Are You Feeling Burnt Out Because of the Pandemic, or is it Time to Make a Change?

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has affected me in ways I didn’t think was possible. I’m sure we’ve all seen the tweets explaining the heightened anxiety or depressive spirals many have fallen into after life as we knew it drastically changed almost one year ago. 

At first, I couldn’t relate. In fact, I (and many of my friends) had gotten our sh*t together in quarantine. Attributed mostly to TikTok day-in-my-lifes and how-to-be-your-best-self videos, I cleaned up my act in quarantine. But now, like many, my previously carefully curated habits have fallen to the wayside as I juggle yet another semester of school and work during this pandemic while attempting a mask on, six-feet-apart semblance of a social life. 

Don’t get me wrong — I'm extremely grateful. Everyday, I’m reminded that I'm not one of the millions personally affected by COVID-19, and that's a privilege not everyone can say they have. But more and more frequently, I’m finding myself unmotivated to accomplish tasks that once interested me. 

Whether it be slacking on taking the notes for the classes that really interest me or barely completing my morning routine before work starts in the morning, I get it. As an employed student, I’ve discovered that pandemic burnout can often be confused with a genuine realization that the job or major you have are truly not fit for you. 

For me, this epiphany has led to adding a major, and even deciding to transfer universities – but here are four questions I asked myself before taking a risk that could affect me for years to come, post-pandemic. 

  1. 1. Did you enjoy this job or major before the pandemic?

    As hard it can be to really remember your emotions and state of mind pre-pandemic (besides just, well, COVID-19 free), try to think back. When you initially were hired or accepted into your major, how did it feel? In moments of stress and anxiety while working or studying, did it still feel worth it? Were you already on the verge of making a switch in your career or academic life? 

    Picturing myself during those times definitely gave me clarity. I loved my major (political science) but was struggling at my current college months before we were sent home last March. In my experience, if you were already experiencing uncertainty pre-pandemic, it’s worth re-evaluating.  

  2. 2. What do you specifically dislike about your job or major?

    Sometimes, the overwhelming feeling of working from home, completing classes from home and partaking in your hobbies at home can cloud everything and make you forget what you initially appreciated and loved about your job or major. But, for some, there are some real issues that need to be addressed before moving forward. 

    Before deciding to transfer, I (my typical type-A self) created numerous pros and cons lists on everything from my current institution to the potential schools I was deliberating on. In making these lists and taking the time to really objectively evaluate my situation, I found that I had way more bullets in the cons section than the pros. That’s when you know. 

    Take the time to decipher the things you love and hate about your job or major. If you can find specific dislikes that contribute to your feelings of burnout, it may be time to start thinking about a change. 

  3. 3. Have you attempted to change up your routine?

    This applies even if you know you love your current field. Constantly remaining at home with little-to-no social interaction will take a toll on anyone, regardless of the situation.  

    Unsurprisingly, my advice is inspired by one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from TikTok in the last few months: romanticize everything in your life. From your morning coffee to running around your neighborhood, remember that these small habits add up to make up the entirety of your life, which means if you want to feel like an influencer while brewing up some matcha or picking your cute but comfortable WFH outfit, do it. 

    While this has just become a crucial part of my daily routine, it still didn’t change the overwhelming feelings I experienced over quarantine. But for many of my friends and family, it did. It prompted me to make a real change, because I wanted a life that I didn’t have to work as hard to romanticize. Change up your routine, and see if that’s all you needed to fall back in love with your field or major. 

  4. 4. Would you be willing to take the time to find another job or major?

    Last but definitely not least, walk yourself through the process of finding another job, applying into another major or even completely changing schools or career fields. Most of the time it's not simple, and can include a myriad of applications, interviews, exams and rejections before you finally get to your goal. If you can work through that process and, more importantly, feel genuinely excited throughout it, you may really be making a decision prompted less by the pandemic and more by a genuine internal push elsewhere. 

This pandemic has left many of us burnt out, and understandably uncertain of where to go from here. But it’s important to remember that this will come to an end. When that end comes, will you want to be in your current field or major, or do you dread the day that everything reopens and you have to continue working and studying like you are now? 

It’s worth taking the time to find out.