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In this episode, I talk about something that is so common among the second generation women in my community… burnout. Learn about the early signs of burnout for you and the BIGGEST cause of it.
Welcome back to episode three. This is my second time recording this part. The first time I recorded 10 minutes not on the right microphone. So I’m doing it again today. We’re talking all about burnout. So we’re going to identify how it might look for you and how it affects your life and the biggest cause of burnout among second generation women.
So let’s first start with how it might look for you. So here’s a question before we dive into it. Do you know the warning signs for you before you reach burnout? So this might be physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. So this is so you can catch it and make changes before it escalates. But this is only a temporary solution and it requires us to notice it and be aware of it and then change it before it reaches burnout.
And let me tell you, there were so many times that I broke down and cried for no reason. I’m sorry to Raymond. We’ve been together for about eight years now, and I’m sure there have been many, many times where that has happened. And he would ask me, what’s wrong? And I’d say, I don’t know. But at the same time, I knew that it was everything at once. And it was just easier to say, I don’t know. It was just the overwhelming feeling of everything, of work, of family, of all the responsibilities that I have. And I can only catch that now in hindsight. But there were definitely warning signs, these flashing lights in my face that I did not notice.
Now, these signs are unique to everyone, so I’m going to give you the signals that I experienced and some other ones that you might relate more to.
Some of the physical things that I went through, a lot of it was rushing around with everything. My heart would be really fast and it would pretty much stay like that all day. I would try to do task after task, do everything as quickly as I could, always thinking of how to save time and do things as fast as I can so I could get back to another task and take another thing off my to do list. But the biggest thing was to save time, and that fed into my overworking tendencies. I would do things as fast as I could so that I could make more room and more time for everything else that I need to do. So the faster I moved, the more things got done. And that was when I felt like I had achieved something that at the end of the day. I’d look back and say wow, I did so much. Even though I was always exhausted, tired from all those little things. But I push myself to do so much more so that I could have that satisfaction at the end of the day.
Another physical sign that I felt was feeling bloated after meals. And that was partially because I just ate so fast. Like my body couldn’t even register that I had food because I was like eating in 2 minutes and I’m done. Not quite that fast, but it felt like 2 minutes. I’ll just down my food and then move on. I’ll take that off my list, had breakfast tick, lunch tick. It just felt like I wasn’t eating it for the enjoyment. It was more for nutrition so I could keep going and do more. Another reason for the bloating was my body was probably not even digesting the food. It was too busy focusing on doing everything else and trying to keep up with my brain. I guess that it wasn’t able to digest the food properly. And because of that my stomach felt so full and I couldn’t really breathe deeply. Even after a small meal I would feel bloated so I just felt uncomfortable to breathe deeply.
Another physical thing that I’ve mentioned before in a previous episode was my neck and shoulder pain. So it would ache pretty bad until I got tension headaches which just made it way worse. And if you don’t know what that feels like, it kind of felt like a migraine at the base of my neck. It was probably caused by me sitting and not feeling relaxed. Even when I thought I was, I probably wasn’t. I think my shoulders were always tense, like lifted up tense without even mean realising. So I think that contributed to a lot of the pain that I felt. The aches, like sometimes it will pull on one side of my neck and then it’ll be imbalanced and then it would cause more pain. And this kind of came up quite often. Whenever I felt really stressed and panicked and rushing around really fast. I found that that pain was amplified. Now with everything else I could deal with, I could deal with my heart being really fast even though that probably isn’t good for me. Stress, we all know contributes to a lot of diseases and sicknesses. So I’ve really tried to slow that down. Bloating, yep, I could deal with that. It was uncomfortable but not to the level of my neck pain and tension headaches. That was what I focused on a lot and that was one of the biggest reasons why I had to take a step back from everything. It would just cause me so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, that I had to take medication more, which I didn’t like and it would stop me from doing even basic things because I wasn’t feeling good.
So that’s my physical signals, but mentally it was a few of these things are kind of all related to each other. But the biggest thing was my negative self talk and it all related to the fact that I felt like I wasn’t good enough and I made myself feel even worse about that. I felt like an imposter. Like if you’ve heard of imposter syndrome before, I felt like I wasn’t actually good at anything and that I just faked my way through it. Like I wasn’t that good a teacher, but I pretended to be. If you felt impostor syndrome before, then you would know what I’m talking about. It’s kind of always feeling like you’re always faking it till you make it. And I felt this a lot, especially as a teacher with other more experienced teachers around. I felt like people were always watching and judging me and I hated that. But in reality that wasn’t the case at all. It was just what was going on in my head and it boiled down to the fact that I felt that I wasn’t good enough and I tried to do all these things to make myself feel better. So that negative self talk made myself feel like crap. Especially when I felt like I was doing so much yet I was accomplishing nothing. And because of that it would start this cycle. Anytime I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything, I would push myself harder and then that would make it even worse.
And then eventually that led to my lack of motivation because I would feel hopeless about it and I would think why bother if it’s not going to work out? But for me this is mostly with work. That’s why I overworked so much and that’s why I started my instagram and the focus of my whole business now. So that was mental.
Emotional, this was basically one thing. I was just really moody when I was in the lead up to burnout. I’ll be really happy and excited 1 minute and then easily annoyed and then I’ll be mad. So little things that don’t work out would really frustrate me because if you know me, I love organisation, I love planning everything in advance. I’m definitely not spontaneous. Sometimes I guess, but I wish I was more spontaneous. I really admire people who are, but I am definitely the opposite of that. And when things didn’t go the way I planned, it would be quite annoying. So those are my warning signs.
Now let’s talk about some other things that you might experience because as I said before, it’s all unique to every single person. So the first thing is getting sick. If you are generally pretty healthy, pretty fit, eat healthy and you don’t normally get sick, but then you tend to get sick more often. Maybe that could be like an initial sign of burnout.
Another thing could be daydreaming or not being able to concentrate. Maybe you find it hard to make decisions because you can’t think about there’s too many options, too overwhelming. Your brain is probably not working that well because it’s just too frazzled from everything you’re doing. Happens to me sometimes and I even forget things. Like of course this happens to everyone. We tend to forget things because our life is so busy. But if you’re forgetting things more regularly and even important things that you thought you would never forget and that’s probably because you’re overwhelmed. Too many things happening, you’re doing too much and you’re focusing on all of them.
Another sign could be a change in your appetite. Like, you know, sometimes when you get in the zone and you don’t want to eat, you kinda forget about food altogether because your body is not needing the extra energy. Or it could be the complete opposite and you need more food than usual because you’re moving around so much using all that mental energy, physical energy and you need to replenish.
Now the next one is something that I do and I notice this more when burnout is around the corner and that’s if I need to take naps, especially if you don’t normally take naps and because of moving around and doing everything, sometimes even working till late, that’s when I realise I need a nap and I need to just take a break. Or on the flip side, if you have trouble sleeping because your brain can’t stop working, that could be another sign. And that’s why I used to keep like a notepad next to my bed in case any thoughts come up and I just need to get it out before I sleep, otherwise I won’t be able to.
So the last thing is procrastinating. And this is huge because you might do things because you have to and you have a deadline, but things that you don’t have a deadline for, you’ll keep pushing back because you’re dreading it. Dreading it because you’re feeling overwhelmed and you don’t actually want to do anything at all because your body is telling you that you need a break. Your mind is telling you that you need a break. There are of course many other reasons for procrastinating, but especially with burnout you probably just need to step away and reset everything so that you can start fresh.
So those are some warning signs that you might experience. If there are any more that you feel that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know in my Instagram DMs because I’d love to hear your experiences as well.
So now on to the second part, which is the biggest cause of burnout. Now I’ve seen and talked to so many burnt out second gen women. Like as a teacher, there were so many teachers who were burnt out during working from home and learning from home. I’ve also talked to workers in the healthcare industry and other industries as well. And this is what I’ve noticed from talking to my friends and other women on Instagram.
But before I tell you about that, I want to keep the suspense. I want to tell you about what I found from Google. So when I googled causes of burnout, this is what I found. And this might be relevant in general to the general population, but specifically for second generation immigrants, I think the causes go deeper than that.
So the first thing that Google says is prolonged feelings of stress and exhaustion. It could be due to workload, your urgent deadlines, your lack of control over things happening in your life, or a lack of recognition or reward. Now, a lot of this is to do with your workplace, and of course this could be true as well. But then again, there’s a vague idea of stress. What does stress mean? And everyone’s levels of stress are so different.
Another thing Google said was high expectations. Now, this one actually relates to what I want to tell you about later, having high expectations of yourself or other people having expectations of you. Another thing is fear. I’m not sure what this fear is in relation to, but that could cause burnout. I can see where that’s going. It’s just not very specific.
Insufficient sleep. So this is definitely a big contributor to stress. And over a long period of time, it can definitely cause burnout as well.
And the last one that I thought to draw attention to was lack of support from your colleagues, from your family, from your friends. If you feel a lack of support, then of course this could lead to burnout. But there could be deeper reasons for that as well.
And all of these, they aren’t wrong. They’re just not the single thing that will make the biggest difference, especially among second generation immigrants.
And now onto the biggest cause that I have found. When I talk to all these people in my community, it is people pleasing. And this comes under the high expectations and fear. But I feel like it goes one step further. I feel like this is the root cause for burnout for a lot of second gen women. And this is why I pushed myself to work 60 hours a week, and why I went from school straight to uni, straight into full time work without any breaks and without time to really reflect on who I was and what I want to do in life.
So high expectations is what I would explain, as always, pushing ourselves to do better, that we can be working harder. We feel like we need to learn more and be more and have more because we feel like we’re not enough as we are right now. This can come from the people around us, like our parents, our teachers, our friends, our siblings or it could be something that we’ve internalised, which I have definitely done. I’ve internalised thoughts and expectations from other people and I continue to do that now to myself. So I don’t need other people reminding me because I’m telling myself all the time that I need to do more. And I’ve been working really hard to turn that around and I’ve been working really hard to turn that around because that is a huge issue that I have.
And the fear aspect comes in because we feel like we’re not good enough. Well, especially I felt this, that I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not tall enough, I’m not as fluent in my home language as I wish I was. And this fear is of other people seeing that. And that’s why I put on this facade of being this perfect daughter, this perfect teacher and nothing ever went wrong in my life which was totally wrong.
So have a think if people pleasing resonates with you. Sometimes we do this even when we’re not aware of it. But that’s the first part, right? Recognising when we do it and how we do it and then turning that around so we don’t need that validation from other people.
So let me tell you where this came from because this episode is all about bringing awareness to burnout and how we can start to change that. So I’m only going to mention three here. There are so many, but these are top three that I would encourage you to dive deeper into. And this is what I’ve seen and heard the most about from talking to people and from my own research.
So number one, people pleasing can come from your childhood. And I read this somewhere that people pleases start off as parent, pleases. So a little psychology here. I love psychology. As a child, it was a way for you to be close to your parents, to please them, to get that approval or that praise, that recognition from your parents. And many immigrant parents, my own included, weren’t able to always physically be there most of the time because of their jobs. Like my parents worked quite long hours doing labor intensive jobs where working from home wasn’t an option like it is nowadays. But even when I look in my community where there are lots of immigrant parents, that’s still an ongoing situation. They aren’t able to spend a lot of time with their kids unless they are a stay at home parent. My mom kind of was for a certain period of time during my childhood. But even when she was at home, she was busy doing work around the house. She was probably worried about money and starting a new life in a new country that she wasn’t able to mentally or emotionally be there for me. So without this attention that children need, I can say that now because I’m a teacher and I see a lot of this happen that kids start acting differently to get that attention. And that’s why you see tantrums and really clingy kids like I was. So this was the start from your childhood. You would please your parents and then kind of see that working. So when you please them, you get a positive reaction. And so you keep doing that and you keep getting a positive reaction from your teachers, from your friends. And so that’s just ingrained in you to make other people happy that if you do certain things, then you’ll get love from them. And this is one of the biggest cycles that contribute to overworking and eventually to burnout. So basically, you base your actions on what your parents wanted to see and in return, they acknowledged it.
Okay, so number two, people pleasing can also come from your parents goals for you what they want your life to be, how they want you to be, the success they wanted for you. So in society, we place successful people on a pedestal. That rich person, that celebrity who’s really famous, people who are wealthy, who have a cool job, who have a nice aesthetically, decorated house, people have nice clothes, people who have a beautiful family. Those are kind of all things that we strive for. And our parents, who came from a country that wasn’t as well off as Australia, like my parents came from Vietnam and China, they saw these opportunities for us and they want us to make something of ourselves because they weren’t able to do that. And of course, they want to support us in that so that we can be financially stable and be able to support our family for the future. Our parents, they’ve made all these sacrifices, leaving their family and their lives behind and started a life in a completely new country where they didn’t speak the language, they didn’t have a good education, and so they didn’t have any qualifications to get a white collar job. And a lot of our parents, they saw the kind of success that we could have in Australia or in another Western country and they acknowledged and praised the qualities and behaviours that aligned with that. For example, studying hard and getting good grades at school because they believe that a good education led to a good job, which leads to a good life. And so my parents goals of wanting me to be financially well off, not to be rich, but just to be able to comfortably support my family with that goal for me, they pushed me to study hard because of all those things, and hopefully I’ll end up with that result at the end. And they also encouraged me to learn more languages too. So I went to Chinese and Vietnamese school for better working opportunities, which of course, I still value, but I definitely value it much more now than I did before. So everything your parents have said to you, they share their opinions and their thoughts. It was also that you could have a good life. And their goals kind of became my goals, which in a way, I’ll make them proud and I’ll be able to achieve success. In one way, it kind of got me striving for this end goal, which now I see as an important part of life. But at the same time, there are other things that I could do as well that would be fulfilling and meaningful in my life.
And the last point I want to touch on number three is that people pleasing can come from not being confident in yourself. And this brings back to some of the warning signs that I had. The negative self talk, the fear, the high expectations that I place on myself. It’s because I wasn’t confident in myself. And of course, no one is 100% confident in every aspect of their life. But for me, it was a lot of things that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Because when we feel like we’re not good enough in any aspect, like for example, our looks, our intellect, our achievements, we then become easily influenced. When it comes to that, we might start to judge and compare ourselves to other people trying to fit in or do things to make ourselves feel better. So as I talked about comparison before, when I was younger, I was compared to mostly people my own age, people who are similar in age to me, like my cousins, or my parents, friends, kids who are my age, or my own friends. Now, this was all to motivate me to do better. But instead it highlighted what I was lacking. I didn’t see it through their eyes. I saw it as, wow, I’m really crap. So I should really do something about that. I should study more or ask for help to elevate myself in my career. I should drink more milk. I could be taller, which did not work out, just letting you know. Or I should change careers. I can be rich like them. So not being confident in myself led to me doing more and more so that I can feel more adequate. And that’s where the people pleasing aspect comes in.
So overall, people pleasing is the biggest cause of burnout among second generation women. Now that you know that, let me know if you agree. Do you find yourself people pleasing? If so, dig a bit deeper into that. If you ever need support with that, DM me on Instagram. I’d love to continue the conversation over there.
Remember, you’re a human BEING, not a human DOING.
Chat to you in the next episode!
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