If you’re a millennial and you’ve been on the internet in the past few months, there’s a 99% chance you’ve heard the term “millennial burnout.” It’s something that’s resonated with all of us — feeling like we’ve been groomed to be efficient, perfect, high-achieving robots has left us deprioritizing our basic needs and wellbeing — even our dry cleaning.
I’m definitely in that category, too — and I burned out. I burned out, hard. So much so that my physical and mental health took a swan dive into a little land known as rock bottom, and after several emergency room and urgent care visits, invasive procedures with befuddled doctors, and a handful of dissociative panic attacks, I hit the emergency brake on my life.
Stress had finally claimed me. Gretchen Weiners had cracked. I had to Irish exit my job and city and escape to a tech-free staycation with family in southern California. My body and my brain both were tapped, and couldn’t take anything more.
I’m happy to say that a full 365 days later, I’m a new person. Do I still have daily stressors and a hectic work life? Yep! Am I breaking down into a pit of psychological despair, constantly compromised by the deathly-grip of influenza? Heck no! Today, I am happier, healthier, and more calm than I’ve been in probably a decade. I haven’t been sick in a year (knock on all the wood known to man). I haven’t had to take prescription anxiety medication since I took this break (!!) and I’m in the best headspace possible. Particularly with the kind of work and schedule I have.
When I started doing these seven things (ahead), healing began. Choose a mix, try them all, or pick one! I personally believe that they all work most synergistically together. Think of it like a recipe for a perfect cookie . . . or at least a happier, less stressful life.
My Top Things To Help Reduce Stress
- Ask for help. As someone who prides themself on self-sufficiency, asking for help and admitting vulnerability was one of the most challenging pieces in this puzzle. However, once I did, it was all up from there. Sometimes, you have to rip the bandaid off and admit to yourself that you’re a human. As a millennial, this can be more challenging than it should be. Part of my asking for help: taking a solid, uninterrupted break in which I could truly focus on healing.
- Find your team. For me, my team began with a killer psychiatrist (big ups to that man, he’s my #1). It also included my family, a couple best friends as my outlet, a great primary care doctor, a massage therapist, and a dog (onto that point momentarily). Find the people who can support you physically, emotionally, psychologically, and professionally while you heal.
- Get a furry friend. I know there’s a lot of crap around emotional support animals and the abuse of this system. But in this case, I legitimately needed an emotional support/therapy animal. My psychiatrist agreed. Today, I have an 11-month-old, ivory-coated golden retriever named Stella. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. She constantly helps me stay centered and positive, and forces me to get some fresh air and sunshine a few times a day.
- Reconfigure your diet. “Don’t take a dump in the temple,” my psychiatrist (who apparently has no filter) told me one afternoon. As a health and wellness professional, I’m typically eating well, but I knew I’d have to be more diligent to manage my stress levels. Foods high in omega-3s and magnesium are excellent for brain health and stress relief. Try oatmeal with chia seeds, bananas and dark chocolate, and salmon or fatty fish to feed your mind. At this juncture in my journey, I also signed up for Sakara meals. This helped me eat more plant-based foods — which helped significantly writing papers as well.
- Use natural stress-managers. In my case, this was obviously CBD. I used CBD in lieu of Ativan (after my doctor said I could stop taking Ativan). CBD was truly the crutch I needed for many, many months until I got back on my feet emotionally. You can use many types CBD including CBD Tinctures and CBD Vape Oil or the whole cannabis plant, depending on your needs and where you live.
- Focus on sleep. Aside from my psychiatrist, sleep is my #1. If I don’t get a minimum of eight hours, my brain and body lose function. This was tantamount to my successful recovery — get some zzzs!
- Switch to low-impact exercise. I didn’t realize how much HIIT workouts spiked my cortisol, sending my body and brain into a legitimate fight-or-flight state. Not only was I not getting the stress-relieving effects of exercise, but I was making it worse. My constant SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp routine didn’t give my body adequate rest or a respite for the stress hormones. Now, I do limited SoulCycle (it’s still my favorite). I’ve added tons of low-impact Pilates, and I swapped running for walking to keep my body active without spiking unwanted cortisol.