The harsh realities of burnout culture

As I open the 47th window on my computer and prepare myself to fill this blank document with thoughts, opinions and rhetoric I hope you’ll find interesting, to my surprise, my computer shuts down.

A black screen is a daunting thing to see when you have so much to do — 12 articles, 11 soulful yet professional cover letters, 10 tests, nine unread emails and a partridge in a pear tree.

As I trudged through the snow to use a library computer to finish my work, I couldn’t help but think that sometimes I feel like my laptop.

Yes boomers — I just said I feel like my laptop, okay?

I’m the kind of person that doesn’t do well without structure, so when my system feels like it’s about to shut down, I often excuse the emerging breakdown with phrases like, “I thrive when I’m busy,” “The more time I have, the more I waste,” “I’d be bored if I did less” or the classic, “I don’t burnout.”

Listen, no one is above burnout culture. Not Oprah, Elon Musk or even that friend that seems like they are constantly balancing a million internships and projects at once. As a research professor at the University of Houston and a recent public figure, Brené Brown says, “your body keeps score, and always wins.” Brown is alluding to the fact that we need to engage with self-reflection and self-awareness in order to live our best lives, pardon the cliche.

At this point, you might think that this is just another article telling you to slow down, smell the flowers, kiss your dog, go for a run and call your mother — in which case you are absolutely right. Telling people to slow down, live mindfully and engage with their life meaningfully is not new, but at the same time should constantly be part of the conversation.

We are trained as students, as workers and as humans in general, that the only way we have a purpose in this confusing world is through being productive. This philosophy is ingrained in us to function in the cold, fast, capitalistic world we live in. If we are not moving forward, we are moving backwards. If our economies are not getting bigger, faster, stronger, then what’s the point? It’s important that we understand this system, to combat it.

Some public figures are restructuring their philosophy to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, has been advocating for the prioritization of sleep for a few years now. In an interview with National Geographic, she explained that we are currently in “a moment of transformation.”

“What stops people from prioritizing sleep is the fear that somehow they’re going to miss out, said Huffington. We have so many phrases that confirm that – “You snooze, you lose,” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

It’s important to remember we are doing our best. If you need to ask for an extension, miss a class, postpone an interview or what have you, don’t beat yourself up. We are all struggling to grapple with showing up for ourselves, listening to our instincts while also trying to succeed. The reality is, if you are constantly pushing yourself and spreading yourself too thin, then you won’t be able to show up the way you want to in every part of your life. You’ll be tired, you won’t be present, and even if you don’t burnout right away, it will happen.

So in the name of showing up for myself and listening to my body, I’ll end this article here. Quite like my computer, I’m shutting down — or at least on sleep mode. Goodnight. 


Photo by Britanny Clarke / Graphic @sundaeghost

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