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Taking ownership of our mental health is a choice - even of stress

44% of millennials say they are stressed all or most of the time*

Human beings spend 1/3 of their lifetime at workplaces, where oftentimes employers aren’t aware that our personal lives – and what we’re dealing with on a day to day – cannot be switched off when we suddenly enter “work mode”. While workplaces may often be a distraction per se, the hum of these challenges is always operating – and in some parts, showing up in our behaviour at work. Stress being a huge part of that.

To understand stress in the workplace – and how to deal with it – it is important to understand some of the biggest contributors.

Pressure: Millennials are good at putting themselves under pressure – a conditioned trait that goes back to childhood. We are the generation that were told by our parents that we could be anything we wanted – so long as we tried hard enough. Add on our Pavlov-conditioned need for rewards – ultimately becoming a measure of our success – and we have the backdrop of our pressure fueled work and personal lives. Overcommitting to work, not speaking up when workload is too much, operating in silo and not asking for help are what we see in the workplace.

Perfectionism: Millennials suffer from a stronger perfectionist trait, than other generations.** In fact, studies show that our generation feels overburdened with a perfectionist streak, which other generations have not experienced. Alarmingly, it’s not just perfection in its “simple form” – it’s multidimensional in nature. Labouring over tasks, indecision, internalisation, worrying what people think, questioning worth or esteem are what we see in the workplace.

Reward depletion: Millennials have spent so much time achieving goals and receiving rewards, that our satisfaction threshold has elevated so much that we are barely hitting the mark anymore. The constant strives and pressure to achieve more by taking on extra work or tasks, education or setting unrealistic goals, are what we see in the workplace.

So how do we get one step ahead and call out issues, before we become stressed?

3 tools to prevent stress from taking over:

  1. Check in with yourself. Asking yourself intentional questions such as how you feel in yourself (physically and emotionally) is a good start. In workplaces it is easy to get caught up in being busy, which means we lose connection with ourselves. Taking a couple of short breaks per day to check in with yourself, will help prevent feelings of overwhelm and give you the opportunity to deal with minor issues, at the time.

  2. Understand your limits and set realistic goals. When you know what your limits are, it's easier to set a realistic and achievable workload. Being aware of the millennial predisposition to pressure and perfectionism, will ensure that you are making mindful decisions that align with a healthy workload.

  3. Speak up. Too often we find ourselves in stressful situations that could have been avoided, simply by communicating our needs. If you are feeling the pinch, tell your manager. Learn how to say ‘no’. Reach out to mental health services that offer a space to simply unload. Communicating your wants and needs is critical.

Awareness brings knowledge and knowledge gives us the choice (and control) to act.

Taking ownership over our mental health is a choice. With the right knowledge and tools, we can make proactive decisions to honour our wellbeing both in the workplace, and in our lives.


* 2020 Deloitte Millennial Survey.

** Curran, T & Hill, A.P. 2017. ‘Perfectionism is increasing over time: A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016’. Psychological Bulletin.


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