Feel the burn? How to recognize and overcome burnout

Written by Amie Gant, Career Center Communication and Design Assistant, Bachelor of Science, Professional Writing.

Burnout image
Burnout can negatively impact your academic performance and work.

Semesters are long and overwhelming. For many students, instructors, and professors, this Thanksgiving

break can’t come fast enough. Exams and large projects are due every week, and there never seems to be a moment to come up for air. Whether you are a first-year undergraduate, or this is your last year as a graduate student, burnout can and may have already happened to you.

Being burnt out can have serious effects on your academic performance, your work, and your personal life. If you’re not on the lookout for the symptoms, it might be too late before burnout hits you at full force, slowing your progress to a crawl, weakening your sense of happiness, and detrimentally affecting your academic and work success.

Burnout is natural and happens to everyone. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • constant fatigue or always wanting to sleep
  • tired of classes or hating work that previously interested you
  • no longer putting effort into assignments
  • procrastination
  • loss of interest in hobbies
  • never enough time to do anything
  • unorganized
  • difficulty managing stress
  • poor eating habits
  • lack of exercise
  • anger, cynicism, and uncertainty

If you answered yes to one or more, you may be experiencing burnout. Why is this happening? Burnout has numerous causes, but here are a few reasons:

  • an overload of assignments
  • a major life change (moving, starting a new job, getting married, death of a friend or family member)
  • monotony at work
  • constantly hanging around the same people (whether you like or dislike them)
  • doing the same activities repetitively
  • remaining in a high-stress environment for an extended period of time

You can conquer burnout and become focused and feel energized again. It won’t happen overnight, but keep in mind that you didn’t reach this point of exhaustion in one day, or maybe even in one semester. Here are six things you can do to alleviate the feelings of burnout:

  1. Eliminate the source. This doesn’t mean to drop out of college or quit work. Sure, a large portion of your stress may stem from classes and work, but they aren’t the only reasons you’re overwhelmed. Take a step back and really dig deep to figure out the additional stressors weighing you down. Sometimes a change of place is good, but don’t make a hasty decision and walk out in the middle of your shift unless you have a guarantee that doing so won’t create financial hardship or damage your work reputation.
  2. Reverse your routine. Change it up! If you normally rush to open your social media apps every time you’re on break, try drawing or reading a book instead. If you always eat out, find a cool recipe and make it yourself. If you use a tablet or a laptop for the majority of your writing, try writing with pen and paper once in a while. Constantly drive the same way to and from school and work? Find an alternate route. The point is to do something unusual in your daily routine.
  3. Make time for you. If you don’t have time to enjoy anything, try cutting back on your number of commitments. While putting others’ needs before your own is generous, doing it constantly can be exhausting. Being active and involved is wonderful as long as you’re not spreading yourself too thin. If an obligation is not a priority right now, try doing something to alleviate your stress instead, such as exercising or finally working on your long-lost hobby you haven’t picked up all semester.
  4. Prepare your own healthy meals. It’s often difficult to wake up 20 minutes early to pack a healthy lunch, or even to prepare a meal the night before. This may cause you to resort to grab-on-the-go, low-nutrient foods, which in the long run will only increase your fatigue and unhappiness. Eating food with the nutrients your body needs will increase your mental clarity and boost your energy levels to help you power on.
  5. Move, move, move. If you sit for hours in class, or have a job that doesn’t require much physical exertion, try to take frequent breaks. Walk for five minutes. Move! Smell the fresh air! Look up at the sky! If you truly do not have 30 minutes in a day to spare for exercise, try spending five minutes doing pushups or squats. Find something that you like and then do a little bit at a time. The more you move, the more energy you will have throughout the day.
  6. Get organized. Use a planner to write out your deadlines so you don’t have to keep track of everything in your head. Make a prioritized to-do list and cross off the tasks as you complete them. Be careful to keep the list achievable. Do only what you can work on today and schedule the rest for tomorrow. By prioritizing your day, week, and month, you can easily focus on one task at a time, instead of becoming overwhelmed and losing track of 20 different projects.

The semester is almost over! Keep your mind sharp and your attitude positive. It will make an enormous difference in your academic performance, your work environment, and your life as a whole. By learning to recognize when you are getting too exhausted, you will be able to re-strategize your way of life at school and work to prevent future bouts of burnout.

For help and advice for overcoming burnout, visit the Counseling Center.

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