At some point during university, we all get there. You log onto KEATS and see the mounting deadlines for coursework. Your cohort’s Whatsapp chat is full of messages from students stressed about the assignments you can’t bring yourself to start. You are, to put it simply, burnt out.
Burnout is characterised by physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion as the result of unresolved stress and tension. It makes you lose interest in your work, lower your productivity, reduce your energy, and makes you susceptible to illness.
Unfortunately, the rigor of university can lead to burnout, but does not allow students to recover from it. Assignments, class preparations, and pre-recorded lectures can pile up quickly, leaving students feeling as though they have no avenue for support. I have recently suffered from a serious burnout, so I’ve compiled a list of ways to pull yourself out of it, and get the support you need.
1. Contact your personal tutor
I know, I know. It sounds cliche, but perhaps it’s so commonly repeated because it’s sound advice! I reached out to my personal tutor when I was struggling with some events that negatively impacted my mental health, leading to a burnout. She assuaged a lot of my anxiety, and clearly outlined steps I could take to get extensions on my formative assignments. While it’s not guaranteed that reaching out to your personal tutor will result in extensions on assignments, they are valuable resources and are meant to support you mentally and emotionally.
Prior to starting university, I exercised for ten hours a week. Unfortunately, after starting university I stopped exercising, focusing more on joining societies and (trying) to keep on top of work. When my burnout was at its worst, I thought attempting to exercise might help. While the gym closest to me is closed due to COVID, I have been doing different workouts in my room. Exercising, even for a short period of time, is proven to boost your mood and your energy. Doing your favorite form of exercise in the morning will make you more productive for the rest of the day, and stave off pessimism. If you’ve been cooped up inside, rent a Santander bike and cycle around some green spaces in London!
3. Try a new recipe
Burnout from schoolwork can easily seep into other areas of your life, including your eating habits. If, like me, you live in an uncatered residence, this can leave you uninspired to cook meals for yourself. One way I combatted this was by making something new for dinner every day. Leaving my room to go to Tescos allowed me to get some fresh air, and doing something productive (and delicious) really helped my mental health. If you can’t try a new recipe every day don’t worry! Set realistic goals for yourself.
4. Reach out to friends (virtually or in person)
Unfortunately for me, the second lockdown coincided with my burnout. I’m a very social person, and usually when I’m in a bad place I reach out to my friends, as doing activities with them helps pull me out of a slump. When I couldn’t meet all my friends for a drink or have a movie night with them, I didn’t know how I would pull myself out of it. However, I learned that you can get the same satisfaction connecting virtually with your friends. I set up Netflix Parties with them, and we even had Zoom drinks. It’ll never be exactly the same, but connecting with your friends in any way will brighten your mood. Making contact with them will also give you an opportunity to be honest about how unmotivated you’re feeling. True friends will listen, and sometimes just feeling heard will help.
5. Be kind to yourself
It is very easy to berate yourself throughout a burnout. Avoid chastising yourself for all the work you can’t do. King’s College is full of overachievers, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at our best 24/7. If you’re burnt out, continuing to put stress on yourself will not help. You need to be kind to yourself, and see the bigger picture. There is more to life than KEATS, and your mental health is certainly more important than that essay or set of math problems. Take a deep breath, look within yourself, and be patient. You can get through this, and be stronger for it.