The Millennial generation in 2019 is burning out. Through a lethal combination of social pressure, economic worry and age-led expectation, young people are redefining the very term ‘exhausted.’
We work jobs, side jobs and part-time jobs. We curate our digital businesses at 2am before getting up early for a sunrise Instagram shoot. We don’t go out partying because every penny we have goes into ISAs and household maintenance. We’re too busy forking out for therapists and medication to buy luxury items and expensives holidays. Our minds have been re-wired to punish ourselves for any attempt at relaxation, demonising ‘procrastination’ to the point of self-abuse.
Although many of the mind-frying activities we partake in are renamed and rebranded as trendy, empowering movements, the ‘side-hustle’, ‘daily grind’ and ‘getting that coin’ are ultimately making us anxious.
So how do we counter-balance this? We can’t simply ‘switch off’ because, well, bills need to get paid. If we stop working, we don’t have income. If we quit one of our side jobs, we lose our savings fund. If we give up our digital empire, we sacrifice our disposable income. Yet we’re expected to indulge in pricey ‘self-care’ and timely ‘mindfulness’?
Taking Baby Steps
Sadly, for most of todays young people, productivity is a core emotion, outweighing everything else. Our screens are overwhelmed with new ways to be more productive, more efficient, work hard, influence more people and exhaustion is a fashion statement.
Learning to change this mindset needs to come in baby steps – starting with sleep. Small changes to your sleep space can help you to relax and organise your work and chill zones throughout the home. Charging your phone in a different room, making sure that all notebooks are closed and out of sight before you go to sleep, low light laptops and setting yourself ‘working hours’ can make a difference to how you view your schedule.
Other small steps to help your mind to relax when you’re overworked is short, 5 minute meditation slots. In our world of instant gratitude, 5 minutes shouldn’t seem that costly, yet it is. Time is a strange concept to a millennial with every second not hustling a second wasted. But forcing yourself to take 5 minute meditation breaks daily really won’t cut into your schedule that much – use Youtube guided meditation sessions to help you get started if you need to. Learning to shut down your thoughts for a few minutes and refresh your mind can be really beneficial to both your mental health and your overall productivity.
Learning to change your viewpoint on ‘leisure activities’ can be a really tough exercise. With almost every thought in your head telling you to stop wasting time, stop messing around and to stop being lazy, giving yourself a break is always on to bottom of your to-do list.
It can feel like you become your own punchbag at times – an instinctive negative reaction each time you get distracted or spend the afternoon watching a movie rather than working. So instead, why not try rewarding yourself for taking short relaxing breaks? Swapping out those aggressive punishing thoughts for ‘wow I actually feel relaxed right now, good for me’ and ‘hmm I think I deserve to read a couple of chapters of my book’. Although simply ‘not working’ shouldn’t be seen as a treat, for millennials it’s a good start.
But another way to rephrase your own thoughts is to really picture the person you’re saying them to. Separate the thought from yourself and attach it to someone you care about – your boyfriend, best friend, mum or dad. If they’ve worked hard all day and come home and put their feet up for a while, how likely are you to stand there and yell ‘why aren’t you being productive right now?!’ in their face?
So why do it to yourself? Why not change that negative ‘un-‘ prefix to a cute, sexy prefix instead. Make ‘unproductive’ your new favourite word, rather than your biggest fear.
The 50/50 method
If you’re still looking for more ways to relax, or at least to add a bit more ‘chill’ into your week, let’s try the 50/50 method. This allows for an equally split balance between working hard and relaxation activities simultaneously.
Say, for example, you’re writing an essay or a blog post. Why not stick a calming playlist and a face mask on whilst working on it? Or stick your feet in a relaxing footbath whilst planning your next project? If you’re really strapped for time, you could even try making a series of voice notes whilst doing some yoga stretches, helping your mind to keep working while your body relaxes.
Self care and relaxation can take up a lot of time. One hour therapy sessions, relaxation courses, mindfulness practices, meditation and yoga classes…so if you truly find that you can’t make the time, make use of the space you do have to squeeze just a few relaxing elements into your normal routine.
Tiny Wellness Touches
Relaxation and self-kindness don’t just have to happen inside your head. Adding tiny wellness touches to your schedule can help your body feel better, helping you to cope with the stresses of your hectic lifestyle.
Drinking more water, opting for adding more veggies to your meals, taking healthy multi-vitamins, small, quick exercise activities and a regular skincare routine can make your body feel refreshed and ready for the working day.
Most people know that stress is now considered a mental illness. It can form a dangerous combination of depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis if left untreated. It escalates and can overpower people, causing them to lose focus, make mistakes and end up producing worse work than ever.
We care so much about our working lives that we shouldn’t be jepordizing them with stressful habits. So take the time to be a little unproductive once in a while. It’s the new healthy!