Living in the burn-out era is not easy. Millennials and gen Z-s either overwork themselves, are exploited or just can’t cope with the transition to adult life. Burn-out is a condition that appears as a reaction to long-term stress, primarily from overworking oneself at school or in the workplace. Symptoms of burnout include psychological or physical exhaustion, feeling helpless, lacking motivation, feeling more and more demotivated and dissatisfied with one’s life.
With the risk of this article beginning to sound like the late night thoughts of a recent graduate, I will try to explain how this phenomenon feels from the inside, to get closer to it than a webmd page will. To make you understand, I will take the example of writing the present article (meta huh?). Looking at a blank page, I feel my thoracic cavity fill with heavy smoke, feeling how it solidifies, leaden. My throat tightens. When thinking of going out and meeting a friend, my inner world and inner child scream together: “stay with us, pay attention to us!” Not reaaaally wanting to do anything, not out of laziness but out of some sort of angst in the background of my being just sucking the energy out of me.
Everyone has at least one of these moments during their lives, where nothing makes sense anymore and you just wanna crawl somewhere and hibernate until it magically does. The existentialist dream of creating your own meaning is traded for the abyss. It feels like you’re at a crossroads of every single possible timeline of your life, like a die with infinite sides is rolled. Just the thought of only one of these timelines is going to unveil and all the others will be sucked in by the void paralyzes me. Going back to the blank page, it’s not writer’s block that sets off these feelings for me, but a burn out, a total eclipse of the willingness to make something out of myself and my life, just stuck in the immediate with no destination in mind.
How did this happen, you ask? Personally, for me it was a cocktail of intensively working on myself and dealing with my inner issues while being an overachiever in my academic/professional life and trying to maintain a social life. There was a lot to learn from this experience but it definitely left a heavy mark on me. People can often get burnt out from an imbalance in work responsibility and their level of fulfillment, a toxic workplace or work ethic, or even writing a dissertation. There is a particular type of burnout, the dissertation burn out, that is extremely common in people who have written one and it is very recommended to take a few months of a break after completing one’s dissertation.
Is there hope? For me, the sign that this is a temporary state and that I can get out can be found in the occasional, or to be realistic, very rare moments in which I catch glimpses of myself – when I feel like myself again and less like my body’s a weight that is dragging my weak spirit down. That happens sometimes when I get an idea for a screenplay and I jump up like a deadly current of energy courses through my synapses. When I recently got to swim in the sea and just let myself float on the water, I reached a weightlessness that inspired me to my core. It’s small, inner moments like this that help me and remind me of my ability to see such (to some) basic things as magical. For other people, depending on the severity of their burn-out, a lot more rest is needed, but all sources seem to point out the same thing: taking a break is necessary to start recovering from a burn-out. One must go through the terrifying act of stopping whatever they’re doing and whatever they’ve lost their true selves in and forcing oneself to relax. Of course, not everyone operates from the same place on the privilege scale, so sometimes, even if you might desperately need it, you can’t just stop working and go on a week-long vacation in Bora Bora. However, it’s crucial to distance yourself from what’s making you feel like this in any way and for as long as possible to be able to see things clearly.
That is because the next point is that you need to look back and assess what made you feel like this in the first place. One of the causes of burn-out is when a person’s character doesn’t match well with the demands of their job. So a person who is well-suited for the job may be able to take on a lot more and not get burnt out than a person who’s traits and values do not align with the job environment and culture.  Of course, there are many other ways you may have gotten burnt out, and if one doesn’t address these issues and tries to adjust their lifestyle, they may get stuck in a chronic burn-out cycle, which is no fun at all.
What can taking a break look like? For me, a break means several things. First, it means taking a distance from academia, as my brain is currently overloaded with literary theory that makes my critical skills skyrocket (not a very good thing for an overthinker). More than that, taking a distance might help in figuring out a more specific path I would like to follow after my Bachelor’s, now being lost in all the exciting things I could do with my degree while not having the energy to even think about making a decision. Secondly, it means taking a break from Writer’s Block, as much as I love writing and working for the magazine.
I’ve realized that when you’re doing something you love professionally and start getting burnt out it can have the heartbreaking effect of getting distanced from that passion and entering a sort of autopilot mode. When it comes to WB, while I’ve loved my time working for this lovely magazine and leaving makes me sad, it’s time to take a break from it and let fresh, motivated talents take over and use their vision to make WB flourish.
Apart from the elements I will take a break from in my life, I plan on using the glimpses I see of my real self to spark bigger and bigger fires. Intuitively following whatever makes me feel inspired as I crawl out of this seems like the right path. So I’m leaving you, dear reader, wishing you infinite glimpses of your best life and in the right hands!