Why Millennial women are burning out by 30

By Vanessa Brown

Is burn out because Gen Y are lazy or lack the drive to work? Or does it come down to unrealistic expectations, and that the idea of "switching off"' no longer exists. Photo / Getty
Is burn out because Gen Y are lazy or lack the drive to work? Or does it come down to unrealistic expectations, and that the idea of "switching off"' no longer exists. Photo / Getty

When Emma Walker was just 28-years-old and in the booming years of her career, her "do-it-all" attitude failed the ambitious businesswoman, and led to a condition that has become all too familiar in the working world today.

"When I first arrived in Australia, my boyfriend got diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma," she said.

"We moved back to our hometown in Wales for his treatment, and about eight months later we moved back to Sydney."

With the drama of her boyfriend's cancer behind the young couple, it was time for Emma to re-enter the workforce and focus on a career in exhibition co-ordination.

"I got a job as the National Events Coordinator at a company which ran exhibitions right across Australia," she said.

"It was a very small team, which meant we didn't have many resources and so all my effort was going into work.

"I did all the events, which were every six weeks and would vary from 1500 - 15,000 attendees which I had to manage.

"By the end of 2015, I had a lot of stress and a lot pressure and that's when it all came tumbling down."

Emma's workload, paired with her social diary and refusing to switch off out-of-hours led to a complete "burnout" before she hit 30.

"I started to get really severe headaches and I was crashing at 2pm every day," Ms Walker said.

"I had to take a whole week off work and stay indoors because the pain from the headaches was so bad.

"Eventually, I went to the doctors and they did various tests, including a CAT scan. I saw a specialist who said I had severe tension headaches.

"Then, I was diagnosed with IBS and the doctor said it was all related to stress. I was burning out."

Emma's condition is becoming a "serious problem" for women in the working world.
More are leaving their jobs over their male counterparts, and it's all because they insist on burning the candle at both ends.

The Millennial Meltdown

Dubbed the Millenial Meltdown - it's a very easy trap to fall into, according to psychologist Meredith Fuller.

"The mentality of doing everything, working on everything and doing it all right now is why so many women are crashing so early into their careers," Mrs Fuller, who is also the author of Working With B*tches, told news.com.au.

"Women want it all. They are getting up at 4am to go to the gym, running home to get ready for work, then try and be the first at their desk in the morning, and the last to leave in the afternoon.

"People are so scared of missing out on opportunity, with the workplace being so competitive, it's not OK to say you're tired anymore.

"So as a consequence, our bodies try and tell us that we are doing too much, and when we don't listen, that's when they shut down."

Mrs Fuller, who has been a practising psychologist for over 35 years, said her clients between 25 - 35 are "absolutely on the increase", and it's all because women have "a real problem with being ordinary" and just taking a break.

"The world is changing faster than we are," she said.

"Women want to do interesting work and make a difference and achieve, and to do that they put themselves under unrealistic pressure to be on top of things.
"Realistically, our bodies need 3 - 4 weeks a year of total rest, but no one is relaxed enough to do that. So we take quick holidays instead, because we are too frightened to stop."

That "do-it-all" attitude

One of the biggest contributors to burning out is the concept of the "do-it-all" attitude - where women are pressured to juggle careers, parenting and taking care of ageing parents all at once.

While over two in five working Australians rated issues in the workplace as a source of stress, women were significantly more likely than men to be concerned about more sources of stress in their lifetime - including financial issues, family and relational issues, health issues and workplace stress.

"The biggest physical problems I see in women is digestive problems, chron's disease, IBS, allergies, headaches, neck problems and debilitating back pain," Mrs Fuller said.

"I've also seen young women come in with osteperosis before 30, anaemia and fatigue which all contribute to your capacity to keep going.

"Depression and anxiety is another big problem, which says a lot about why so many young people are taking medication."

For Emma, the other symptoms of her burnout meant she didn't want to do anything outside work hours, and found her first proper year living in Australia became "a total blur" and a waste of time.

"I started to see the person I was becoming," she said.

"I decided to change myself and move in to starting my own business and work my own hours and manage my own pressures."

While Emma is now running her own small business, called "She Went Wild", she believes the burnout will continue happening in other women until they learn to check out, and switch off.

"It's 100 per cent becoming a big problem for women, because there's such pressure of having to try and do everything all the time," she said.

"You have the pressure of having a good job, an impressive career after university, then it really starts to kick off when you have children."

Never switching off

While some believe the burn out is because Gen Y are lazy or lack the drive to work, Mrs Fuller blames the problem on todays unrealistic expectations, and that the idea of "switching off" no longer exists.

"Men find it much easier to say no or decline jobs, whereas women want to be the best so their way of doing that is to take on everything," she said.

"Women continue to feel guilty if they take an afternoon off, or pop outside for lunch. People are far too impatient, and get annoyed if an email hasn't been replied to within a few hours.

"Sadly, women feel they're expected to be there, switched on to work all the time. It's got to a point where you can't even eat your own dinner anymore!"

"You cant really get away from your phone," Emma agreed.

"Emails are able to be accessed all the time, and you are under pressure to get back to a sender within 24 hours.

"There's just no switching off after 5pm anymore. Today, we are always expected to be up to date and on the ball with everything.

"The consequence is being left behind, which just isn't worth it."

- news.com.au

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