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Mental Health

Academic Burnout – It’s that time of the year again!

As we near the end of the academic year, I have been feeling unmotivated. I find myself unable to focus on my work, take more time to get stuff done than I normally would, and time-management has flown out the window. Is this just me, or everyone else feeling this too? As much as I wish everyone is doing well, I also hope I am not the only one feeling this way. 

I wondered why I was having such a hard time, and one of our editors mentioned the term “Academic Burnout”. Academic burnout that sounds familiar is that it? Am I experiencing academic burnout? Honestly, I do not know, so like always, I did my research. 

Academic burnout, also known as student burnout, is a state of chronic stress that prevents you from effectively functioning on personal and professional tasks. It is an adverse emotional, physical, and mental reaction studying over a long period of time. A few common student burnout symptoms are insomnia, exhaustion, irritability, frustration, self-doubt, lack of motivation, and stamina. 

Before I investigated student burnout, I simply assumed this maybe be my anxiety returning. While I am not entirely sure if academic burnout is the reason for my lack of motivation and reduction in productivity, I still found that maybe burnout remedies might help my case. 

So, here are a few things I decided to follow to get back on track. 

 

Make a list.

During an elective Cognitive Science class, I learned that keeping a daily agenda with detailed and timed tasks increases productivity and reduces stress. While I do use checklists, I have never maintained one as detailed as the professor suggested, so I decided to give it a try. 

The professor’s suggestion was to make a daily list of everything you need to complete for the day. Each task is time managed and is 30 mins to 1 hour long. Once the 30 – 60 mins are over you, move on to the next job no matter how much you got done. While this technique felt like I was not getting anything done in the first few days, over the next few days, I finally got the hang of it. 

My biggest issue was the overwhelming stress I felt due to all the things I had to get done, which ironically prevented me from getting any work done. This list technique forced me to focus on the task at hand since if I don’t get stuff done within the 30 to 60 min time frame, I will not be able to get back to it for the day unless it is on the list. Besides, because I have all my tasks put down in a device, my brain no longer felt the need to constantly remind me of my deadlines. 

Take breaks. 

While prioritizing is essential, so is taking breaks. In an attempt to rejuvenate my passion for academic work, I tried the Pomodoro method. You have probably seen study videos on YouTube called Pomodoro; it is a learning technique where you study for 25 to 30 mins and take a 5-minute break and repeat. 

A friend of mine suggested I try this. Since the biggest issue with burnout is weak concentration and attention span, this break technique is a good reward-based system to work with. While the concept, I found many timed YouTube videos that felt like you were studying with someone virtually. As it felt like working with someone prevented me from getting distracted from my own work. 

Get some fresh air. 

My personal favourite. My solution to any mental or emotional stress is air. Getting some fresh air always showed immediate results; however, I simply didn’t go out with all my work. So, I brought back my habit of getting out of my house every day. I sometimes literally stand on your front porch for 10 to 15mins looking up at the sky. That is all it takes; it does the job. I would immediately feel refreshed, with a new fresh mindset to get back to work. 

Change your study environment. 

This is also a trick that helps the most with improving my productivity. Due to our friend COVID, we study, finish assignments, attend meetings and work on group projects all in our little rooms. I found it effective to move to a different room where there isn’t any bed.

The bedroom is where we sleep and relax; our body is more inclined to feel relaxed when we are in our room. This can affect our productivity level; moving to a living room or a study space can help us feel motivated to get the job done without being distracted. 

Just like the Pomodoro technique, studying in my living space allowed me to hold myself accountable. 

Take care of yourself. 

The biggest downside of student burnout for me was that I wasn’t eating or sleeping well. I needed to fix that. I started a healthier diet, cut down on take-outs entirely, and began eating only home-cooked meals. And adding fruits to my diet. Cooking for myself again and attempting to wake up earlier in the morning set me back on schedule to be more active. 

 

Student burnout cannot be fixed overnight, but the following changes I made in my life have positively impacted my productivity and overall mental and emotional health. I hope to make a habit out of these and keep them going. Hope my little journey attempting to recover from student burnout helps a few of the students out!

Sherlly Russel

Carleton '22

Your not so average, complicated, and multicultural brown girl. Born and raised in India, middle-school, and high school in china, university in Canada. Conversations about philosophy, cosmology, cross-culturalism, and religion are right up my alley!
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