How to Avoid Burnout in College

It’s that time of year again where the weather is colder, assignment deadlines are piling up and finals are approaching. Now that I’ve gone through this routine a few times, I’ve learned an important lesson the hard way: burnout is real.

Burnout isn’t always a result of too many assignments or projects. It’s often a combination of many factors: dealing with new situations, pressure, lack of sleep, inconsistent daily schedules, lack of social support and more. When I hit the point of burnout, I find that I can’t concentrate, my mood and energy is low, I feel physically exhausted and I don’t perform well at all (which only adds to the stress). 

While I’m not an expert by any means, I have learned through my own personal experiences that there are ways to be proactive and reduce your risk for reaching the point of burnout, which I’m going to share with you today.

Take control of what you can, and acknowledge what is out of your control. 

For example, group projects used to stress me out so badly because I always ended up being the person who does all the work last-minute. However, I’ve come to realize that I can’t control someone else’s work ethic. I can, however, be more communicative about my concerns. 

If I’m put in a group project situation now, I am vocal from the start about delegating tasks evenly and knowing what is expected from each person. I’m not as stressed out by group projects anymore because I know that some people will always have poor work ethic, but at least this way everyone in the group knows what they’re expected to do and the blame will fall on the right person instead of on me.

Find something that you look forward to every day.

It doesn’t have to be anything big. Maybe it’s watching the next episode of your favorite show, or maybe it’s getting to talk to a friend. Some things that I look forward to doing every day include making a cup of coffee every morning, playing with my cat and reading before bed. It helps me feel as if I have some sort of structure going on in my life.

Cut out or limit additional stressors, and take a break if you need to.

If you feel pressured to be social, to hang out with your friends when you don’t feel like it or to listen to other peoples’ problems when you’re trying to get stuff done, prioritize yourself and be vocal about your needs. It’s okay to cancel plans to work on your assignments. It’s okay to tell someone that you can’t give them advice right away because you’re too busy. It’s okay to ditch a party to catch up on sleep. 

This is a lot easier said than done. I know. But most people are understanding and don’t take it personally, and if they do, they might not be the best friends for you. You don’t owe anything to anyone except yourself. Just be honest about your situation and let people know that you still care, and they will understand.

I personally dedicate about one evening a week to be completely unproductive. I always look forward to those nights, and I avoid scheduling anything that overlaps with the time I set aside for myself!

Take care of your physical health.

It’s hard to do your best when your body is running off of instant ramen noodles and 4 hours of sleep. (Yes, this is me roasting myself.)

Spend time outdoors and get some sunlight. Eat whole foods. Drink plenty of water. Get some movement going. We hear this all the time, I know, but there’s a reason that we do.

Remember the long-term goal.

When you walk across that stage and receive your degree, nothing will be able to replace that feeling. You’ll know how hard you worked to get your higher education, and that it all paid off. Your friends and family will be proud of you, but most importantly, you’re going to be proud of yourself and you won’t remember the difficult days because you have so much more ahead. And then, you can embark on the next part of your life journey.

Good luck!

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