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Burnout within Gen Z

Burnout is like when you're working your tentacles off at the Krusty Krab, flipping patties, taking orders from Mr. Krabs, and you're going at it non-stop, day after day, with no time to rest or have a little jellyfishing fun with your pals. Your enthusiasm gets squashed like a jellyfish under Patrick's rock, and you start feeling like Squidward on his grumpiest day. Your energy gets all drained out, just like when Plankton's tryin' to steal the secret formula for the umpteenth time. You might feel tired, and cranky, and even start questioning whether working at the Krusty Krab is worth it. So, burnout is like losing that Bikini Bottom sparkle and feeling as gloomy as a cloudy day in Goo Lagoon. It's important to take a break, catch some rays at Sandy's place, and recharge those sea sponge batteries before you end up more frazzled than Mr. Krabs countin' his money!

While burnout has been around for a long time, the presence of social media and digital connectivity hasn't. Growing up in the era of social media, Generation Z has been immersed in a digital landscape where likes, comments, and followers hold significant weight. From an early age, we have navigated the intricacies of constructing online personas and carefully curating our virtual identities. With platforms like Instagram and TikTok showcasing idealized versions of reality, Gen Z faces the challenge of distinguishing between the curated highlight reels and the messier, authentic, aspects of life. This continuous exposure to online comparison and validation-seeking can feel as relentless as Plankton's pursuit of the Krabby Patty formula. The fear of missing out (FOMO) has evolved from missing jellyfishing trips to missing out on trending memes and events. The need to maintain an online presence and constantly engage in a digital popularity contest can be as exhausting as SpongeBob's energetic antics. Navigating these pressures while forming their identities in the real world shapes Gen Z in unique ways, highlighting the significance of fostering a healthy relationship with both digital and physical environments.

That being said, I asked some fellow Gen-Z friends their thoughts about burnout and how they avoid it. Don’t burn yourself like a Krabby Patty this semester.

“Historically I’ve been a burnout expert. So much that I don’t even realize it’s happening until I’m crashing and burning. For the last six months, I’ve been making a huge effort to curb that habit. It really comes down to realizing that nothing is more important than your mental health. I realized if you don’t have that, your physical health goes too. And then you’re out everything you have. I’ve created a routine for my mornings and nights that involves stretching, meditating, lighting candles and incense; a lot of Ayurvedic practices. Mediation sounds so intimidating, but I’ve found that if I wake up and just focus on the feeling of air flowing through my nose for five minutes it makes a small but important difference. The first thing I focused on was my body, my current reality, rather than my phone which programs me to prioritize production, social value, and the future.” - Sam The Woo, Musician

“Burnout is fueled by exhaustion so I try to make sure I’m eating, sleeping, and drinking water consistently. I also try and be grateful and give myself the same grace I would give to a friend. When one of your friends comes up to you and tells you about one of their problems, the first thing in your response is “It's alright!” or “It’s not that bad!”, but it’s a lot less natural to do that with yourself - you are your biggest critic. That’s what I mean about giving grace. It's something I’m trying to be mindful of.” - Eli Alfieri, Musician

“I think COVID made people realize that there was this flame on their ass and when we turned that shit off boom you really notice the damage of it. When I was coming out of the ‘pandemmy’ I was creatively dry. Like no ideas at all. I was burnt out. And it wasn’t until I found something that gave me back my passion that I was able to burn brighter again.” - Ashvin Kapoor, Comedian

“I try to avoid it by just making sure I’m keeping track of future Ashvin. How will this affect the future of Ashvin? Sure I can grind for 3 weeks straight and put up the Ashvin Show Live Live but if I’m going blind right after it from all the tension releasing was it worth it? (That actually happened) Trying to take the load off the future version of yourself is dope cause that’s going to be you. And when it’s you you’re going to wish you helped soften the burden.” - Ashvin Kapoor, Comedian

“When I'm doing things I love, I don't get burned out, but I get tired. I can’t do one thing forever. The reason I love music so much is that there are so many different facets that feel different enough, so it feels like I’m taking a break and working on something new. It’s connected enough with how much I love music, and I won't get burned out with music, but I’ll get burned out from jazz or trying to book a tour. If I'm only playing with Wild Blue Yonder and not playing upright bass, I want to sit in my room and shed bass. It's like that analogy of having different toys to play with: nobody wants to play with the same toy over and over again. You're going to want to hop on your Razer scooter until your ankles are done.” - Eli Alfieri, Musician

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Gen-Z, leading to an increased risk of burnout among this demographic. Born in a digital age characterized by constant connectivity, Gen-Z already faced unique challenges in managing our online and offline lives. However, the pandemic exacerbated these struggles, as we grappled with abrupt shifts to remote learning, limited social interactions, and uncertain futures. The blurred boundaries between work, education, and personal life due to extended periods of lockdowns further intensified the pressures we experienced. The pervasive use of technology, while helping us stay connected, also amplified the expectations of constant engagement. As a result, we found ourselves in a relentless cycle, navigating academic demands, digital communication fatigue, and a rapidly changing world. This perfect storm of circumstances has underscored the importance of providing support, resources, and strategies to help Gen Z manage burnout, build resilience, and find balance amidst the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.

Spend time at work, but also make time for jellyfishing with Patrick, practicing your karate with Sandy, and blowing bubbles to relax. Listen to yourself and if you start feeling tired or stressed, take a break. And when things get tough, stay positive, thinking about how lucky you are to live in a pineapple under the sea with your pals. Surrounding yourself with friends and finding joy in the little things, just like Spongebob does with his pineapple house and pineapple-themed everything, can really help keep those burnout blues at bay.

So remember; staying balanced, taking breaks, and staying positive are the keys to keeping the Spongebob spirit alive and well!

Written by Mark Bluemle (can we tell?)

Photography by Sophia Keefe

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