Millennial burnout in quarantine and the mindful way forward with Juno Kim

Multidisciplinary creative and mindfulness entrepreneur, Juno Kim, shares his journey with mental health, self-love, and tips for introducing mindfulness into your life.

To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, Cold Tea Collective hosted an Instagram Live event on May 28 with our Co-Founder and Executive Producer, Natasha Jung, in conversation with Juno Kim, a multidisciplinary creative and mindfulness entrepreneur.

After going through a long and heavy burnout, Kim pivoted to focus on food styling and commercial photography while returning to become an entrepreneur. His current purpose is to create purposeful and thoughtful experiences through a multidisciplinary approach he has cultivated throughout his life.

His passions revolve around a holistic approach to wellbeing, meditation, and mental health. Cold Tea Collective picked his brain to learn more about how these three key pillars continue to play a part in his wellness and entrepreneurial journey.

DEFINING WELLNESS

To Kim, the definition of “wellness” is truly personal – the nature of wellness is deeply interconnected and complex, and it shines through when you’re in a state of flow.

“What’s going to make me thrive is not going to be necessarily what makes someone else thrive,” he said. “If you’re in flow, you’re probably in a pretty good place.”

THE PRINCIPLES OF MINDFULNESS

The trouble with mindfulness is it’s hard to keep our attention muscles flexed when we’re surrounded by so many distractions. It’s so easy to just go through the motions of our day-to-day lives.

Kim recommends practicing non-judgement and approaching everything with a beginner’s mind. Practicing acceptance, non-reactivity, and letting go are all concepts that fall under the mindfulness umbrella.

“Mindfulness is paying attention to things that truly matter,” he said. “If you’re in a mindful state, you’re going to see nuances and details and be immersed in that experience.”

He shared that the times when he was most productive was when he was in a mindful state. Without it, there’s a disconnect between the mind and the body.

INTEGRATING MEDITATION INTO YOUR EVERYDAY ROUTINE

Many millennials may be facing burnout in quarantine, and now is the perfect time to get into meditation. For those who have never tried meditation before, Kim recommends using the apps Calm and Waking Up

When is the best time to meditate? This truly depends on the person.

For Kim, meditation grounds him in the morning because that’s when he experiences a big boost of cortisol. He shared that the best time to meditate is when you’re not extremely excited, but also when you’re not extremely tired. 

“Sitting with yourself for an indefinite amount of time can be very tricky if you have past trauma or anxiety,” he said.

Meditation has played a part in his journey for awakening. It helped him figure out why he couldn’t sit still in silence so that he could find a place of wellness for himself.

Juno Kim leaning sideways, looking downwards at something. A blowtorch is in the foreground of the image.
Photo Credit: Studio Santiago

HIS EXPERIENCES WITH BURNOUT

When his business took off in the beginning, he hadn’t created habits and rituals to balance his lifestyle and workflow. As a result, he fell into the trap of allowing his work identity to become his only identity. Prioritizing work over everything else caused a disconnect between the mind and body, and his body started to react and hurt in different ways. 

He started experiencing feelings of anxiety, as well as emotional reactions to work. As issues kept piling up, it became an endless cycle of pain. He felt a lot of darkness and pain, and lost all sense of self in November 2017. He ended up taking a four month sabbatical, which gave him distance and space from the trauma he was experiencing. During that time, he gained enough clarity and began his healing journey in 2018.

In the beginning of quarantine, there was a message going around saying, “If you’re not productive while in self isolation, then what are you doing with your life?” This is a dangerous narrative because some people need and are using this time as a reset period, especially for those who are experiencing burnout.

HIS FAMILY’S REACTION TO HIS MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY

Kim’s mental health journey helped rekindle the relationship with his parents after going five years without seeing them. He held on to a lot of resentment towards his parents for the way they raised him. He also placed the blame on them for a lot of the shortcomings he felt.

With Asian parents, there’s a lot of disciplinary small talk that’s toxic. As a result, many Asian millennials internalize that, putting a lot of strain on themselves.

“I just harboured a lot of sadness throughout my childhood,” he shared. His sadness was amplified during his burnout, and it took a lot of deep self exploration for him to figure out where those feelings came from.

The language barrier between him and his parents also made it difficult for them to have deep conversations with each other. It took a lot of compassion and empathy for him to understand his parents grew up in a very different time and each generation has their own traumas.

BALANCING THE DRIVE TO HUSTLE WITH WELLNESS AND MINDFULNESS

He discovered the importance of studying ancient wisdom and started exploring stoicism and eventually found Buddhism. It was life changing for him to see that wisdom and then find a place to cultivate his own. Although he struggled with self compassion and acceptance, he realized striving in a mindful way means exploring yourself and figuring out what makes you thrive and what doesn’t.

Are your motivators intrinsic or extrinsic? Kim shared that it’s important to create and cultivate desire within yourself. Approach whatever you’re doing with intention and eliminate the negative self talk. If you’re able to clearly see and understand why you want to do the things you want to do, it will lead to productivity.

SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP

Compared to past generations, ours is doing a better job at removing the negative stigma around seeking professional help, specifically therapy.

“Therapy is like having a personal trainer for your mind,” Kim said. Therapy can be expensive, and although he didn’t seek out therapy during his sabbatical, he highly recommends it. Instead, he found resources through people he knew, and studying ancient wisdom has also been therapeutic for him throughout his journey.

He also recommends Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a book on living a meaningful life in the connection between mindfulness and physical and spiritual wellbeing.

For those who are interested in seeking out professional help, it’s important to find someone who is a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a consultation first and test people out.

MOVING FORWARD FROM COVID-19

During times of crisis, it’s easy to fall back on deeply formed patterns in our minds. To ensure we continue to strengthen our mindfulness practices during and after COVID-19, Kim shares that we have to keep exploring ourselves and our minds.

Tune into your own mind and emotions, and process those emotions productively. Develop empathy, even when it’s hard. Shame creates pain, which disables people from actually improving something. Empathy is much needed at a time like this, and it’s important to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Cancelling and shaming others isn’t helpful.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Kim is currently exploring and working on commercial photography as his main source of income. He is also taking a meditation teaching course in hopes to give back to the community as a passion project. Follow him @jun0k to keep up with his entrepreneurial and wellness journey.

Featured image by Studio Santiago.

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