How To Fight Academic Burnout

With everything thrown our way lately—midterms, papers, lab reports, all due right before fall break—all anyone really wants to do is (1) take a nap and (2) go on fall break. If your professors are anything like mine, you’ll probably have a bit of work to do over break as well. And while classes can be fun and interesting, the routine of sitting down at a table somewhere and studying for hours every day kind of sucks.

Symptoms of burnout include short attention span, frustration with those around you, apathy or disinterest in things that you normally care about, and low mood or anxiety. If you’re experiencing any of these, here are some things that might help.

Schedule your time

Plan out your day. If you have class from 8-10 and then nothing until 1:30, you’ve got time to nap, eat lunch, and probably check your email. Taking care of yourself is so important, and what sounds better anyway? Taking a nap and catching up on sleep, or sitting over a textbook for two hours and accomplishing nothing? I’ll be in bed, thanks.


Make a list of things that you absolutely have to do. If nothing else is accomplished that day, those things have to be done. This can be academic stuff, like that paper that’s worth 10% of your grade, or it can be doing your laundry, because it hasn’t been done in two weeks and now you’re out of pants.

Be positive!

Okay, I’m not saying that thinking ~happy thoughts~ will make all of your problems disappear. It might not help at all. Strive to be realistically positive; feeling burnt out will not last forever, because it never has before. Doing the reading will make you feel more prepared in class, which will make you feel better overall. Being realistic about your goals for the day will help you to actually get things done and not feel guilty later when you don’t accomplish things because you were overeager on your to-do list.

Learn how to say no

We’ve all been there—stressed about 100 little things and a few big ones, and someone asks a favor. “Can you cover my shift?” “Ooh, come watch the soccer game with me.” “You have the best Insta captions, can you write mine?” Oftentimes, they’re things you would normally be down for, but you really can’t spare the time or mental energy. Learning how to say “no” is tough, especially when you’re saying it to someone you care for or respect. But it’s an essential skill to learn, and chances are they’ll be able to get someone else to do what they wanted you to do anyway.

Take care of yourself physically

There’s often an expectation that taking care of your body means getting exercise for 30 minutes five to six days a week. And sure, in an ideal world, that would be great. But if you’re experiencing burnout, strive for a walk around campus or a quick gym sesh or something that you’ve tried before that works. (Dance party, anyone?) Making sure you’re also eating and drinking water is a part of this, as well as sleeping. Exercise is not the only thing that matters for your health, and we shouldn’t treat it as such.

Ask for help

This is by far one of the hardest things to do. Setting up meetings to get back on track or asking people to help you understand material that you feel should have been easy can feel like admitting defeat. You have to muster up a little mental strength and tell yourself that everyone you look up to, everyone that’s gotten where they want to go, has asked for help to get there. Burnout is a setback, and one that’s normal in college. You’ll be able to make it through.