Student Secrets For Preventing Burnout
What is burnout?
You may have heard people saying that they’re “burnt out,” but what exactly does that mean? Psychology Today defines burnout as a state of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion resulting from chronic occupational or academic stress. Although burnout may look different from person to person, some common signs may include:
Feeling like your energy is depleted
Feeling unmotivated or uninterested in work or school
Becoming cynical or critical towards your occupation or academics
Having difficulty concentrating and having more trouble getting tasks done
Both aspects of your school/work life and your personal life can contribute to burnout. If you feel like you have little control over your work, you find your work either monotonous or overwhelming, you put in disproportionately high effort into your work for little reward, you are unclear about the expectations for your work, or you lack structure or a schedule in your work life, that could cause burnout. In your personal life, if you work too much without incorporating time for relaxation or self-care, you have a lack of close, supportive relationships and social support, you have too many responsibilities without asking for help, and you aren’t getting enough sleep, that can also lead to burnout. Here are some ways to prevent and cope with feelings of burnout:
If you’re reading this and thinking, “how can I take a break when I’m so behind!?” … I hear you: it can be so tempting to put your breaks on pause and just ‘grind’ a bit harder to avoid falling more behind. That being said, remember to remain mindful of the toxic path this line of thinking can take you on—recognize that the stress and frustration from burnout ultimately serves to hinder our productivity no matter how hard we push ourselves. It is never worth sacrificing your work-life balance for diminishing returns. All things considered, you may be interested in study strategies that incorporate intentional breaks such as the Pomodoro Technique or spaced repetition.
2) recognizing it is okay to fall behind schedule
Whether your battle is an unfortunate cluster of deadlines, a difficult midterm season, or other personal circumstances, keep in mind that even the most conscientious and hard-working student is bound to fall behind in the semester at some point. Try your best to extend some compassion toward yourself during these hectic moments in the semester—getting through the sea of midterms and due dates alone is a massive accomplishment. Adjust your expectations accordingly and have confidence in your plans to get back on track when the workload inevitably slows down. It’s not too late to bounce back!
One of the best methods of self-care is to prevent any anxieties and burnout from happening. School is difficult, and is a stressor for the majority of students. With students being at school for almost 75% of a normal year, constantly bombarded with assignments and exams, preventing burnout is key to finishing a school year off strong.
Firstly, comparing yourself to other students will lead to burnout. It seems like everyone is always studying, working hard, etc., but that’s simply not true. We usually perceive people’s best moments but not their worst, so we’re comparing ourselves to our perfect perception of them which is unfair to us. We should compare ourselves to who we were yesterday and see how much we’ve grown. Grind culture itself is the product of everyone’s best moments, which makes the “grind culture” lifestyle seem realistic. Thus we can recognize that we can walk our own paths and focus on ourselves, and do the things that make us happy rather than following everyone else.
The second tip for preventing burnout follows the last paragraph’s statement: do things that make you happy. While given the option between spending another 30 minutes on a 0.5% weighted homework question or chatting with your roommates, choose the one that makes you happy. Of course, this relies on your prioritizing skills, but there comes a point where doing school isn’t worth it anymore, and the positive impact of spending 30 minutes with your friends far outweighs another 30 minutes of attempting homework. Breaks are also necessary when in school, so that we can rest our minds. Between school-related tasks, do what you like, whether that’d be chatting with friends online, hanging out with your roommates, watching YouTube, etc. This balance is crucial to keep our optimism and motivation.
Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself, and in return, set reasonable goals. We cannot expect ourselves to be perfect. When we think we’re perfect, we set big goals that we cannot achieve, which makes us pessimistic, unmotivated, and think less of ourselves. We are capable of what we want to achieve, but in smaller steps so that they are more attainable. This is like comparing doing a 20-page report in one night, versus splitting it up over a week and writing around 3 pages a night – the latter is more reasonable and attainable, and will keep us motivated.
Overall, the most important thing is you and your mental health. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday to see how much you’ve improved! Don’t forget to take care of yourself and spend time doing things with those you care about!
3) maintaining balance
Imagine you have a bucket which collects your stress. Things in your everyday life like school work, jobs, finances, home life, etc., collect into your bucket. The bucket can range from feeling empty to feeling quite full, depending on the stress present in your life. A full bucket is heavy and weighs you down. It can make you feel tired, grumpy, irritable, and low. A point can come when there is no more room left in your bucket for stress. A full bucket reflects one’s maximum stress limit, something that is very difficult to deal with. A full bucket is equivalent to feeling burnt out.
What’s the answer to a full bucket? Balance!
Similar to how stress adds to your bucket, it can come out as well. How can you drain out your bucket? Well, everyone also has a tap on their bucket to drain their stress.
If you notice your bucket is full or even overflowing, it means there’s a lack of balance within your life. Maybe you’re stressed about an exam and you have not had time to relax in the evening. You must regain your balance and take some time to prioritize yourself by engaging in some positive coping strategies. No matter how much you are being weighed down it’s important to incorporate more things into your day that bring you joy. This may be socializing, exercise, reading, taking a break if you need to! Things to drain your bucket can be different for everyone but doing these things will leave you feeling light and stress- free once again. If things start to feel overwhelming, regain balance between work, relationships, responsibilities, and self-care by taking some time for yourself. It will leave you feeling happier with more energy to complete other things that require your attention.
Anyone can experience burnout when faced with the demands and stressors of work, school, and life. Burnout is unfortunately quite common so you are not alone if you are experiencing it. However, signs of burnout should still be addressed and taken seriously. It’s important to recognize that there are effective ways to cope with burnout, which can allow you to regain balance and enjoyment in your occupation or academics. Hopefully the tips above can help you identify, prevent, and reverse burnout both now and in the future!