Health

Beating Burnout: A Student’s Guide to Surviving Second Semester 

Within a school of students fueled by ambition, burnout spreads silently, threatening to purge passion and purpose from those who challenge themselves relentlessly. Although this epidemic is often dismissed as a normal part of student life, there are simple ways to prevent, recognize, and manage burnout. 

What is burnout?

To understand how to treat burnout, we have to understand what it is. Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It is generally caused by prolonged and enormous stress, but the underlying factor is the exertion of a level of energy that is not sustainable. Think about your phone battery: if you’re on excessively, but don’t stop to plug it in, it dies. The human battery can be thought of in the same manner; if certain preventative measures are not taken, your battery dies. However, unlike your phone which can be turned back on in a few minutes, a person’s battery may take longer to recharge and have more lasting consequences once energy runs too low. 

Facing work at times can seem daunting and uncomfortable, which is why procrastination is a typical mechanism for coping with stress and sustained fatigue. This, however, only perpetuates the discomfort and pushes the stress further down the road. 

How do I avoid it?

Avoiding burnout and managing it are quite similar in concept. The key is maintaining or introducing balance into your life in your actions and responsibilities. Here are some ways to cope with burnout

Consistent self-care

Although it’s compelling and often used under the same term, self-care does not mean a spa day or a facial. This term refers to taking care of oneself in ways that have long-term benefits for your mental and physical health. Some examples include getting adequate and good quality sleep, exercising regularly, getting outside, enjoying quiet activities away from your device, and eating well.

Scheduling and Time Management

Scheduling and managing your time efficiently is one of the best ways of introducing and maintaining balance in your life. Planning out each day and understanding your responsibilities can go a long way to making sure you are not overworking yourself. An hourly planner is the best investment for doing this effectively.

Breaks

It may seem counterintuitive to include breaks in your day if you are stressed by your workload, but dividing your work into increments that allow for breaks when it seems appropriate— not for doom-scrolling, but for doing something productive— gives you time to rest your mind and allows for sharper focus once you return.

Emotional regulation

Executive functioning skills— including regulating emotions, prioritizing, attention, and organization— are mainly controlled by an area known as your frontal lobe. Unfortunately, this area is the last part of your brain to develop and does not finish until around age twenty-five. For this reason, emotional regulation encompasses all of the above topics and is easily the most important. Knowing when to access resources such as counseling, coaching, or reaching out to a mentor can also greatly improve your quality of work and life.

Most people experience burnout and exhaustion– and certainly stress– at some point in their lives, but understanding the underlying causes and the mechanisms to combat symptoms can promote a healthier, happier lifestyle.