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Me, 'finding space.'
I've been burned (out) before. It won't be happening again (so soon).
Hello hello! It’s been a month since we last spoke and I'm back. I hope you haven’t missed me too much! In 2023 I intend on making this newsletter ‘regular’ whatever that means (new year new me etc. etc.), but for now I’m enjoying finding time to write in between the chaos of end-of-year festivities/adjusting to a new job/the unrelenting pace of general life. Thank you for your patience.
Recently I’ve been thinking about burnout. It’s something that intrigues me because it’s a concept all career professionals are familiar with, but it’s one that most probably won’t know the intricacies of until we’ve experienced it.
Big call to make, yes. But I say it as someone who used to throw the phrase ‘I’m so burnt out’ around any time I was busier than usual, I like to think I have some experience.
A few months ago I got a taste of real burnout. The kind that takes complete hold of your life and leaves you feeling severely incompetent, exhausted, unfulfilled and insecure.
It was a slow burn that suddenly turned into an all-consuming bushfire. At its peak I felt like I’d lost all control of my ability to work. I forgot how to string together simple sentences. I was falling asleep all day but by the time night came I’d fall into a half-asleep, half-awake daze where I’d replay my self-doubt and failures from the day. I was physically and violently sick, I lacked all creativity and I blew up at people around me for no apparent reason.
Perhaps the scariest element of burnout for me though, was the loss of ‘hope’. I’m an optimist, but I’d forgotten what it was like to not dread work, and I was unsure I’d ever be able to find that passion again.
When you’ve found yourself there, it’s very hard to unravel.
After one particularly unhinged episode where I exploded at my partner I confessed to a coworker that I was ‘losing it’. And she told me to go home and take some time off. A month, a week - whatever I could afford. It was something I’d been resisting for months as it goes against my ‘hustle’, but when she suggested it this time around I completely resigned to the idea because I didn’t see any alternative. I couldn’t keep going the way I was.
So I went home from work, tied up some loose ends then deleted my work related apps and had a big long sleep.
For a week I did whatever felt good. I read. I watched trashy reality TV that I’d never been interested in until then when my brain was mush and it was a great dose of escapism. Each day I felt a little lighter. I also applied for a few other jobs. And by the time I returned to work just one week later I had an offer for a new job which I accepted. And then it was a matter of working out my notice period.
It should be noted that my burnout, while not necessarily helped by external circumstances, was also not caused by my job. Now that I’ve had time and space to breathe I’ve realised a few things.
I threw 150% of myself into my first real job because it was my dream.
My hobbies included:
checking slack constantly through the workday… and on weekends, weeknights - any spare minute really…
Compiling a list of my work achievements at all times to seek a promotion and therefore confirm hat I was good enough.
And TikTok. Which wasn’t really work related, until I viewed every little video through the lens of how we could replicate it and go viral… at work.
It’s because of those things that I lost sight of myself. My identity was so inextricably tied to my career that any misstep felt like a failure of myself.
Then burnout took hold and those slight missteps became a deep spiral of mistake after mistake. It was inevitable to happen anywhere I worked if I hadn’t learned that lesson. So thank fuck I learned it when I did.
Now I've caught you up on that context, let’s speed right on through to today.
I’ve now been in my new job for a month. And in theory, it should be a hell of a lot more stress-inducing.
I knew the lay of the land at the job I’d been at for three and a half years. I knew the processes and I was in a junior-enough position that meant it should be fairly low-risk.
But alas - here I am in a position that is a decent step-up. In a different industry. And one in which I have lots to learn.
On my first day in my new job I felt like everyone was speaking another language and I was immediately nervous.
But that didn’t matter so much because this time I gave myself grace. I accepted that I’d probably make a mistake here and there but that it’d be fine because I’m not expected to be 150% all the time. My 80% is pretty damn good.
And what a relief it was to work hard, then sleep through the night without overthinking it all.
I’ve noticed at times, old habits trying to creep back in now that I’m settling into my new job. The perfectionism and the self-criticism. But I’m shutting it down.
And today I’m making space for non-related work things I love.
Writing (for me and you). Cooking (a Christmas ham no less!), reading (fiction), and catching up with family.
So here’s your reminder, in case you need it as much as I do: Make time for you.
The you that likes trashy reality TV, if that feels right.
Being ‘on’ 24/7 will drive you straight into a cortisol-induced spiral that is good for absolutely no one.
So chill. It’s December after all!
Is burnout something you’ve experienced? How do you stop yourself from being consumed with work and not so much life?
I hope I’ll be writing again before we hit the big 2023 - but I’m also all about doing what feels right for now - so I guess we’ll see!
Chat soon xx
Some recommendations before you go:
Glasshouse’ Night Before Christmas Candle: Guys. Let me put you on some good shit. I live in a very small apartment that doesn’t have room for a Christmas tree, but as long as I’m smelling glasshouse’ Night Before Christmas the festive vibes are on. Christmas candles are so delightful and worth the joy they induce.
How Meditation Works & Science-Based Effective Meditations - Huberman Lab: I am slowly working myself through this episode of Huberman Lab because if there’s something you should know about me it’s that I’ve got issues with podcasts that are longer than one hour. This one is 2 hours 26 mins. But hey, I’ve gotta say, this feels like very useful information that I’d probably spend too much money to hear in a lecture format. So if you want to learn about the science of meditation - add to list rn.
Zoe Foster Blake’s morning playlist: Everything this woman touches is gold. I simply can’t get over the fact that this is the most artfully put-together playlist I’ve ever seen and it was constructed by Zoe Foster Blake. The chillest vibes. Listen at work and on Sunday mornings.
Got a recommendation for me? I’m currently looking for books/podcasts/articles to consume - so please reply to this email or leave a comment if there’s something you need to talk about! I really love it when you guys reply. <3