Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiasts 4:9-12
This topic is in my wheelhouse – I experienced Burnout – not once, but twice. I have seen the movie and got the T-shirt, which made me interested in why this was something affecting Gen Z.
I wrote materials on Burnout which I hand out to those that I come in meet who are experiencing symptoms of burnout. My return to normalcy was aided by friends and family who surrounded me and loved me when I hit the wall.
While I know that Burnout is not limited to any particular age group, the fact that the next generation, and Gen Z in particular, is a targeted demographic should not have surprised me.
I should have connected the dots better. Given their high levels of anxiety, isolation and depression, the next generation is in the bulls eye for burnout. They are stressed out about everything, even things they shouldn’t be.
While burnout has been viewed as being a millennial phenomenon, it is now an epidemic in Gen Z. They are “on track to be the most stressed-out generation” according to the American Psychological Association.
Burnout is insidious and misunderstood. Even so, it’s hard to imagine what stresses could impact a demographic group who are all under the age of 22.
So what’s going on? Stress is not new – it is universal and timeless, but Gen Z faces some “unique challenges” similar to millennials who suffer work-disrupting anxiety at twice the average rate of adults.
Those challenges include constantly changing political and economic climates, 24/7 access to social media which fuels social pressures and competition and leads to isolation. Add to those a focus on personal achievement both academically and professionally.
All of these occur at a developmentally vulnerable time. They don’t have the proper social, emotional and interpersonal supports to help navigate the through the thicket.
Having friends on Facebook is not the same as having a real friend to help you cope with life. In fact, the lack of confiding relationships increases the risk of depression (or worse).
A stress inventory test that I have in my materials assigns “point values” to events of life – things like death of a spouse, divorce, financial changes, moving to a new location, or even taking out a loan. It’s called the Holmes-Rhae test – there is now one for non-adults.
Almost all of the events in the inventory are not within the control of the person being tested. A cumulative score of 300 points in a year puts one in the red zone with a high likelihood for some illness or burnout.
One needs to look for other symptoms too. Things like “errand paralysis” where small tasks get put on the back burner for no reason.
Postponing mailing a letter or registering to vote, or just feeling paralyzed doing particular tasks. One Gen Xer described it as feeling like they had a straitjacket on all the time.
For me, one symptom was the inability to focus on certain activities, even though I was able to maintain focus in other areas. I functioned well professionally. But if you asked me about going to dinner next Friday, and I literally couldn’t respond.
For the record, this is a warning sign – a red flag. It is actually a chemical issue where your body’s defenses prevent your synapses from working as a protective mechanism because you are in overload.
Anthony Rostain, MD notes, “Today’s world may be a more competitive and less forgiving place, but when that assessment yields a constricted definition of personal success, it fans the flames of destructive perfectionism.”
Rostain goes on to provide an antidote for parents and mentors alike. It involves helping young people acquire the skills to avoid obstacles and manage stress in a healthy way.
One of my antidotes includes building “margin” into your life by finding healthy ways to unwind. Exercising more, for example, is a natural antidote to stress. In my materials, I suggest “fishing without bait” or “running without keeping time”.
Sometimes competing is counterproductive particularly if you are stressed out in other parts of your life.
The challenge is to help the next generation and especially Gen Z develop real friendships and develop “grit” in order to cope with a changing world. Grit is the sine qua non of success. It is the ability to maintain motivation and persist in spite of hardships, anxiety and stress.
Grit isn’t just manufactured out of thin air. It often requires friends to come alongside when things get tough. Close friends are an invaluable source for maintaining a healthy mental outlook when adversity strikes.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Spending time with a member of Gen Z can be instrumental in helping them keep a healthy perspective on life and building “margin” if they don’t have it.
FURTHER RESEARCH: How Gen Z Can Swap Burnout for Breakthroughs, Penn Medicine News
Holmes-Rhae test for Gen Z A helpful inventory.
Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression Faith Magazine
WORSHIP: Listen to Lord I Need You – Passion
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