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Mental Health

How to Identify and Avoid College Burnout

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

College burnout can occur when students experience continuing stress about college, leaving them exhausted, drained and/or unable/unwilling to do work. If you’ve ever gone through a semester of college, chances are you know that feeling. Burnout is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Balancing a social life, several classes, extracurriculars and relaxation time can be hard. While it is normal to experience stress at times, burnout can be more severe than feeling overwhelmed. 

Students may experience burnout differently. Burnout can make you want to either collapse at your desk or continue doing work when you’re way too tired to do it. You may start skipping class or barely doing any homework anymore, or you may start using other substances of drugs/alcohol to help you focus and be less tired. Burnout can make you sacrifice your mental health and well-being while having your college performance take a hit as well.

The American Institute of Stress identifies these three specific feelings to identify burnout.

  1. feeling tired or exhausted
  2.  a lack of enthusiasm and increased negativity towards you work
  3. decreased ability to perform your work

Other physical symptoms and emotions can accompany these markers, including:

  • being increasingly irritable or frustrated
  • anxiety or restlessness
  • physical reactions of stress such as headaches, stomach issue, body pains, or fatigue

Below are some tips to avoid burnout. If you’ve identified that you’re going through it, it’s important to know how to alleviate some of those symptoms and avoid them in the future.

  1. Organize
    • Let’s say you’re the type of person that writes a to-do list when you want to sit down and study. When you’ve finished writing out all the assignments that are due that night, you realize you just wrote 15 things down that you have to check off before 11:59 tonight. For most people, that is an unmanageable workload with severe time constraints –  while ambitious, it’s not realistic. If you are experience burnout, time management and being able to set up a proper schedule is essential. Focus on being efficient while not putting too much on your plate.
  2. Skip out
    • In college you should experience new things, say yes to different events and join organizations or groups that bring you joy. But you don’t have to be yes-man and agree to anything and everything. Yes, being ambitious and beefing up your resume is great and helpful in your college years. So is learning when you should skip out or cut back on certain things if they don’t align with your priorities. Maybe don’t join 10 different clubs and try to be on the executive team for all them. If you had trouble balancing a part-time job with school work last semester, maybe this semester you take one less class. Know when it’s time to cut back on certain things, which can cut back on the amount of stress you may have.
  3. Sleep
    • There is a stigma that college students don’t get enough sleep, and it’s true. It’s hard to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, have a completely quiet sleep environment with loud roommates or simply quiet down your mind after a long day. Nonetheless, everybody needs sleep and it helps treat burnout by alleviating that fatigue and exhaustion that you may feel from not getting enough sleep in the first place. While difficult, if you’re able to go to bed earlier or even take power naps when you can, sleep can help treat burnout.
  4. Have Fun
    • Time management not only has to do with managing your work time, but also managing your fun time. Not every single moment of being a student actually has to involved doing school things. Have an outlet to release some of that restlessness and give your mind a break, whether it means hanging out with friends, spending time with your couch and Netflix or exercising. Incorporate whatever brings you joy into your routine and get rid of burnout,

Sometimes you can do all the right things and have all the healthy habits to avoid burnout, but it’s still there. This would be the time to take a deeper look at your college experience and see what’s truly working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid when you realize you may want to withdraw from a club, change majors or maybe even take time off from school. Burnout is a serious issue that can affect everyone differently, and sometimes it may be best to reach out to a health professional or a support person to work to combat it.

Nonetheless, you should give yourself credit for your performance in college. It’s okay to acknowledge the burnout and your emotions, revalue your priorities and rearrange things around.

Kaylah Young is a junior at VCU. She is majoring in Mass Communications with a concentration in Journalism, and she has a minor in Political Science. Kaylah has a passion for writing, reading books, and working out at the gym.
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