Note: As always, I am not a medical professional and any physical or emotional symptoms should always be addressed with a professional.
College can be unbearable. As much as it may shock some or seem like an overstatement, it needs to be said. A week in the life of an average college student includes a relentless stream of class work, extracurricular activities, and, in most cases, either a part time job or internship. Not to mention the full-time students and employees! Overtime, the daily stresses of life can begin to compile and turn into what can only be described as burnout. Burnout or feeling burnt out occurs when an individual is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. It can take hold gradually, making life seem a little less exciting each day and turn once loved passions into chores. For others, it can hit all at once, sending an individual into a tailspin of anxiety and dread. It can be easy to dismiss. “I’m just tired,” or “It’ll only last for a little while then I’m back at it,”. By brushing off the symptoms of burnout, individuals may fall into a vicious cycle that could in turn give way to bigger issues. So, let’s talk about it.
Burnout usually occurs when individuals take on too much, are experiencing major life changes, or just an exceptionally busy person. No two people in this world are the exactly the same, so the symptoms of burnout will never display themselves the exact same way in everyone. Here are some things to look out for:
If you find that no matter what you do or how much sleep you get you can’t shake the feeling of being tired all day every day, then you may be beginning to experience some burn out. According to psychology today, “you may feel a lack of energy and feel tired most days,” however, over time, “you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained and depleted,”. When you feel empty, it permeates every part of your life, making each day seem drearier and the future not as exciting and colorful as it once seemed.
- Trouble Sleeping
Since burnout is characterized as chronic stress, this overwhelming feeling could result in trouble sleeping and then later turn into full blown insomnia. This persistent exhaustion and sleep issues can in turn, effect your daily performances in work, school, and daily life.
- Emotional Symptoms
In the beginning, you may find yourself feeling worried, mildly sad, or just feeling tense. Often times we dismiss these feelings and move on; however, these emotions can, over time, develop into more serious symptoms. An overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear of the future can hinder you socially and personally, preventing you from working productively and causing you to seclude yourself. A mild sadness can snowball into larger feelings of dread and emptiness. Burnout can also lead some to becoming short and irritable, which can develop into deeper anger and outbursts. If you feel that your emotions are overwhelming you and preventing you from living a productive life, it is imperative that you seek professional help. Most universities and colleges offer great resources and someone you can talk to, if you’re no comfortable talking to someone on campus, research therapists and doctors in your area.
- Physical Symptoms
Physical symptoms can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and in some cases dizziness among much more. If you feel like you are experiencing physical symptoms related to chronic stress, it is important to reach out to a healthcare professional immediately.
Once identified, what comes next? Here are some ways to deal with feeling burnt out by school and/or life.
- Take a break.
It seems counterproductive at first and everything within you may be protesting the idea of putting the brakes on a project or taking some time off but I can assure you it is absolutely necessary. A majority of the time, burnout is a result of overworking, becoming overwhelmed, or by feeling that everything is becoming too much; therefore, taking a break is absolutely necessary to begin getting back in the right track.
- Pinpoint what is causing the duress.
After taking some time to take a breather, work on finding the root of the problem. Is it taking on too many course load heavy classes? Is it feeling like balancing work and school or school and an internship is becoming too much? It could be one major problem or many problems that are beginning to pile up. Take it a step at a time and try to pinpoint and address what is causing the stress.
- Address the problem
After recognizing what may be playing a factor into your stress, address it. Maybe that looks like taking a day to get a grip of coursework or maybe taking a break from a certain extracurricular. Often times, as a college student, we have a tendency to pile up our schedules with school and clubs and work as a means of getting ahead or adding as much to a resume as possible before it’s too late. Unfortunately, none of this matters if your health isn’t in tip top shape. Your health comes first and everything else follows. If you feel like you can juggle fifty things and still feel good that’s great! But, if you find that you can’t, that’s great too! Learn to balance your life in a way that results in productive, positive results.
If life is getting to be too much, know there is always help just a moment away. You are so loved and deserving of a stress free college experience, but it can be hard to feel/see that and that’s understandable. If you or a loved one are in need of help, never be afraid to reach out to the following resources: