Between overworking, being constantly “switched on”, and juggling the many facets of life, burnout is becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon. Label volunteer, Jennie Baxendale, writes about what burnout is and tips about how to best avoid it.
Burnout. Emotionally and physically drained, overwhelmed and lacking in motivation? As students we can be susceptible to experiencing Burnout symptoms throughout our degree, balancing studying and work with our social and personal lives. You may find yourself waking up to a busy day of lectures, coursework that needs completing and revision to do for up-coming exams, but feeling like you want to just avoid it all and stay in bed. These expectations to complete multiple tasks and to perform well, whilst dealing with Burnout symptoms, can lead to increased anxiety levels, low energy and interrupted sleep patterns.
Recent 2021 statistics (Office for National Statistics) revealed that 37% of first year uni students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression, with 39% having some form of anxiety. Additionally, those with less self-esteem are more likely to suffer symptoms of Burnout than those who are more confident and self-assured. We see personality becoming a significant factor in whether we are more or less likely to become burnt out, but there are definitely ways to reduce any negative feelings and lack of motivation towards our work/studies.
Balance is key. As I’m sure this is known by most of us, having a lifestyle which suits you and creates some sort of balance will significantly help you to feel less overwhelmed. Heavy workloads, especially, may have you thinking that there is no time for anything else. As a result, you may sacrifice your health by skipping out exercise, socialising/nights out or just some much needed chill time away from studies. It’s so important that you do not neglect these areas of your life if it’s something you like doing. Ensuring you put in place a schedule, so you can factor in time to do work but also time to do something for you, can help achieve a balance so you don’t feel consumed by work alone. Or, if you’re finding yourself going on every ‘night out’ and consistently feeling rough as a result, workload may seem even more intimidating and inevitably build up. Burnout will make an appearance due to working either too late into the night or stressing over tasks because you’re not in the right headspace physically and mentally.
Take that break. If you are in need of some time out from work then factor this in. Don’t work yourself to exhaustion by putting too much pressure on yourself. Your mind won’t want to battle against tiredness or general lack of motivation. You don’t want to start resenting what you’re learning and working on. Take breaks, ensure you stay in some nights and stay well-rested. This will ultimately help in the long run. Remember that an activity which relaxes you is a productive use of your time. Reset yourself and come back to the task having had that time out. It’s ok to do this.
Don’t compare yourself to others. This is both with academic work and routines. A bit of competition is always good and can help you strive to get good results, but comparing yourself to others may make you feel as though you’re not achieving ‘what you should be’. We need to understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds, work ethics and have their own goals. Self-competition and improvement is what’s important. Similarly, with routines, comparing yourself to others is a waste of energy when you should be focusing on you and what works for you. Don’t feel pressured to have to structure your day the way someone else does if waking up at 6am to go to the gym may not work for you. Finding when you’re most productive is a good step to working towards what you want to do and how you want to structure your day. Maybe you feel less motivated to study in the afternoon so this can be the best time to exercise, go to the shops or meet up with some friends.
Prioritise a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, stay active and hydrate. Use your mornings well, especially if you’re productive at this time. Avoid long lie-ins and staying in your room for too long without fresh air or interacting with others. A healthy lifestyle, as we all know, is going to be so beneficial to you both physically and mentally, and Burnout is less likely to affect you. If you don’t partake in sports, then even just going for a walk, grabbing some snacks at the shop and making sure you change up your environment can help refresh both your mind and body.
Talk it out. You’re at Loughborough Uni with around 18,000 students all wanting to do well and have a great time, so talk to your friends, course-mates, teammates and motivate each other, and perhaps arrange to work together. Seek help if you need it, ring your family or even visit home for a break and a reset. Your personal tutor is there for a reason and is someone you can confide in, particularly with any academic concerns. They can point you in the right direction and offer their best advice for you.
As exams get closer, try to keep a positive outlook and set your own personal goals. As much as work can feel overwhelming at times, it’s important to remember why you chose your degree. You’re able to learn more about your chosen field and hopefully feel inspired about your future.
Listen to your mind and your body and create a lifestyle balance which suits you.