I remember it distinctly; I was at the end of year 11 and about to go into my final year of high school when I knew something was wrong. I was unsure if I could go on and finish school after what I had just been through, so dropping out then and there seemed inevitable. However, I have always been one of those people who doesn’t quit very easily, so I persevered and got through year 12 to the best of my ability. Yet it worried me that the whole time, so many people my age were sick and exhausted with illnesses such as chronic fatigue, anorexia, depression, allergies, coeliac disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.Welcome to The Burnout Generation!
I went to a co-ed grammar school where there was so much opportunity and so many exciting options, but at the same time there was an extensive amount of pressure to do everything offered. Whatever we chose, we were encouraged to fill our timetables with everything from co-curricular activities, compulsory sport, musicals, sports days and house music. As well as extra study sessions, essays, public speaking, band rehearsals, holiday homework, exams, reading books and early morning leadership meetings. Then, all day classes, more sport and homework which really meant ‘cramming’ or an ‘all-nighter’ for many students because they just physically didn’t have the time. Then there was social media and sneaky phones in the classroom – I remember. It was, and still is, all very fast paced indeed, and I wonder whether this is preparing students for an enriched life or a fast-paced sick life?
There was pressure to get the right ENTER score, to get into university/college; which will get you a job to earn money and allow you to get into the housing market to get the house of your dreams. But most of your days will be spent away from that dream home because you’re at work.
The other day I was talking to a teacher at my yoga studio, and she said: “the whole point of school is to teach you application, to teach you how to learn something, the whole process of learning how to learn and study”. I agree with this statement as being at the heart of education.
The current school environment gives students the false belief that if you are not busy all the time, you are not being productive, which is entirely a myth. In fact, you can be so busy you end up not being productive at all because you’re in a permanent state of divided attention. It’s very simple: humans are not machines. Many students today are sick and exhausted – they are simply doing too much, and the added pressure from the school environment does not help. It is one thing to be successful at school, and you know what they say, always give a job to a busy person – but I think we need to redefine what busy is; because currently, if you look around at young students in school and university – busy means burnt-out.
Schools should also implement meditation, as it is a proven tool that increases productivity. Many people report that taking 30 minutes out of their day to centre themselves allows them to have immense clarity and therefore be more productive. You might believe that meditation will make you so relaxed or distracted that you won’t be productive. I invite you to abolish any of these archaic beliefs surrounding meditation and mindfulness.
My experience is not unique. According to the 2015 Future Leaders Index commissioned by university campus retailer Co-op and accountancy firm BDO, 49 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds report feeling stressed much of the time. And results from the Australian Psychology Society’s Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015 revealed young adults continue to report higher levels of stress and distress than older Australians.
So what is fuelling high rates of stress and distress among Generation Y?
There are many reasons, such as financial pressure brought on by tough job and housing markets, writes Jennifer Rayner in ‘Generation Less: How Australia is Cheating the Young’.
As a young person, I agree that the housing and job marketplace can put significant pressure on young people if they buy into it and fall for the pressure; also the burden of student loans for higher level education can be like running around wearing a 10-kilogram backpack, not fun. However, the biggest beast negatively affecting their health and wellbeing is young people’s heavy use of technology, particularly social media. Whether it is crossing the road, sitting at a bus stop, or having push notifications sent to your phone 24/7 and replying to messages on instant, our heads are down staring at a screen., The result of this is that we’re constantly switched on and feeling wired and then, wait for it… we get ‘text neck’!
The Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey 2015 found one in three heavy users of social media – those connecting more than five times a day – find it difficult to sleep or relax when they disconnect.
Many feel that their brain is ‘burnt out’ with the constant connection of social media. A big part of this is FOMO – ‘fear of missing out’ on new reports, posts and updates from friends and peers. We have the luxury now to see so much of other people’s world that we feel like we always have to keep up. However, there is a growing movement called JOMO – ‘joy of missing out’ which promotes a healthier relationship with technology. JOMO encourages people to unplug from technology in favour of ‘real world’ experiences such as reading, cooking, exercising and being in nature.
The 2015 Future Leaders Index found 77 percent of 18-29-year-olds’ personal and social lives suffer when life gets too busy; interestingly, 61 percent feel stressed if they’re not busy. In essence, we have created a modern-day-virtue of being busy and that we think it signifies success and productivity. But we need to take a look at what we are ‘busy’ doing all day every day. To successfully manage our health and wellbeing, it is important we drop these unrealistic expectations of ourselves and acknowledge that we’re only human.
I know for a fact that many students today do not feel empowered to speak up about this issue as they feel like they have no choice and are not entitled to ask for anything more. I fell into that trap when I was at school and didn’t want to complain as I was afraid people might think I was arrogant and that they were going to look at me and say ‘there are bigger problems in the world’. Yes, maybe the representation of the burnout generation is not the most pressing issue in our world, but it is part of a wider pool of oppression. It is a trickle-down effect from a systemic and structural issue that actually betrays all of us whether you are a young person or even a parent of youth. The truth is the burnout generation is a catapulting link to the rise of the autoimmune epidemic in young people. We need to understand that the consequences of burning out our young generation are not fair and just.
Schools want their students to be smart and get brilliant grades, which all in all make the school look good. Students cannot function while being chronically sick and exhausted. To address the current burnout epidemic, schools, universities and colleges around the world need to address the fundamental principles of my Super Life Formula.
SUPER FOOD: The school canteen needs to supply high quality freshly cooked delicious organic meals that will nurture kids’ guts and brains so that they have the energy and stamina to absorb the education and get through the hectic school timetable.
SUPER GUT: They need to teach in health class that a good gut garden (microbiome) is crucial for optimum health and a healthy brain as the gut produces more neurotransmitters than the brain.
SUPER EMOTIONS: They need to encourage real down time and switch off mode. Should we be rethinking holiday homework? Perhaps so.
This, I believe, is the future of education and a healthy relationship with social media as well as keeping our young people healthy for a better community and creating a thriving world.
Can you relate to the burnout generation? Have you seen this happen to anyone in Generation Y? I would love to hear your stories about this unspoken issue so please post in the comments section below.
Peace, Love, Health
DISCLAIMER: The information included on this page is for educational purposes only, and is based on the author’s own personal journey and experiences. It is not intended, or implied, to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease or illness. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information in this blog or website does not create a physician-patient relationship.
GAPS™ AND GUT AND PSYCHOLOGY SYNDROME™ ARE THE TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT OF DR. NATASHA CAMPBELL-MCBRIDE. THE RIGHT OF DR. NATASHA CAMPBELL-MCBRIDE TO BE IDENTIFIED AS THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK HAS BEEN ASSERTED BY HER IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE COPYRIGHT, PATENT AND DESIGNS ACT 1988 OR ANY OTHER LAW.