After listening to several podcasts, I wanted to write a little more about my burn out, because I have the feeling there is still an information gap for young people like me.
How to balance in times of turbulence
When I was a teenager my mom had a burn out. She works as a teacher and sadly the burn out rate for teachers in the Netherlands is 18%, so it was just a matter of time when she got one. I do not remember this time quite good, but I know she felt sad and stressed and just overwhelmed. I knew burn outs existed, however, I always thought this was not something that would happen to me, at least not at a young age. But it was just 10 years after my mom that I was too stressed to do anything too. I remember being at my parent’s home and they asked me how I was holding up with life. In that time, university was quite hard, I was getting bad notes and besides that I had too many other activities that were just not giving me back the energy I’ve putted in to. I did a lot in many different student associations and organizations, I was working in a restaurant in the evening and I was just so tired of holding everything up. Everything was just draining me instead of energizing. So after my parents asked me how I am, I just cried. I let the tiredness kick in and I said: “I just can’t do this any longer”. I was having a constant stomach pain, only because of stress, and everyone could tell it was just too much.
That time after acknowledging that I really was burned out was hard, really hard. I could only cry and lay in bed, I already told you. How did it ever come so far? Where have I crossed my own line?
Here I want to say two things. The first thing is, society isn’t helpful either. Being burned out is not something you choose for. It’s a real illness you have to overcome. But society thinks you can just be ill one week, have some real good nights of sleep and problem solved. But the problem is not solved. Because the problem doesn’t lie in the sleep or the time to relax, it is the weight you’re carrying, because you want to fulfil all the expectations: expectations from society and expectations from yourself. And here comes the second thing I want to clear out. Growing up in this extremely fast moving world is hard, but it’s indeed you that have to create slowness for yourself. It’s okay to be you. You is good, you is perfect. You don’t have to fulfil all the expectations to be good.
And those two things are particularly hard for young adults I guess. Because you just have so much energy and you like everything and you have the feeling that energy is endless and you can always do everything. But actually you can’t. You should know that and society should know that too. Here lies the problem with young people. They are so ambitious and so motivated, that they take every opportunity, and society is an opportunity seeker as well, so will always ask more. Oh you did this? It was quite a good job and you did it quite fast, so we can ask you to do it again and maybe you can do it that fast again? And you will, because you can, you have the energy and you can do it even faster. So it’s an ever-accelerating spiral. It’s a race to the bottom, because energy isn’t endless.
And then you have your breakdown. And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is feeling like failing, like giving up, like disappointing people. Other people could do it, so why can’t you? Other people seem to have infinite energy, so where is your infinite source? And society thinks so too. If you can’t do it, we’ll ask another one. And you end up thinking the others are more successful and you’re just nothing.
How is this possible? How did it happen that depression, anxiety and burn outs are not rare under young adults anymore?
I formed a very strong opinion on this during my burn out and recovering. I think our world is very unstable nowadays. When you’re studying, you will not know what you will become. Yes there are still many studies such as medicines and teacher degrees, in which you will become what you’ve been studying for. On the other side, there are so many studies like history, art and even law, that aren’t what they used to be. You end und having a lot of knowledge and not so much practical, but either more theoretical. Besides that, is your knowledge pretty out-dated, because our times are changing so so fast, that new theories and researches are being found within just a few weeks.
And actually it’s not only in your studies; it’s everywhere. In every field times are changing so fast and in every field there is new knowledge coming up that you hardly can keep up with it. It’s almost like you have to reinvent yourself all the time.
So how do you keep up in this fast moving world?
Well I’ve definitely learnt the hard way. The first thing I have learnt is that you cannot satisfy everyone and that’s okay. Being satisfied with yourself in the most important. I also learnt that studies and graduations are important, but they’re not everything. You need it to show your ability to “learn new things”, however, you don’t per se need to put your knowledge into practice. For example, I’ve been studying European languages and cultures, but I won’t work in this field. It’s good that I have my degree, however, you just have to transform in into something else. I do something what I like now, but it has nothing to o with my studies. I educated myself in this field and that’s actually enough. The problem is, society wants you to have proof your knowledge, so that’s why you need a degree, but I truly believe, you can learn everything by yourself.
The last thing I want to mention about what I’ve learnt is to listen to your body. Saying no is really hard, I know, but when your body gives you signs, such as tiredness, a hurting stomach, sweaty hand and just a tired feeling, then it’s definitely time to take a step back. Remember, taking a step back doesn’t mean missing out on opportunities; it’s a sign of self-love. Besides that, when you’re ready, you can always take a step forward again. Just try to feel the balance.
Balance is key 🙂