Burnout is real, and it’s affecting people younger and faster

Some experts link medical conditions like depression to burnout, and it’s on the rise.

Mental-health-OWN-actors
(Left) William Bryant Jr., actor on OWN Network’s “Greenleaf,” and Timon Kyle Durrett, producer/actor on OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” spoke about burnout and reducing the stigma of mental illness at an event on Nov. 14 hosted by Dr. Lakeisha Legree of Elev8 Wellness Center. “Do that thing that lifts you up and makes you feel good. The thing that wakes you up. That’s the thing that gives you balance and makes you live,” Durrett said. Photo: Jon Strayhorn | Media Arts Collective

Until recently, openly talking about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues was taboo. Now, hashtags like #YouGoodMan and #YouOkSis are highlighting shared experiences of African Americans managing mental health issues.

While mental health disorders can affect people of any age, major depression diagnoses are increasing faster in teens and millennials than in any other age group. The pressure to do it all and have it all has led some to call millennials, adults between 22 and 38, The Burnout Generation.

Burnout is often an overlapping result of depression and anxiety. Job burnout, in particular, can affect your physical and mental health.

More than a bad day at work

Although burnout isn’t a diagnosis, the World Health Organization has defined burnout as a job-related medical syndrome characterized by

  • mental and physical exhaustion;
  • lingering negative feelings related to work; and
  • reduced job performance.

Jessica Jones, a 28-year-old middle school teacher, said she struggled to get up and go to work because she was burned out. Tension headaches were the first physical signs.

“I literally would sit in the parking lot of my school and have to talk myself into opening the door of the car and walk to the building,” said Jones, who has been teaching for six years. “I knew if I could at least make those motions, I could put on my face and get through the rest of the day.”

Jessica-Jones-burnout
Jessica Jones, 28, says she struggled to get up and go to work as a result of burnout. She reached out to a therapist to find the source of her struggles and how to overcome them. Photo courtesy of Jessica Jones

She remembered one day after doing her usual routine bursting into tears in front of her students. A colleague told her to call the office and tell them she had to leave.

“I went home and started looking for a therapist,” she said.

Turning to therapy

We often see memes on social media suggesting more coffee or weeklong tropical vacations to “cure” burnout, but more people, like Jones, are turning to therapy as a solution.

Jones’ therapist led her through a type of psychotherapy called action therapy. According to the American Psychological Association, action therapy, or action-oriented therapy, emphasizes taking action rather than verbal communication or discussion.

It was helpful in a time when Jones felt like she was drowning in all aspects of her life. She’s been in therapy for a year and has learned techniques to help find the sources of her anxiety and created action plans to overcome them.

Most notably, Jones recognized that she didn’t have boundaries when it came to her job. Her work-life imbalance included checking emails 24/7 and working while on vacation. Work spilled into every part of her life, and it spiraled into depression.

Part of her action plan included deactivating work email notifications during off-hours and using her sick days.

“Our minds, bodies [and] souls need time to recharge,” she said.

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Photo via Unsplash

Frederick Murphy, a local licensed counselor, suggests people immerse themselves in activities outside of work like exercise, spontaneous travel or meditation.

“Human beings should not deem themselves as monolithic. We are not here to just work and then die. We should seek intentional evolution and hold multiple positions at work and individually,” he said.


Nakisha Washington is a journalist who interviewed America’s first self-made female billionaire, a presidential candidate and her favorite reality TV personality all within 72 hours. Catch her talking career and lifestyle tips to curious millennials on her blogtheprofashionalist.com.

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