The definition of the word “burnout” (as it applies to college students) is this: “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” Now you may be thinking, as many college students do: well, I’m suffering from burnout. Don’t worry, because I’m about to let you in on a little secret: everyone has.
At some point or another in their collegiate career, every student has been through burnout. I know I have - am, actually. To be completely candid, my junior year of college has been difficult for me thus far. Everything I do feels like work, so I end up doing nothing. I still get done what I need to get done, but I end up procrastinating until it feels like I’m being overwhelmed. I’m tired all the time, my mental health is suffering; if I continue to let this go on, it could come to a point where I begin to isolate myself or snap at my friends, which is the last thing that I want. I’m supposed to be there for my friends, not let them fall victim to my own issues. However, this kind of thinking is putting even more stress on me: social stress. Between social stress, educational stress, health stress, and the many other types of mental stress, how are we supposed to keep from suffering from burnout? How are we supposed to keep that from taking a toll on our mental health? How are we supposed to keep going to class if class is what’s shutting us down this way?
However, not all hope is lost. As I’m going through this stressful time in my life, I’ve found that, more often than not, people are both understanding and willing to help. My friends have been nothing but supportive. We often schedule a time to do homework together, all sitting in our living room on our separate laptops but still coexisting. When I’m in desperate need of a mental break, though, my friends are usually willing to take a step back and play a board game or watch an episode of our favorite shows. A tactic we’ve been using lately is a brake system; we work on our respective projects for either a time increment (half an hour, an hour, etc.) or a certain paper length (one paragraph, one page, etc.), and then do something we want to do. Whether that thing we want to do is watching TV, listening to music, or checking social media, it’s still a kind of reward system that we can use to motivate ourselves while still feeling like we’re not just doing work. As long as we make time to do things we want to do, while still making time to do the things we have to do, we can navigate burnout better together.
In addition to my friends, at Cabrini University, I’ve found that teachers are usually understanding about mental health. (My Gender and Body Studies teacher even has her own mental health policy.) If you speak honestly with them about what’s going on in your life (whether it be struggling with mental health or with family issues), typically, they’ll be sure to work with and accommodate you. It’s important to remember that professors are people too - no college professor actively seeks to ruin your life. They’ve dealt with similar, if not the same, issues that you’re dealing with right now. Be upfront with them about your workload and what you can and cannot handle; if they’re afraid of you abusing those privileges, they’ll let you know. In that case, schedule a meeting with them to more calmly discuss the situation at length.
Burnout is something that not only students go through; everyone goes through it every once in a while. If you’re struggling like I am, don’t be afraid to let people know. Your mental health is important; take care of yourself!