Mental Fatigue and Combating Burnout

I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted all the time. As a college woman, this is normal for me. As college women, we live in a culture that consistently asks us to perform at our best all the time. We are expected to be “on” all the time. Once the newness of the semester starts to wear off, mental fatigue hits really hard. We burnout quickly.


Burnout is basically when you reach mental or actual physical collapse from having too much stress, or overworking yourself. On a small scale, it’s the feeling you get when you have a long day at school, walk home, throw your backpack off on the floor and slump down on the couch.


We normally talk about burnout in our careers. We use it interchangeably with career boredom and stagnation in some conversations. This conversation needs to be applied to college life too. Prolonged training for careers creates the same stress on students as working in the industry. Couple that with classes, part-time jobs, student organizations, and it’s not wonder that when you ask a student how they’re doing, the most common response is “tired.”




Burnout is more than just being tired. It’s a feeling of exhaustion, depression, and cynicism due to being in a stressful situation for a long period of time. When in a state of chronic stress, we feel that we are not able to accomplish anything. Like our actions are ineffective, and we’d be better off just not even starting that next project.


You can recognize burnout by an overwhelming feeling of being tired all the time, yet somehow having trouble falling asleep, having trouble focusing or remembering things, having headaches, getting sick more frequently than normal, or from feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger. Remember to always visit a doctor if you experience symptoms that are out of the ordinary.


Our social lives and self-worth are also affected. For instance, we may not have any fun doing some of our favorite hobbies, we may feel alone, despite choosing to isolate ourselves from our friends, you feel bitter and cynical, and overall detached from your world. These are signs that you are reaching a state of mental fatigue and that you need to take a deep break.




Overcoming burnout is not such an easy task, since so many of the causes are a part of the college lifestyle. Mostly, it’s tied into self-care and learning to say no to extra stressors.


In the moment the best steps are:

  • Learning to delegate responsibility where you can. Taking time for yourself, and allowing people in your life to help you out. Ask your roommate to help with the dishes, push some of the group project off to the slacker.

  • Schedule yourself personal time. Put it in your g-cal, and respect it. Do not work on school work, career work, or anything. Watch netflix, take a bath, go for a walk, practice your self-care.

  • Get dinner with a friend, or invite them over to watch an old favorite movie. Engage in your relationships, and stay focused in the moment.

  • Stay off social media, email, or anything else that causes anxiety, and a sense of stagnation. Check your grades later.

  • Take a full break. Full stop. Stop. Rest, recharge, and recover before you take on any more stressors.

  • Try new experiences, hobbies, or foods to try to get you out of your rut. (Side note: I tried this last year after finals, and fell in love with calligraphy!)




Burnout is valid. Remember that. If in your college experience you feel life you aren’t making any progress and you are forever tired, take this as an opportunity to scale back and relax before you, well, burnout and like a true star, collapse. Taking a break isn’t lazy, it’s self-improvement.