College students: let’s talk about burnout

What to do when overwhelmed by school stress

Allison Vanderzanden | Lifestyle Editor

The late nights, assignment overload and financial strain of college can feel normalized, but chronic stress and anxiety can cause students to break down and get severely burnt out. According to the World Health Organization, burnout results from unmanaged long term stress that leads to such negative outcomes as constant exhaustion, social detachment and suffering grades or work performance. Towards the end of a term when stress runs higher than usual, it is especially important to know how to recognize and address burnout.

Burnout can appear in a number of ways ⏤ ranging from a lack of motivation to unending fatigue to severe frustration. In conjunction, when grades start slipping no matter how hard one works and motivation to start or finish responsibilities falls away, it is time to take steps to recover from burnout. 

First, step back and look at the entire situation. Think of every obligation, including ones outside of school, like family and extracurriculars, then order the items based on importance. Getting a degree has been instilled in us as absolutely necessary to a successful career, but taking on more than what is manageable all at once does more harm than good. If college is lower on the priority list, consider taking fewer classes or withdrawing for some time. There is no shame in taking longer than originally planned to finish a degree, especially when mental and physical well-being are at stake. 

Even if college is one of the only obligations on one’s plate, it is important to have an outlet. Clubs or online groups provide socialization with like minded people, and exercising can curb stress and frustration. Creative interests and media like books and TV shows support inspiration and relaxation. It is important to give ample time to these stress relievers; try allotting one day per week to doing nothing but enjoyable pastimes, or fit one hour of relaxation into every day. 

Take breaks from school responsibilities as often as necessary. Go for a walk in the middle of studying, or take a mental health day. Only check and answer emails once or twice a day, and turn off notifications during the night so that sleep is prioritized. Nap to catch up on sleep and power through the rest of the day. 

Making school more enjoyable can also help with burnout so that it feels less straining. Choose a field of study and classes that are most interesting, even if this means changing a major. Forming good relationships with classmates and professors can make the days less monotonous.

Asking for help may be challenging, but if burnout has taken over one’s day-to-day life, it may be necessary. Confide in someone trusted and ask them for support in whatever way is needed. If feeling depressed, talk to a professional, such as a counselor at the Student Health and Wellness Center.

Contact the author at avanderzanden19@mail.wou.edu

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