Academic Burnout and How to Treat It 

Academic burnout is a plague that is especially prominent during COVID times. Academic burnout symptoms are manifested in much more than general fatigue and reluctance prior to attending class. It can lead to decreased academic performance over time, frequent exhaustion, and a lack of interest in daily activities that previously brought joy altogether. For first-year students, especially, college can be extremely foreign at times - you’re trying to fit in and at the same time survive classes that are a big jump from high school.

Recognizing burnout, i.e. self-awareness, is key to alleviating academic burnout. A few obvious indications of academic burnout include constant fatigue, anxiety and detachment, deliberate avoidance of social settings, debilitating grades, short attention span and disengagement. However, this list isn’t exhaustive as different physical manifestations of academic burnout may also be prevalent. The root cause of burnout lies in many compounding factors, including work and assignment overload, peer pressure and academic pressure from parents. So, now that we’ve identified the indicators, how can we actually avoid academic burnout? 

1. Acknowledge that you’re burnt out 

Keeping yourself in the dark is probably one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Recognizing and acknowledging when you’re burnt out is vital; it makes it much easier to manage when you are not constantly anxious or exhausted. 

2. Ask 'why’?

Tap into your intrinsic motivation by asking ‘why’ more often. Intrinsic motivation is the idea that learning is naturally gratifying - reinforcing this idea is correlated with higher academic achievement and lower academic burnout. When you ask yourself why you are studying and what is motivating you to pursue academic achievement, you also identify and reinforce personal goals. This boosts academic persistence and reduces reliance on grades as a source of extrinsic validation. 

3. Work a little every day

While it’s important to push yourself, it’s also important to recognize that you’re human and have limits. If you feel like you’re exhibiting obvious signs of academic burnout, start slow, which will help you regain a high-impact learning pattern. The early investment of consistent time and effort will help you self-regulate your workload in the long run. Even while revising, make sure you aren’t just passively highlighting your notes or make summaries as this is extremely time-consuming, less effective and ultimately counterintuitive. 

Take advantage of study techniques, such as active recall, because it actively stimulates memory: this helps in better retrieval of information. Spread your study time over days, effectively planning essays out in advance, instead of unnecessarily stressing yourself out at the last minute. 

4. Make sure you’re sleeping and exercising enough 

Sometimes, our burnout may be caused or aggravated by sheer lack of rest, and so, it's important to manage stress carefully. Alongside actually benefiting your body, these forms of self-care can offer an alternative outlook to productivity outside traditional “work.” Exercising during study breaks is extremely beneficial, helping you restore your focus and improve memory functioning. 

5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Although it’s ideal to keep yourself busy at all times, sometimes it’s better to do less work than you can handle. Truthfully, you need to create a sense of equilibrium in your life. A good rule to follow is this: it’s good to challenge yourself, but avoid making long-term obligations that you may not be able to follow through with. 

Ultimately, it’s essential to regain a sense of balance in your life, especially when you’re burnt out. Balancing education and adulting simultaneously can definitely be taxing, but going through it alone is much harder. If you are ever feeling alone or in need of a helping hand, reach out to college counsellors for assistance. Remember, if you address it quickly, you can give yourself the opportunity to develop coping tools that help you overcome burnout. 

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