A few months ago, I got a frantic call from my best friend around midnight. All he said was,
“I can’t take this anymore. I’m going to resign. I can’t work anymore.”
After graduating college, he was hired by a top-tier company. It didn’t come as a surprise, honestly. He was one of the top students in the Economics department, and was interning every holiday. He was offered a great package and would also get medical insurance.
How we all envied him.
Today, we feel bad for him.
It’s been two years since we graduated. While we friends don’t meet as often as we would like, we make it a point to meet up once a month. He’s only made it to two meetups in two years.
His relationship ended after a year because his girlfriend felt he had no time for her. He didn’t try to make amends because he wanted to concentrate on work first.
Over the phone that night, he said there were times he would not see his parents for days, though they lived in the same house. He left too early in the morning and would only return late at night. His basic problem, as I discovered, was that he let his work consume his life.
He felt lonely and cut off from everyone he missed his girlfriend and would give anything to just share a cup of tea with his parents.
He had reached a point where he felt trapped. He felt like he couldn’t help his situation.
Because he was waiting for that next increment, he was waiting on that promotion his boss had been promising him since the day he started working and more than anything, he wanted to be ‘something.’ This ‘something’, he felt, was a status he could achieve only if he progressed in his career.
What hit me the hardest through this whole conversation was when he said:
“What I’m realising now is that I make enough money. But, mere paas paisa hai par usse kharch karne ka waqt nahi hai. (But, I have money, but no time to spend it)”
Even though he said he had been feeling lonely in his struggle, I empathised completely. I had also been through all this at my previous job. I checked my official mail on weekends, my appetite had almost died, and I felt guilty about being unwell, because if I didn’t go to work, my work would suffer.
I asked myself: How did we get here?
The answer is in plain sight. We all are living in an age of hypercompetition. From getting a job to getting a seat at your favorite cafe, it’s always a race to get that one seat, isn’t it? To top it all, we want reach the top while we are still young, and the only way to do that is to work non-stop. Shockingly, most millennials will say they will give up on friends and love as long as they get to be CEO.
What we often don’t realise is that we’re also giving up on our mental health by isolating ourselves, not speaking to those around us, and staring at the shiny laptop screens of the company that now owns you. But none of that matters because we grew up hearing that if we work very hard ‘toh career ban jaayega’ (our career would be made).
Luckily, my friend took my advice about visiting a therapist. He discovered that his workplace or job wasn’t the problem. It was him placing high pressure upon himself.
He was suffering from something that has often been called a problem of the modern society: burnout syndrome.
To simply define burnout syndrome, it is a stage you reach when you are overworked. You find that you’re unable to do the job that you once loved. You feel mentally and physically exhausted to take up any new assignments at work and everything you do at your workplace seems forced. In fact, waking up every day starts feeling like a task.
Some of the common symptoms of burnout syndrome are:
2. Loss of concentration
3. Loss of appetite or an increase in appetite
5. Increased irritability
He is on his way to recovery now and enjoys his job. I asked him how it all changed? He said it’s simple: he doesn’t work more than he is supposed to. He takes up work he enjoys and gets out of office on time. He meets his friends often and makes it a point to take his parents out at least once a week. Luckily, he realised that his mental health is more important than being ‘something’ in the professional world.
Hopefully, more of us will come to this conclusion before we burn out.
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