burnout /ˈbərnˌout/, n.

I’m one of the few people I know—in real life—who actually uses their Twitter in some productive fashion.

It’s where I keep up with a handful of my honors thesis classmates as they embark on their careers to actually change the world; and it’s where I find the Asian American creative community, as well as writers and journalists of color whose work I discovered through the other creatives I follow.

This is where I first found this Buzzfeed article: “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.”

The tweet where I initially found this article had included a warning about the piece being a half-hour read, so I sent the article link to myself, with the full intent of coming back to read it later.

Four days passed. Then I start seeing this article shared on at least six of my friends’ Facebook pages (where activity has dwindled dramatically over the past year), and even more widely across Twitter.

It’s about time I read it, I surmised, so I laid on the floor with my phone and began to read.


If I wanted to fully embody my millennial status, I’d say, “I’m triggered.” In laypeople’s terms, that article hit home—as it did with many of my other millennial friends.

Here are two key takeaways for you who don’t want to spend 30 minutes reading:

“The exhaustion experienced in burnout combines an intense yearning for this state of completion with the tormenting sense that it cannot be attained, that there is always some demand or anxiety or distraction which can’t be silenced,” Josh Cohen, a psychoanalyst specializing in burnout, writes. “You feel burnout when you’ve exhausted all your internal resources, yet cannot free yourself of the nervous compulsion to go on regardless.”

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, Anne Helen Petersen

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, Anne Helen Petersen

In short, millennials have exhausted ourselves by working toward accomplishments and ends that we believed were “ideals” in some way. Yet even when we feel we don’t have the energy to continue, we have been conditioned to believe that we must.

Many friends and I all found comfort in the fact that our perceived lonely struggles weren’t quite as lonely as we’d once thought.

But in the days have worn on since my friends and I discussed this article, I’ve found myself struggling with a the same note that the author ends on: “I don’t have a plan of action, other than to be more honest with myself about what I am and am not doing and why, and to try to disentangle myself from the idea that everything good is bad and everything bad is good.”

I’ve been setting more reminders on my phone to actually complete my medium-priority errands. I make more lists than I already did, because they calm me, and I’ve decided to not watch Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show about tidying up because I know it will only make me stressed about the clutter in my life and the priorities that come before reorganizing my room.

In doing all of this, I feel accomplished and satisfied knowing that I’m actually taking care of myself—but the strength of this sentiment wavers in the face of everyone’s carefully curated Instagram stories and posts.


Among my friends, we remind each other to take care of ourselves, to prioritize our well-being. But when we see everyone repeating their same old patterns, we find ourselves falling back into old habits for fear of falling behind or missing out, and end up slipping back to square one: burnout.

I’m be curious to know how others are approaching this struggle, and what they’re doing to address their burnout. I’ve still only seen folks sharing this article with resignation or responding with commiseration, so I’m determined to somehow break this pattern.

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