The middle of the semester is approaching quickly and chances are, you're experiencing increased levels of stress due to midterm exams, papers, and projects that all happen to be due within days of each other. Due to this increased workload, you may find yourself neglecting some of your most basic needs for well-being, getting enough sleep, eating adequate meals, socializing, and being active. Mid-semester burnout is all too common; especially in a year like this, where there is the added stress of a pandemic. Many classes are held solely online, meaning that we are staring at a screen many hours of the day contributing to the dreaded zoom fatigue. Burnout exhibits itself in many different ways, mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. Symptoms can range from feeling irritable, constantly exhausted, dizzy, frequently getting sick, stress eating, lacking motivation, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, inability to concentrate, or headaches. I'm writing this article because I've been experiencing burnout recently and let me tell you, it's horrible...if you are experiencing burnout (or want to prevent it from happening) keep reading because I've included 10 ways to beat burnout (& prevent it from happening in the future)!
- Learn To Say No
This is the hardest thing for me personally, as I'm a people-pleaser. If there are more tasks to be done at work, responsibilities in a club/extracurricular, or family & friends need help- I always say I can. If you feel that you're constantly taking on more tasks and responsibilities, yet you have no time to rest or get your own tasks done, you may need to start saying no more often. It can be hard to say no to a boss or loved one who needs help but it's important so you don't burn out. Don't spread yourself too thin!
- Schedule & Plan Ahead
My favorite thing to do when I have a lot going on is to write out a tentative schedule. I look at the due dates for my assignments or work projects, as well as any events I had planned. It's easy to overschedule yourself if you aren't aware of due-dates and important events so using a planner is key to time management. Just be sure to give yourself reasonable tasks each day, don't overplan each day because if you don't accomplish everything on your list it can add to your stress. Be sure to delegate your time to tasks you have to do, while factoring in time to rest.
Getting active is so important, but it can feel nearly impossible when you're already stressed about being busy. Exercise is not only extremely beneficial for your physical health but also your mental health, showing a positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD. Additionally, it can help relieve stress, improve memory, and improve sleep quality (Robinson, Segal, and Smith, 2020). My best advice is to get it done as early as possible, whether you wake up at 6am or 10am, take 30-60 minutes to exercise and then you won't have to worry about factoring it into your busy day and eventually putting it off. If you aren't able to get a quick workout in, it's still important to stay active and there are easy ways to do so! Whether you take your dog on a walk, go for a quick run, or take 5 minutes to do jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups as a study break !
- Meditation & Mindfulness
Meditation can help improve focus, concentration, self-awareness and self-esteem, while also lowering stress and anxiety, and fostering kindness. It can also improve your physical health by improving pain tolerance and substance addiction (Heger, 2020). There are a wide range of meditation and mindfulness exercises on youtube, as well as apps like Headspace and Calm. I love headspace because you can choose meditations specifically for what you need- if you're stressed, need to focus, or to help you sleep and it's included if you have a student spotify premium account!
- Talk to a Professional
Despite growing efforts, we still have a stigma around seeking help for mental health. Counseling and therapy are not only for those with diagnosed mental health illnesses or trauma; it can be beneficial even just as a check-up or for advice or coping methods for dealing with stress. We don't need to be at our breaking point to seek help; if you feel like you're overwhelmed and stressed therapy can be a useful tool that can help with a wide range of issues (Holmes, 2017). The University of Utah has free brief counseling sessions as well as group sessions for current students at the University of Utah. Talking to a professional can be so beneficial and I think it's such an important resource to have.
Sleep and stress go hand in hand, if we are stressed we often lose sleep, and lack of sleep can increase stress. Stress and lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on our physical and mental well-being. It's important that we try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Try to avoid being on electronics 2 hours before bed because the blue-light emitted can make it harder to fall asleep. I also recommend looking into a white-noise machine or fan! I used to feel anxious laying in a silent room but having a fan or white-noise machine helped me fall asleep easier and quicker.
- Change up Your Routine
It's easy to feel burnt out when we have neverending to-do lists and are stuck in the same space. If you're able to, try studying in a new place, get up earlier and do yoga or make breakfast, go to a park you haven't been to; do something to decompress and change your surroundings.
This goes along with my last one! While you may have a million things going on or things you need to do, it's so important to take time for yourself. Each day do something for yourself- a face mask, paint your nails, play with your dog, learn to play an instrument, or read a book. Just do something that you enjoy that decreases your stress. There still are options to be with your friends and loved ones even if it's a little bit more difficult, grab takeout and have a picnic, have a movie night with a friend, or my personal favorite-- go to target! It's nice to be in a different environment and not stress about deadlines even if it's just for a couple hours.
Similarly to scheduling, it's important to plan out your week to avoid last minute assignments or missing deadlines. I've procrastinated papers until the day of, only to realize it would take more than the time I had that day to finish them. Save yourself the stress and ace the paper or project by planning enough time to get it done in advance. If you have tasks you need to do but aren't as time sensitive, set aside an hour to get those smaller and less crucial tasks done, or have a day set aside to get them done.
- Enjoy the Outdoors
Just walking outside or looking at trees can lower blood pressure, improve focus, reduce stress, and improve our moods. Not to mention, if you are outside during the day you're getting much needed vitamin D! While Utah weather can be hard to predict, we have a wide range of activities we can do here! Whether you like, skiing, hiking, or simply walking in a park, you can improve your overall well-being by getting outside (Sharp, 2020).
If you feel burnt out, take a deep breath and realize you're doing amazing! Take care of yourself and own the rest of this semester!
5 ways being outdoors can make you healthier and happier. (2020, May 19). Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.sharp.com/health-news/5-ways-being-outdoors-can-make-you-hea... andhappier.cfm#:~:text=According%20to%20Price%2C%20being%20outdoors,related%20hormones%20cortisol%20and%20adrenaline.
Heger, E. (2020, June 22). 7 benefits of meditation, and how it can affect your brain. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.insider.com/benefits-of-meditation#:~:text=The%20mental%20he....
Holmes, L. (2019, September 05). 11 very good reasons to go to therapy. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/reasons-to-go-to-therapy_n_58bf1299e4b0f0...
Robinson, L. (n.d.). The mental health benefits of exercise. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-bene...