Beat the Burnout
If you clicked on this article, there are a few things that I can assume about you. First is that you must be tired! Second is that you are trying to get better. Exhaustion can really take a toll on our quality of life, and I commend you for taking a step towards feeling better.
I’m Fei, a fourth-year student at Mac, and exhaustion has been a part of my life for what feels like an eternity. Although I’ve tried my best to take care of myself, like getting enough sleep and eating balanced meals, I still feel exhausted. It seems like how I take care of my body doesn’t exactly correlate to how I feel on the inside, or “cure” my perpetual exhaustion. Maybe you’re in the same boat, and you’re wondering, how can I feel better?
I’m here to introduce you to the phenomenon of burnout, some common causes of it, and why it is important to recognize and address it. Burnout is commonly experienced by university students, and it is not something to be ashamed of!
Definition + Why it is important
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”
When we are constantly overwhelmed by daily demands, from keeping up with school to living on our own, we can start to lose the interest and motivation to continue our lifestyle. Burnout can reduce our productivity, drain our energy, and more importantly, lead to feelings of hopelessness and resentment. This can impact every area of our lives- including academics, work, family, romantic relationships and social life.
Furthermore, negative effects of burnout can even cause long-term changes to your body, making you more vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flus. This is why it is important to recognize and address burnout right away!
Some signs that you might be burning out
- Caring about your school life and relationships seems like a waste of energy and time
- You feel exhausted (physically and/or mentally) all the time
- You feel like what you do is not making a difference or is appreciated
Causes of burnout
In an academically rigorous setting like university, many students are at risk of burnout from feeling overworked and undervalued.
However, burnout is not only caused by academic stress. Factors such as personality traits, lifestyle, and the state of your mental health can play just as large of a role in causing burnout.
- Being in a chaotic or high-pressure course, program, or faculty
- Not feeling recognized or rewarded for your hard work
- Feeling imposter syndrome about your achievements
- Not having your accommodations and needs met by professors and faculty
- Feeling uncertain about your future due to competition
- Loneliness and stress related to being away from family
- Studying or working constantly without time for relaxation or social connection
- Being around friends and family that value your achievements more than you
- Not having close and supportive relationships
- Not getting enough sleep
- Taking on too many responsibilities
Personality traits that can contribute to burnout
- Perfectionistic tendencies, such as having the desire to achieve perfection which is unattainable
- Pessimistic views of yourself and the world
- The need to be in control, which can lead to a lack of delegation and asking for help
Tips to navigate burnout
When we are burnt out, our problems can feel unconquerable. It can be so difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone take the necessary actions to help ourselves. But I want you to know that there is hope for us. I’ve compiled a list of tips that may help you navigate burnout.
Given that burnout is a phenomenon that can affect people of various life experiences, there is not one solution to “fix” or manage burnout. For some people, including myself, it is not possible to simply follow advice such as letting go of work or family responsibilities. Considering that we all have different life circumstances, apply these tips as you see fit.
- Reach out to those closest to you.
- Speak to your friends, family, and partner(s) about your experience. Sharing your frustrations can feel cathartic, and those closest to you could provide you with insights on how you could manage burnout. Many people worry about burdening the people they love, but more often than not, those people will be flattered that you felt comfortable enough to confide in them and support you to the best of their capacity.
- Reflect on your current commitments.
- Which activities do you do that water your roots, and which of them just dust off your leaves? Try to prioritize the activities in your life that bring you satisfaction and joy.
- Intentionally make time for rest- put it in your calendar!
- Reach out to medical and counselling support available at the Student Wellness Centre.
- Medical care and counselling can be accessed by calling 905-525-9140 ext. 27700.
- Medical care can involve speaking to a physician here about your symptoms and concerns. Consulting a physician is important for ruling out any underlying physiological conditions that may contribute to burnout.
- Counsellors here provide various therapeutic services such as but not limited to; individual therapy, psychoeducational groups, psychotherapy groups (I.e., trauma informed yoga), drop-in groups (I.e., Stress-Less), self-directed resources between sessions (I.e. TAO), and connection to various campus resources. A further, more-detailed therapeutic services list can be found by navigating our website.
It is important to note that burnout is often a chronic condition that is better managed than cured. It can be beneficial to set realistic goals during your journey of burnout recovery. When I was first introduced to the concept of burnout, I was hopeful that one summer away from school would solve all of my burnout symptoms. It didn’t. For me, a combination of mental health support, medication, being intentional when I make commitments, and asking my friends for help have allowed me to live with symptoms of burnout. I wish you the best of luck in your journey to wellness! Try to be kind to yourself and remember that you deserve support and help.
Mental Health & Mental Illness, Mindfulness & Relaxation, Stress Management