Hellooooooo lovely hoomans!
I hope you’re all doing well and having a good week?
Today’s topic is something I believe is relevant to all of us, whether you’re a student or not, but it’s only now that I’m struggling through it at a whole new level that I feel ‘ready’ to talk about it. Don’t ask me why I feel the need to only write about intense things when I’m living through them … that may be a much longer blog that requires the presence of a trained professional!
Anywho, for anyone who hasn’t heard the term ‘burnout’ or maybe know of it under another name, burnout is a negative emotional, physical, mental reaction to prolonged work that often manifests in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and sometimes even reduced performance. In the student sense, this is typically academic/study related burnout when you’ve spent many weeks, months or even years studying without truly taking time to reset and get away from it all.
This is not to be confused with general frustration or exhaustion from work!! If you pull an all-nighter or do badly on an assignment you worked hard for, you’re going to feel frustrated, exhausted and unmotivated. But burnout is more chronic, long term and can become a very serious condition so it’s really important to try prevent burnout, or if you get it, to not just push it aside or repress it and actually focus on you to get better.
Soooo I’ve had burnout before – it’s surprisingly common amongst students given the increasing pressure attached to school, uni, grades and all those terrifyingly important things we pretend to forget about. But this time is the first time it has really hit me and I’ve struggled to get back on my feet. Normally I’m quite on top of my work, and time manage (relatively obsessively) so that everything is done well ahead of time. I’ve also never really struggled with motivation because even in subjects I’m not interested in, I remind myself of the end goal and keep pushing through. The last two months though, I have just felt constantly tired, frustrated and unmotivated when it comes to my uni work. I haven’t fallen behind, I haven’t started doing badly, but the never-ending workload has apparently crept into my psyche and is starting to turn my brain into mush. No matter how hard I try recently, my motivation to work on assignments is almost nonexistent, I’m constantly worried my work is bad and all in all … I just feel anxious, overwhelmed and meh.
Not exactly a healthy feeling to be living with, and something that can become quite detrimental long-term if you don’t ‘deal’ with it. So in the spirit of talking through my experiences, cause that’s healthy, today I wanted to signpost some symptoms of burnout, and share some ideas for trying to stop that burnout from burning you to the ground, and stopping it in its tracks so you can revitalise yourself. Let’s see how wise I can pretend to sound!!
How do you know you have burnout??
There can be many different symptoms for burnout and it can manifest in different ways but here are the main ones:
• Feeling exhausted all the time even if you’re not sleep deprived
• Little or no motivation when it comes to your academic work (don’t feel like attending classes, no motivation to start or work on assignments)
• Increased irritability and frustration
• Lacking inspiration and creativity when working on assignments/in class
• Lost confidence in your academic ability
• Difficulty meeting deadlines/keeping up with the workload
• Increased pain or tension in your body, causing headaches, sore muscle aches, jaw tension etc.
• Starting bad habits
• Overeating or undereating
• Inability to concentrate on academic work
• Feeling bored or uninterested in areas you used to enjoy
• Constant feelings of stress that may lead to anxiety or depression
Make time for friends, family and fun
Friends and family provide important support that can help relieve feelings of stress, and also help give you perspective to get around those negative feelings. Make sure you’re not completely isolating yourself, and be sure to sprinkle fun, enjoyable activities throughout your calendar. That way, there will be little things you love throughout the week to help revitalise you, and start boosting your motivation for work again.
Get the blood pumping
If I had a penny for every time I’ve read that exercise is helpful for various mental health conditions, I’d be a millionaire. I can just feel my dad’s glee as I write this, but it’s true that exercise can do wonders for helping you feel refreshed and motivated. However, the amount of energy that goes into prepping for a grueling gym session may put you off – don’t worry you don’t have to do five hours a day five days a week. Go for a fast walk with friends, or by yourself. Or something I love to do is pop on a dance workout, which is both energising, a form of exercise and super fun because the dancing makes me smile – so it’s a win, win, win!
Get some fresh air and sunshine
Again, the experts say being outdoors is good for us, and sometimes all you need is to just get away from the desk prison and evil laptop and sit outside in the sun. Try get out at least once a day, for a short walk, or just a few minutes of deep breathing in the sun – this can reduce stress and just help put a smile on your face.
Create good practices/relationships in your academic space
Having good relationships with your lecturers and classmates can go a long way to making painful class experiences bearable. For instance, there’s one module I take that is incredibly frustrating, but two of my fellow classmates also don’t enjoy it and we complain about it together and help each other out, which helps me resist the urge to stab myself with a pencil while writing my assignments. Creating good work practices, like good time management, setting reasonable goals, and breaking your work into manageable chunks, also helps make work seem more manageable and less like a chore when burnout starts getting you.
Work-life balance and time management
I already mentioned time-management but it is a miracle!! Do not underestimate the power of time management!! It helps you avoid procrastination, stay on top of work, create a more positive relationship with academics and gives you more freedom to fit in non-work stuff. The work-life balance is also crucial because we all know the cheesy line “all work and no play…”, but more than that, that life is just sad sometimes. Schedule in social activities with your friends around and after academic work, block out time for things you enjoy, or just an evening of relaxing ‘me time’.
Take a step back – literally and metaphorically
If all of that doesn’t help you work through the burnout and hopefully start recovering, or avoid burnout in the first place, take a step back. In the literal sense, maybe it’s time to take a little vacation or staycation, just something that is in every literal sense, not work!! Sometimes that distance and space gives you the time you need to just reset and come back feeling refreshed. Metaphorically though, it might be worth stepping back and asking if what you’re doing is right for you. Sure, challenges, frustration and exhaustion are part of that delightful parcel we call life, but it shouldn’t be brutal and making you miserable every second. If it is, maybe consider if what you’re doing needs a little adjusting.
And there you have it!! Burnout is awful – I have been struggling with it and I hate it because I know what I need to do to try fix it, but doing that stresses me out more because I know I need to work, so the never-ending toxic cycle of stress continues ahhhhh!! But right now I have tried to get ahead on all my final essays as much as possible, and I am literally taking a week off to go to the beach and basically do no work (give or take a smidge of editing the two assignments I have to submit the day I get back) so I can fully relax, charge my batteries and hopefully feel more motivated instead of running flat into a sad heap of exhaustion.
I hope this blog has been helpful for anyone struggling with burnout, and if you are, please know you are not alone!! If you need help, or someone to talk to, just reach out, pop me an email and we can help each other. Burnout is a beast to battle, and it’s hard to do alone, but for all of you doing the battle, you got this!!
See you next week everyone and until then, stay sparkly!!
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx