Achievements and success is not mutually exclusive from happiness and betterness.

Find yourself. And you can stay away from the rut.

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comments

Yes – kick that out of the driver’s seat before it gets control. I like it. 🙂

momentumofjoy

04/09/12

Nos. 1, 3, and 5 resonate in particular. 5 the most. What s/he describes is not uncommon. Here, here.

José

04/09/12

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