As many students continue their education online, it has become more common to experience burnout; a state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burnout happens when we get overwhelmed with work and responsibilities, which can reduce productivity and motivation levels. Not only are college students trying to navigate this new educational reality, but they also face stress from other areas of life that can add up and contribute to burnout.
Do you think you might be experiencing burnout? Physical signs may include feeling tired most of the time, experiencing headaches, change in appetite, and lowered immunity. Mental signs include self-doubt, stress, loss of motivation, procrastination, and withdrawing from responsibilities. The detrimental effects of burnout may spill over into many areas of life such as relationships, personal, social, and mental aspects of life. Through prolonged stress, burnout can also suppress the immune system and make you more vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and flu. It is important to recognize when you are experiencing burnout and act upon it right away. Here are some healthy tips to deal with burnout.
This one is critical for me because it helps me see what I need to do, how much I need to do, how many days I have to do it, and the deadlines. I highly suggest using a planner (digital or physical) to stay organized. I like writing down due dates, exam dates, events, and meetings in my planner. I then keep a separate notebook for a to-do list, where I write everything I need to get done for the day and cross things off as I go. Try planning your weeks in advance to know what is coming up so you won’t be caught by surprise by deadlines. This also helps ensure that you can start working ahead to reduce last-minute cramming that leads to stress.
This one is so cheesy because I hear it all the time, but it’s so important. Science shows the brain needs free time to process new information and turn it into something more permanent. If you take study breaks, do something fun and de-stressing, whether that’s like meditating, going out with friends, or playing video games.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. You don’t need to go to the gym every single day, nor do hardcore workouts for it to count. You can go walking, jogging, dancing, bicycling, yoga, swimming, or do a quick workout at home. Almost any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress levels. Too busy to go to the gym? There are thousands of workout videos on YouTube free of charge! Keeping stress levels down while staying fit is a double win because you are reducing the chances of experiencing burn out while maintaining a healthy body.
Struggling with a concept or an assignment? Go to office hours or email your professor and peers. When I struggle in a class it means there is something I need clarification or help on. Once everything is clarified, I can move on and get work done faster! It saves time and stress by asking for help when you need it. Need someone to talk to about a bad day? Socializing is nature’s antidote to stress relief. Talk to a friend, family member, or therapist. We should not forget there are people who can help us get through stressful times. The person you choose to talk to doesn’t have to fix your issues, they just have to be present to listen without judgment. Finally, avoid negative people or environments as they will only worsen your stress levels.
We need a healthy balance of work and fun/relax time. When we dominate our lives with constant work, we lose that critical time for ourselves. We become disconnected from what we enjoy, and from what a stress-free life is like. Set time aside to relax and do things you enjoy. If you have trouble creating free time for yourself like I do, try creating a list of things you love to do, then reference that list when you are not working to see what you can do to destress. Self-care is an overrated term, but it is the foundation for a healthy, balanced life. If we do not take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of our other responsibilities efficiently.
Sleep & Eat Well
We all know sleep is important for our brains and overall health. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep for better work performance. Going back to being organized—if you keep track of the things you need to get done for the week/month, you will be less likely to stay up late at night cramming and thus, lose sleep. Being organized and getting enough sleep go hand in hand. Our diets also dictate how we feel throughout the day. Incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your diet and limit fast food. A trick that works for me is choosing fruit for the week and changing up the fruit each week so I get a variety of fruit in my diet. Eat more home cooked meals instead. Not only will you be eating healthier by preparing your own meals, but you will also be saving money.
Burnout is your body asking you to pay more attention to certain areas of your lifestyle. Ignoring emotional, mental, nutritional, and physical needs can push you to the limit. Recognize when you experience burnout and locate the cause. Then work backward and reverse the symptoms by addressing your needs. Hopefully, some of these tips come in handy throughout the quarter while you’re studying and working hard. These strategies will ultimately help you focus on you and your health when the going gets tough.