Millennial Burnout Is Real. The Question Is: Do You Have It?

We want to do it all—but what happens if doing it all drives us to a place where we can't get anything done?

Millennials are not invincible—but we love to tell ourselves we are. I recall multiple occasions when concerned friends and family members warned me, "Careful you don't burn out!" And I recall as many occasions when I just shrugged it off before heading to my next commitment.

For most millennials, it starts in high school when you’re expected to take on countless extracurriculars. College is no breeze, but you get through it with the grades your parents expect and with a smattering of internships you somehow tuck between classes. Your friends are right there with you, juggling it all and joking that “overworked” is the new “normal.”

But then there’s adulthood.

I dove head-first into my first job while handling two apartment moves, a hectic social life, and then—because I wasn’t stressed enough—I took on additional volunteer work. My high school and college self could handle juggling, but I quickly realized I hadn’t accounted for the real world pressures of independence and a competitive work environment.

The trouble with burnout is that it strikes when you least expect it. You're overworked, overstimulated, and striving for excellence in a world that sets the bar high. And as a millennial, you’re setting your own bar even higher.

The trouble with burnout is that it strikes when you least expect it.

We know ourselves better than anyone, yet we internalize societal pressures and put aside our needs. We want to strengthen our personal brand, maintain an active social life, all while striving for that sweet work-life balance—when balance means we just sort of never stop working.

We. Are. Tired.

And who can blame us? Fortunately, though, we can change that. Here are signs you’re nearing burnout and some ways to stop it before it happens.

SIGN 1: Someone asks what’s most important in your life and your answer is ‘everything.’

We want to do it all. But what happens if doing it all means sacrificing healthy sleeping and eating habits? Not worth it.

You know the word “prioritize,” but a lot of millennials struggle with the concept. There's so much to do, and in the Digital Age, it feels like everything needs to be done immediately. Ever have someone give you a hard time about not texting them back immediately? I hate to break it to you, but you can’t do it all at the same time. You’ll burn yourself out, guaranteed.


I say it's time to cut some of the dead weight. Start by taking a look at your schedule for the next week. Is there anything you'll be doing that fills you with dread? See if there's a way to maneuver yourself out of it. Our entrepreneurial tendencies mean we often say “yes” to every opportunity. But people will be supportive of your need to take a step back. Be honest about your concerns, say no, then stick to it.

Next, try making a to-do list. It may seem archaic, but listing out what needs to be done per day and then checking those items off your list can give you a great sense of accomplishment. It will also allow you to visualize what’s most important and what can be left for another day. 

SIGN 2: You panic if you leave your iPhone (and thus instagram) at home

As millennials, we've been raised with limitless information and countless ways to communicate. We’re encouraged to build our identities on social media, reinforcing our public image with well-edited photos of party going and staged selfies. That’s a lot of pressure, and it’s time consuming. Suddenly, the need to share means we’re permanently plugged into our devices.


Remember that you exist in the present and that person is enough. If your work life isn’t contingent on your social presence (meaning you’re not working as a social media marketer), reevaluate your participation on social platforms.

How often are you pulling up Twitter or Instagram to share? Try actually counting how many times a day you open the app. The results might be staggering, but you’ll have to face your problem honestly.

That time can be better spent sleeping, cooking healthy meals, or exercising. Yes, these options may initially seem less appealing (thanks to social media, too many of us have no sense of how to be alone), but they can drastically improve your overall health and energy levels.

  • Put your phone in another room before you go to bed so you won’t be tempted to check it in the middle of the night or immediately when you wake up.

  • Consider committing to only checking Instagram (or Twitter or Facebook) once a day.

  • Disable your push notifications. They’re both tempting and distracting. You’ll be more productive without them.

  • The next time you plan a fun activity or take a trip, commit to not photographing it. Instead, just focus on enjoying it.

SIGN 3: You know your body needs a quiet night in, but when friends text, you wind up going for yet another night out. that’s five days in a row.

This may seem like an obvious point, but we often forget to take care of ourselves. We get a text from a friend asking to meet for dinner as the workday comes to an end. Instead of heading home to get an early night’s rest, we talk ourselves into meeting for happy hour and feel pressured into the next bar or restaurant down the street.


It’s difficult to tell your friend no because you want to sleep. Chances are, they’ll put on the pressure and make a few jokes at your expense. But that extra time for self-care is crucial to avoid burnout. You will miss many more happy hours if you’re completely exhausted, depressed, stressed, or even physically ill. As hard as it may be to make time for it, self-care is crucial.

  • If you’re like most millennials, you may need to actually schedule your nights in so you don’t make plans on top of them. Put them on your calendar and stick to them.

  • Consider limiting drinking to weekends. Late nights are exhausting, but you’ll only feel more run-down if you’re dehydrated and hungover.

  • For the friends who tend to pressure, make advanced plans and offer them the specific days you’re available. Then they won’t expect you to text on the nights you’re not.

  • Single? Delete your dating apps. If you’re feeling frantic and exhausted, you’re not going to be your interesting self anyway. Make your self-care your priority until things calm down. Trust us, Tinder will be there when you get back.

Whether you’re on the cusp or already drowning in a pool of burnout, it’s never too late to take your life into your hands. Reflect on how you got to where you are, cut yourself some slack, then use our tips to get back on track. As millennials, we hate the thought but: sometimes we need to take a step back to move forward.

Do you think millennial burnout is a real thing? Why or why not? Chime in below. 

An original version of this article appeared on Career Contessa.