Student Life

Recognizing and Overcoming Burnout in College

Prioritize your mental and physical health to ensure both social and personal well-being.

Student Contributor, Jasmin Kaur

January 16, 2023

Recognizing and Overcoming Burnout in College
Know the warning signs of burnout.
Whether it be a change in location, new responsibilities, or the increased academic pace, college can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression in many students. According to numerous studies, mental health issues, among them anxiety and burnout, have been steadily rising in the past decade. However, despite the concerning rise, the percentage of students recognizing these signs of burnout falls behind. Instead, as the academic environment is growing in competitiveness, many students are placing their studies before their health, despite the negative consequences on both spheres.

Warning Signs of Burnout

Below are four warning signs of burnout to recognize before it grows worse:

1. Disinterest in activities previously enjoyed.

If there's a class you previously enjoyed that now seems to drag on forever, a favorite pastime that now absorbs all your energy, or a club you enthusiastically joined but now feels dull, it may be a sign of burnout. Oftentimes, physical and mental exhaustion can lead to a loss of interest and dispassion for previously enjoyable activities. This then leads to the second sign…

2. Physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion.

Fatigue, or perpetual physical exhaustion, alongside mental or emotional exhaustion, is one of the top indications of burnout. If you find yourself becoming easily irritated or constantly fighting a cold, it may be a sign that your body needs time to recover.
While there may be other underlying health issues that you should address with your doctor, burnout can often cause a deep-rooted sense of exhaustion. Whether it's not getting enough sleep or exercise, fatigue can set in quickly if you overexert yourself for an extended time. Your body requires both mental and physical breaks to stay in shape and remain prepared for work.

3. Repeated procrastination.

Again, disinterest or lack of motivation can indicate something more significant is at play than the occasional bout of laziness. If you find yourself constantly putting off important tasks, lacking creativity for projects, or unable to focus on lectures and readings, it might be time to take a break and let your brain rest.

4. Feelings of anxiety or depression.

Lastly, if you feel anxious or depressed rather than dispassionate, it could indicate that you should take a break and step back. If a project you would've taken on with enthusiasm now incites anxious or resentful emotions, you're more likely to do the work poorly or not at all. So rather than forcefully pushing yourself to continue the coursework, listen to your mind and body first. While it is definitely possible to recover from burnout with a break and some personal time, as well as with seeking professional help if necessary, it’s best to tackle the issue before it overwhelms you.

Ways to Prevent Burnout

Below are five ways to help prevent burnout and manage your stress for a healthier and happier college experience!

1. Exercise and eat healthy!

No matter how busy the schedule gets, it's crucial to maintain as healthy a routine as possible. Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep each night (some studies show you can catch up on sleep over the weekend). Exercise for at least 60 minutes per day, whether it be going to the gym or simply taking a walk, to help maintain energy and give your brain some downtime. And lastly, while the occasional treat is okay, strive to eat healthy, avoiding caffeine and high levels of sugar to prevent sudden energy drops.

2. Plan ahead!

Planning, whether using an app on your phone or keeping a paper planner, and maintaining a routine can drastically alleviate stress and help you determine how and where you're spending your time.

3. Find a balance.

One of the crucial benefits of a schedule is creating a routine that works for you and allows you to find the balance between your social, academic, and personal life. By finishing homework and studying on time, you'll have more time to spend with friends and family on the weekend rather than stressing about catching up on weeks' worth of work. While finding time to sleep, eat, study, work, socialize, spend time with family, and commit to extracurricular activities can feel like juggling while having a blindfold on, by sticking to a schedule, at the end of the day, you'll find yourself having some semblance of a balanced routine!

4. Know your boundaries, and don't be afraid to enforce them if necessary.

Only you know how far you can push yourself before you're no longer committing your best work. Don't be afraid to say no to certain events or tasks if you cannot effectively handle them at the time or need a break. Rather, use your time and energy to commit to things that bring you closer to your goals and personal contentment. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean you should back out of responsibilities at the last minute, but gauge your availability and energy before committing, and people will understand if something happens at the last minute and you need some time.

5. Lastly, don't be afraid to step back and ask for help.

If you’re struggling, there’s no greater way to show your strength than to display acceptance and ask for help if you need it. Knowing and recognizing your boundaries displays maturity and responsibility and emphasizes a willingness to grow. If you want to go for it, don't let the hesitance of inexperience or other worries stop you from tackling a challenge! But if you need that break, listen to your body and understand when it might be best to step back and take a break. There is no right or wrong, weaker or stronger choice, but rather merely a demonstration of maturity and the willingness to accept one's limitations and strengths.

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