How to Avoid and Recover from Academic Burnout
Optimal level of stress is healthy for efficiency, however when stressors linger around for too long and are not dealt with, they can gradually lead to a concern called “burnout”
Packed deadlines, heavy workload and challenges with our batchmates are an ever-present part of our academic and student lives. Not only do these aspects prepare us for future challenges, but they also add the feeble spark of “good stress” that helps us perform more efficiently and give us the much needed “push”.
In a culture where working continuously, taking no-breaks, doing “too many things at the same time” is romanticized, we often fail to notice when this “good stress” transforms from a motivating factor to a roadblock. Optimal level of stress is healthy for efficiency, however when stressors linger around for too long and are not dealt with, they can gradually lead to a concern called “burnout”.
Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion, during which an individual may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, hopeless, unable to meet academic demands and experience a loss of motivation. While one may experience burnout in many different spheres of life, academic burnout stems specifically from the stress one experiences from prolonged periods of studying academic material.
However, it is important to distinguish it from a general feeling of frustration or tiredness that one may experience during the periods of exams or submissions. It is instead a prolonged state of feelings of exhaustion or fatigue that result from continuous study or academic work.
Some common symptoms of academic burnout are:
Lack of motivation to attend classes or complete assignments
Unable to feel rested or continuous feelings of fatigue no matter how much sleep you get or not being able to sleep at all
Feelings of irritability or frustration
Inability to meet deadlines
Lack of confidence in academic abilities
Feeling bored or uninterested in any academic projects
Feelings of anxiety or depression
It is easy to overlook these symptoms as stretching oneself too thin stands synonymous to having unwavering dedication and sacrifice towards one’s work in our culture.
However, it is imperative to remember that stretching oneself too thin is most often followed by breaking apart. To make sure that one does not “break apart” in the future, the key is to check-in with yourself and ask yourself if you are dealing with burnout. Recognition and acknowledgement of what we are dealing with is the first step towards gently taking a “pause”, understanding and then actually making a commitment to change the habits that may be contributing towards burnout.
While avoiding or changing stressful situations may not be in our hands, pushing the pause button always is. “Pausing” to safeguard oneself from more stress may look different to different individuals.
So let’s take a look at the different pause buttons one can hit:
Reach out to friends and family
Having fun with friends and family can help you laugh and provide your mind that much needed break.
Make time for pleasurable activities
Try and include something that feels enjoyable throughout the week. It could be something as simple as listening to your favorite music for 5 minutes in a day.
Get some physical exercise
Try to exercise atleast 2 to 3 times a day, drink plenty of water and eat healthy as much as you can. This allows your body to remain active and mind healthy.
Set realistic goals
It is important to maintain a balance between work and leisure activities. Check in with yourself and honor your energy and boundaries while creating “to-do” lists. It is okay to sleep that extra hour on the days that you can.
Mindfulness and breathing
Engage in meditation, mindful breathing, going for a walk and simply allowing yourself to be can do wonders to reset our batteries.
Do not ignore and seek help
Burnout tends to get worse if not given proper attention. Reach out to your entrusted friends, family members, professors, or a mental health counselor. You do not have to deal with it alone.