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End-of-Year Academic Burnout: Has it Hit You Yet?

With exam season right around the corner, many of us are mentally drained and physically overwhelmed with the never-ending assessments and time-consuming extracurriculars. The finish line is right in front of us, but we are struggling to take the last few steps to cross it. “It’s the last part of the race that is always the most challenging,” as many may say. After almost eight months of striving for academic success, I feel like a rusty old car engine that is in need of an oil change. I understand how important these last few weeks of school are, but I just can’t convince myself to even do the simplest task like downloading the lecture slides and inserting them into OneNote. Whenever I begin to feel mentally ready to sit in front of my desk, my body makes an impulsive decision on its own, and before I even realize, I am lying on my couch. Or sometimes when I’m watching my lectures, it would take me hours (for hours I mean the entire day) to complete a ten-minute module because my mind wants to be elsewhere. All of these are signs of the end of the school year burnout – you are stressed, but you just don’t want to do anything.

As I’m currently battling with burnout, I start to reflect on the causes of this not-so-healthy state of exhaustion as it may assist us in finding a coping strategy. I’m someone who enjoys having a busy schedule where no time is wasted. It makes me feel accomplished and motivates me to become the best version of myself. But after noticing myself waiting in line for Starbucks every day, I realized I’ve pushed myself a little too far to the point where two cups of iced shaken espresso won’t keep me awake. My mind and body became two separate entities, and this is when I learned the importance of prioritization, and letting things go. What is the point of showing up to a volunteer work if you are constantly questioning “why am I even here?” in your head? You only have so much energy every day; instead of dividing them across ten different tasks, you would be more likely to put more effort into each of them if you let go of some that you are doing only for the sake of doing. 

With such a busy schedule, I often sacrifice my sleep and eating time, and there are times where even drinking water becomes a hassle. But I have to remind myself that nothing is more important than health. You are very unlikely to stick with your plan if your body gives out on you, and this is why proper sleeping, eating schedules and hydration level will get you back on track. Speaking of neglect, the “alone time” everyone needs is often forgotten while we are drowning in academic work. Don’t underestimate the power of “alone time” as it can unleash your full potential and prepare you for the future challenges. When feeling overwhelmed and anxious, why not take yourself out for a walk and listen to your favourite song? Or put on Netflix while eating some ice cream on your bed in your comfiest pyjamas? Learn to put a pause on your restless life and direct your focus towards your mental and physical health. Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about how you are doing with your family or others who you feel comfortable sharing. I made the mistake of containing all the negative emotions within myself and thought I could overcome them like a piece of cake. One day, I was no longer able to tuck these emotions away and pretend I was fine, so I finally brought them to the surface with my mother, and together, we were able to untangle the emotional knots.

Burnouts are not the end of the world. Like many other negative things we deal with in life, finding a coping strategy is key in managing the symptoms. It’s definitely a process to figure out what’s best for you when burnout hits, and pushing yourself beyond the limit is not the way to go. In the end, we are only human beings, not a bunch of robots that are able to function 24/7.

Catherine Yu

McMaster '23

Catherine is a second-year McMaster student majoring in Kinesiology, and hopes to minor in Economics. Outside of school, she loves to sing, dance, and go on hikes with friends and family! You will often catch her at the candy aisle in the grocery store.
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