Even after a hard day’s work of killing succulents and putting chain restaurants out of business, millennials still have plenty of other things to check off of our to-do lists before we can call it a day. While it may be impossible to really ‘have it all,’ that doesn’t usually stop us from trying. For me, that means working multiple jobs, attending graduate school, managing a household, maintaining a social life—and I can’t even imagine the workload millennial moms have to face!
Trying to do it all can take its toll before we even realize it. Here are four signs you’re suffering from millennial burnout—and how to turn it around:
1. Everything seems like the most important thing – but you can't prioritize anything.
If you’ve reached a point where everything on your to-do list is blurring together into one scary monster of important-ness, you’re probably in the throes of a burnout. Constructing presentations and emailing clients and supporting friends’ events and attending birthday parties and cleaning your house can all seem like things that absolutely have to get done right this moment, so where do you even begin?
It may feel difficult at first, but rank your to-dos, and consider cutting the least important item or at least devoting less time to it. It’s so easy to get roped into doing things that we don’t really want to do or things we feel we have to but actually don’t. After you’ve established the order of importance, assign a specific amount of time to dedicate to each task. Maybe this means that once you see that compiling data for a report that’s due on Monday is first and deep cleaning your apartment is last, you spend four hours compiling first thing in the morning and only one hour cleaning at the end of the day.
2. You’re obsessed with keeping up appearances – but too tired to enjoy your beauty routine.
While I thoroughly enjoy makeup and fashion, there is a difference between engaging in beauty rituals because you enjoy it and engaging in beauty rituals because you feel like you have to. I realized that as much as I enjoy taking time to indulge in a beauty routine, sometimes that extra hour of sleep is a little more necessary on days where I feel like there aren’t enough hours as it is.
If you’re putting excess energy into things that aren’t really necessary, you’re stealing time away from things that are. For me, deleting the Instagram app from my phone was one of the best decisions I made in terms of feeling the need to stop worrying about appearances, because I find I compare myself to people less often. Trying to maintain a certain image can feel compulsory in an age where we’re constantly flooded with perfection at all times, so preserving energy there can be a crucial way to decrease the likelihood or degree of burnout.
3. You can’t remember the last time you turned down an invitation – but you never want to go anywhere.
While making time to unwind and see friends is extremely necessary, if it’s just going to add to your stress later, you won’t really be able to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to every happy hour invite because turning it down makes you feel bad, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
The best way I’ve learned to manage this is by practicing total honesty. Rather than faking an excuse about feeling under the weather or having a dentist appointment, my responses are more like ‘if I go to brunch with you, I’ll probably fall asleep in my mimosa, so I’m going to pass on this one,’ and in my experience, friends understand because they’ve all been there!
4. You have so many things on your plate that you end up doing nothing
One of the biggest indicators of burnout for me is when the to-do list becomes so imposing that I don’t even try to conquer it. I spend all week worrying about how much stuff I have to get done, and by the time the weekend rolls around, I’ve stressed myself out so much that I devote the day to sleeping and getting lost in a YouTube hole of Halloween makeup tutorials.
Solution? If you’ve heard of scheduled fun, try out scheduled nothing. Schedule an hour (or two) throughout the day to relax, goof off, or engage in something totally unproductive. When you give relaxation the same weight of importance as the big deal tasks, you don’t associate as much guilt with it because it’s on the schedul. Plus, knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel can help keep yourself on track.
Whether you’re teetering on the edge of burnout or already in the thick of it, remember that you have agency, and it’s never too late to recover. Being too hard on yourself only exacerbates burnout, so rather than judging yourself, praise yourself for all that you have accomplished, and keep moving forward at your own pace.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.