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The Approach of the London Burnout

This week, I received an email newsletter from a recruiter I used to work with in London.

The email was innocuous – just a candidate blast letting us know they still cared about us, even if we hadn’t heard from them in months. I don’t even know why I opened it actually. I have thousands of unopened emails just like it. But I did open it, and one of the articles contained therein made me stop and stare: “Long Commutes Linked to Depression”.

My work is only 10 miles from my house. But because it’s 10 miles in the wrong direction – out of London instead of further into it – the public transport is limited and expensive. For people familiar with the layout of London – I live in Zone 2 and work in Zone 6. With traffic and other delays, my commute is at minimum 70 minutes – and that’s just one way. At it’s worst, it can be upwards of 100 minutes and higher: one night it took me almost 3 hours. It’s needless to say that I am tired. All the time.

Between commuting for at least two and a half hours a day, working full-time and trying to run a blog, it’s little surprise that I’ve gained weight, I’m sleeping less and I’m drinking more. I also find it hard to stay motivated and focused, and at the end of the day, editing a new photo to get a bunch of follows/unfollows on Instagram sometimes seems like a total chore.

A year in and a year to go... is the London Burnout a real thing?

The article talked about how workers with commutes that lasted 30 minutes or less produced more than seven days’ worth of productivity compared to those whose commute surpassed 60 minutes. Long commuters also experienced a 33% increase in the likelihood of suffering from depression, and were 46% more likely to be over-tired. We are also 21% more likely to be obese, just to put the cherry on top. That’s because we’re more tired and less capable of making healthy decisions. Hence, less frequent visits to the gym, more fast food and more alcohol to “unwind.”

I knew my commute was taking it’s toll on me. Before anyone suggests it, I don’t want to move closer to work (even if I could). I have something called Zone 2 Privilege™, which means everything I want is right outside my door, or better yet, delivered right to it. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no point in moving to London if you’re going to live further out than Zone 3: that’s for families, and lifetime Londoners. It’s hard to explain this to anyone who hasn’t been to or lived in London… but you don’t move to the big city to live outside of the city. 

I get about 6 hours of sleep a night, and that’s if I don’t get up early to go to bed. Ten minutes later I re-read that sentence and started crying-laughing because I meant to write “get up early to go to the gym”. But I’ve left it in there to illustrate how tired I am. If I go to sleep earlier, I wouldn’t have time to do any blogging, let alone all the networking, promoting and pitching that goes alongside it.

Don’t let anyone tell you that blogging isn’t hard work. It is, if you want it to be successful. And it honestly feels like an upward battle sometimes. There’s so many people out there trying to do the same thing that it’s a lot like shouting into the void.

But this isn’t what I’m wanting to talk about.

A year in and a year to go... is the London Burnout a real thing?

I want to talk about London burnout. There was a time when I imagined never leaving but now, with a year left, I’m wondering if there isn’t a better place for me. Don’t get me wrong: I still have zero regrets. I love London, and everything it represents. But I’m not sure I know how people last here for a long time. It’s not just the long commute (and my commute isn’t unusual – I know plenty of people who travel for just as long as I do); it’s the pollution and the sheer cost.

I haven’t felt completely healthy in almost a year. I hate walking on main roads because I can taste the pollution on my tongue. I know that living in London is the equivalent of being a pack a day smoker. I stare at babies because I can’t imagine raising an infant here, knowing that their tiny lungs are just developing and filling with crap.

My rent, my bills, my food is more than half my monthly pay. I’m getting paid significantly less than I was in Australia for much harder and more complicated work. And I am grateful for my work, because it’s really good experience, and I’m learning a lot. Same goes for running this blog – I learn something new that translates into real work experience for me, every day. I’m just so tired.

When I was in Australia, I got up at 5am, did independent study for 2 hours, worked for 8, went to the gym afterward and was home for dinner by 6pm. I was fit and healthy, I had a good social life and I got to watch so much television.

I probably need to find an in between. I don’t know, maybe I’m just having a meltdown moment… In general, I do believe that I’m happy. I love the weekends and doing cool London shit, or exploring Europe. I still can’t get over being able to jump on a plane and go to another country for the weekend. I can’t go back to Australia; I don’t want to, not even a little bit.

But maybe London Burnout is a real thing, and maybe it’s catching me after all.


Where’s my fellow big city dwellers at? How do you deal with the burnout?

Tell me in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “The Approach of the London Burnout”

  1. I don’t know much about London burnout but I have this habit of creating my own chaos in wanting to do all the things. Definitely think how you are approaching it means you will figure it out quicker than me – take a step back, analyze what you think is important and chuck the rest.

    1. Wise words my dear. You’re right I need to focus on what’s important to me and maybe that involves taking a step back from things I always feel like I should be doing. The time for ‘me’ is now 🙏

  2. My husband and I recently moved out of the city (Vienna) because we just didn’t like it there anymore. It was noisy, dirty, filled with cars and not a place we wanted to call home anymore. So we took a deep breath and moved away from the city. It was definitely a bold move for us, considering we are still in our twenties and should be in the phase where we enjoy the city life, but we haven’t regretted it since. I feel happier and calmer than ever.

    1. That’s so interesting! I’ve always considered myself a “city girl” – I love the restaurants, the culture, the theatre so on. But maybe I don’t need to be in it, just near it? I’m so glad the move worked out for you and you’ve found your happiness!

  3. Did I read correctly that it takes over two hours to travel 10 miles?! Goodness! I’ve not ever been to London, but this just smashes my romanticism of the city. I can imagine that a commute like that would take its toll. I live in a small town and have about a 5 minute drive to work. I could walk there, but it gets too darn hot and cold. Plus I have kids.

    1. I know right? Really shouldn’t take that long! But don’t let it ruin your idea of London – traffic is just a fact of life here! It’s still a beautiful place, and so very exciting, so if you get the chance to visit you definitely should. So jealous of your 5 minute drive though – I’d totally be the same hahaha

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