It’s not unusual to feel burdened by all the assignments, commitments and expectations bestowed upon you as you progress into the awkward stage of being that is University life. Right in the middle of adulthood and not actually being able to cook yourself a proper meal.
You are now not only responsible for keeping yourself fed and watered, but also expected to succeed academically. And take part in extra-curricular projects to expand your CV. And attend careers fairs and networking events. And prepare and apply for graduate jobs. And work on your dissertation. And have something that resembles a social life. And get 8 hours of sleep? It’s stressful just thinking about, and when the overwhelming feeling of being unable to meet these constant demands gets too much, that’s when burnout has truly hit you.
According to Florida National University, burnout is characterised by “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that is caused by excessive and prolonged stress”.
The upward battle of keeping on top of your never-ending to-do list can create a sense of hopelessness, but burnout is not permanent, and you got this!
I found that the first step to getting out of a stressful rut, is actually realising I am stuck in one. It might feel like you’re a bit more irritable than usual, or maybe you feel like you’ve lost your motivation or interest in things that used to make you happy. Feeling exhausted, not sleeping well, and over thinking are all also signs that you could be on the way to burning out.
Before the holidays, when I was up to my eyeballs in coursework and graduate job applications, I recognised these signs in myself. I ignored it at first, ‘I probably didn’t get enough sleep’, ‘I’m not eating right’, etc. Little did I know those things can also be side effects of running myself into the ground with over working. Setting high expectations and putting unnecessary pressure on myself to perform well 24/7, whilst doing extra projects — it’s not sustainable, and if I didn’t give myself a break and stop being so hard on myself, It probably would have become unmanageable.
So I went home, stayed in bed, ignored my work and played video games in my pjs. I allowed myself to rest and built myself back up into the motivated student I had always been, but now with a real appreciation for switching myself off every now and then.
From my personal experience, people only really seem to openly talk about burnout when it comes to their careers in tech, and juggling side projects with day-jobs, but students are affected too. I want to open up the conversation, and remind my fellow students, and myself, that a piece of work is not worth sacrificing your physical and mental health for, no matter how much you want that first. Burning yourself out is more likely to negatively affect your grades than spending some time to take care of yourself.