How to Deal with Burnout

As my alarm rang, I woke up with a start, blearily checking the time on my phone. I stayed in bed for another half an hour, idly scrolling through Instagram, even though I knew perfectly well that it would make me late for class. The rational part of my brain was screaming at me to get out of bed and go get ready. Yet, I simply couldn’t make myself move (and it’s not like this was the first time it happened). Getting out of bed seems to be a simple task, doesn’t it? But sometimes, the simplest tasks can be the most difficult. If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing the symptoms of burnout.

The term “burnout” was introduced in the 1970s by Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist. There is still ambiguity around how to define and diagnose burnout, so it’s hard to know exactly how common it is. However, one study does attempt to explore how burnout affects college students. This study found that out of the 350+ students surveyed (237 of those surveys were used), 49% listed “assignment overload” as one of the causes of why they were experiencing burnout. Research has also found high rates of stress, mental health diagnoses, and risk of suicidal thoughts in college students. Racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities are even more vulnerable.

Some signs of burnout are chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, and a sense of detachment from the people around you. Burnout isn’t something that happens instantly, but develops over months or even years. As a result, it can be difficult to recognize its presence. Nevertheless, it’s important to identify the signs of burnout as soon as possible as ignoring them is likely to make the situation worse.

If you think you’re experiencing burnout, first of all, take a step back and assess your life. Realistically consider your capabilities and try not to take on more than you can handle. It’s okay to say no and to not take on new commitments when trying to recover from burnout. This process of recovery will be slow and certainly not easy, but it’s important to get started as soon as possible so that you can get back to a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.

One thing that’s helpful if you’re feeling burned out is to make time for things that you enjoy, whether that’s catching up on that TV show you love or delving into that book you always wanted to read. It can be as simple as allocating a part of your day to doing that enjoyable thing. Also, try to celebrate your tiniest achievements; appreciating yourself as the wonderful person that you are will help you slowly overcome burnout. You went to all your classes? Good job, that’s an improvement! You started incorporating more fruits into your diet? Yay, go you! Continue being healthy! That being said, there will be worse days when you make mistakes and feel like you ruined your process of recovery. However, these setbacks don’t negate your progress. It’s important to keep trying even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

As finals are upon us, you must take care of yourself and know your limits. Don’t overexert yourself. Recognizing burnout sooner will make the process of recovery much easier and it will help you have a smoother finals season.