Many people view student burnout as students just being lazy or see it as an excuse. It is very real and it can be highly detrimental not only to your university experience but to your mental health.
University is depicted on tv, social media, literature and in almost everything else as the best time of your life. This means there is a lot of added pressure to try and fit into the conventions that go along with university. This could mean going clubbing every week, or joining a sports team, or being best friends with your housemates or getting the best grades possible. These are all expectations that people come to university with and these expectations often aren’t met. In fact, by trying to fulfil all these expectations many students experience burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout can manifest itself in many different ways in different people but it is an emotional, mental, and physical problem. It is defined as a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. Fortunately, it is one that can be resolved in a few different ways. University is a brand-new chapter in your life, and it takes a while to adjust- whether you’ve moved 10 miles from home or 70 it all makes a difference. Being homesick is nothing to be ashamed of but sometimes people try and combat it by trying everything that they think university should be. Trying to live up to these expectations can result in a burnout.
The effect of social media
Social media is very much responsible for these expectations. Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook all depict the best lifestyle, there’s always someone going out drinking or going skiing or posing their latest selfie. These on their own will not make anyone feel inadequate. But being hit with images and videos day after day of everyone having a better university time than yourself can lower your self-confidence.
There are always events on at university, whether these are club events, student’s union bar quizzes, charity bake-offs, etc etc and there is a lot of pressure to join in. These are often advertised on Facebook, and getting constant notifications can be very stressful. It is always ok to say no. Friends will always have other friends who will go to events with them. No one should guilt you into going to an event you don’t want to go to. Anyone who is going to judge you for giving yourself a day off, that person should not be in your life. You do not owe anyone any amount of your time.
How to prevent burn out from happening
It’s only been in recent years that there has been an emphasis by universities on self-care and having days off. Having a day off from social media can feel alien at first but it is often incredibly beneficial. Self-care is a deeply personal matter. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, I would recommend talking to someone, a friend, a personal tutor, the doctor, your parents. It is perfectly normal to feel like you’re doing too much no matter what you’re doing. What one person can cope with can be entirely different to someone else. Learning to put yourself first can feel strange and alien but it is important to ensure your mental health is in a good state.
A few key ways of preventing student burn out from even happening is to manage time well. By getting into a routine, you can keep track of your work and when each essay is due. This will allow more time to research so you become more confident when writing. Don’t leave all your essays till one week before they’re due, do your seminar work a week in advance. It is very easy to procrastinate with no one telling you when to work but don’t start cleaning the kitchen to delay reading, it won’t help.
Putting yourself first
Another important factor is to not compare yourself to others. Everyone succeeds at their own pace and there is a lot of pressure within our generation to be the best but the problem with being the best is, it cannot remain that way. There will always be someone who does better than you. As long as you are proud of your work and you can say you have tried your best that is all anyone can ask for.
Don’t feel guilty
Another key way of dealing with burnout is to give yourself a break guilt-free. On your break, don’t think “ooh I should be doing this or that”. Instead focus on something you enjoy, maybe blast your favourite song and do a little dance or make a sandwich. I have found one of the key aspects of having a break is to ensure you move. Moving gets the blood flowing again which helps improve your brain function.
Equally important is that you don’t rush back into your work and try to get everything done- this is what led to your burnout to begin with. If you’re struggling, speak to your personal tutor and it may be possible to extend your deadlines.
If you are burnt out or just stressed you should be proud of where you are in life. At one point, 5 or 10 years ago you were looking forward to being at the point in your life that you are at now. Enjoy where you are. Being able to ask for help is a sign of a strong person.