Calasandra Spray (TheLorian)
The holidays are fast approaching and every college student knows what that means: finals. Juggling family, schoolwork, work, and extracurriculars can be a huge strain on physical and mental health and cause burnout. While burnout is not a medical diagnosis, it can be the cause of a loss of personal identity resulting in a less productive day.
The first thing to know about burnout is how to spot it. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of burnout can include but are not limited to cynicism or overly critical evaluation of the self, lack of motivation to do work, lack of energy to be productive, difficulty concentrating, a lack of satisfaction from completed tasks, a change in sleep habits, and unexplained headaches or nausea.
Fortunately, there are ways to bounce back from burnout. These same methods can be used as a preventative action to stop yourself from becoming burnt out.
The first step is to set boundaries. If a task is not helping to achieve bigger goals, set it aside for a time when one has more time and energy to handle it. I am guilty of not adhering to this advice. Any time extra credit is offered in a class, I’ll jump on it. Even if it means my regular work suffers while I’m busy doing optional things. Whereas, if I assess what time and energy I have available to accomplish tasks, then I would set the extra credit on the back burner to wait for a time when I have more energy. Doing this could improve my regular class scores and eliminate the need for extra credit. This concept applies outside of the classroom as well. Before saying yes to an extracurricular or an available shift at your job, make sure to check in with oneself and ask if it’s reasonable to add something else to one’s plate.
One way that I have found to accomplish setting boundaries for myself is setting a three-task rule. I like checking little boxes off in my planner but every time I look, it seems there are more boxes left to be checked than those done. At the end of the day, no matter how many boxes I have checked off, I don’t feel accomplished because there was something that I didn’t do. There were still unchecked boxes. Now, I make sure to only place three boxes on each spread for my daily tasks. If I get those three things done and I have more energy, then I can do three more. However, if I get those three things done, I feel accomplished even if I don’t have the energy to do more. Celebrating the small wins makes the big jobs a little easier.
In the same respect, take some personal time. Turn off devices, don’t check emails, forget about homework for an hour, and do something personal. If one feels the weight of everything they have to do is crashing down on them, sometimes taking a step back allows one the sense of mind to see each thing as an individual task instead of a mass horde of them. Having a moment to oneself to do something relaxing and fun, such as painting, going for a walk, reading a book that’s not for a class, or playing a video game, can help relieve tension. When one does pick their work back up, it hopefully doesn’t feel so overwhelming. For me, I have a self-love hour every day. An hour before bed, I put down all my work so that my brain can wind down. This also helps me to fall asleep instead of lying there thinking of all the things I need to get done.
Another way to help prevent or recover from burnout is to talk to someone about it. Bottling up our feelings often makes them worse. Call a friend, video chat with family, or even talk to a counselor. Loras’ campus has an excellent counseling center that one can turn to if you feel the need. Through connecting with others, we can find a support system that helps us feel less alone when dealing with lots of stress. This support system can also help us to re-discover ourselves if we are feeling lost in the sea of tasks and accomplishments. Remember, we are not robots and are not meant to spend our lives constantly working.
As finals approach, be sure to make time for oneself and prioritize tasks so that burnout doesn’t occur. If one notices signs of burnout in themselves or others, re-evaluate where time can be made to rest and rejuvenate. That way, everyone can get back to being productive instead of forcing themselves through each task on a never-ending list. Remember: be kind to yourselves and good luck studying!