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Friday, June 14, 2024

College Burnout: It’s Real And Here’s How to Deal With It

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College. What a wild ride it is, right? Academic exploration, personal growth, independence, and making new friends. But did you know that for many, the relentless pressure to excel, coupled with the constant juggle of academics, social life, and financial issues, college can morph into a minefield of stress, exhaustion, and burnout?

I wish I knew about college burnout when I was in University, but alas! Now that I know better, let me be your friendly neighborhood guide to recovering from college burnout.

What we know about burnout is that it’s not just feeling overwhelmed. It’s a constant state of emotional, physical, and mental depletion caused by prolonged or excessive stress. Identifying the signs and taking proactive steps to deal with college burnout can make a huge difference between thriving in college and graduating with negativity.

So, ready to tackle college burnout? Keep reading to find out what you can do to recognize and recover from college burnout.

What is College Burnout?

Think of burnout as that last flame of the bonfire in the middle of a cold winter night. College students face constant demands that make them push themselves beyond their limits. This chronic stress can leave them feeling emotionally depleted, leading to a sense of detachment, cynicism, and feeling inadequate.

Studies, social interactions, and hobbies – things students enjoyed once – become almost like a burden, too heavy to carry.

The key difference between regular college stress and burnout is that college stress is temporary and situation-specific. College burnout, on the other hand, is a long-term, pervasive state that impacts all aspects of a student’s life.

College Burnout Symptoms to Watch Out

Burnout can manifest in different ways – internally and externally. Here are some common college burnout symptoms you need to watch out for;

  • Constantly feeling emotionally drained
  • Constantly feeling emotionally numb
  • Loss of interest in studies and other activities
  • Feeling a sense of detachment from friends and family
  • Experiencing a sense of negativity
  • A persistent feeling of inadequacy
  • A lack of satisfaction with academic and social performance
  • Experiencing headaches
  • Feeling constantly fatigued
  • Not sleeping well
  • Poor immune system
  • Higher dependence on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse
  • Experiencing social isolation
  • Neglecting responsibilities

College Burnout vs. College Stress

We need to understand the difference between everyday college stress and college burnout. While both these conditions involve feeling overwhelmed, stress tends to be more situational and short-lived. You might feel stressed leading up to an important test or assignment, but once the event has come to pass, the feeling subsides.

Burnout, on the other hand, is a chronic state that seeps into all the areas of your life, making it hard to bounce back. Burnout can constantly drag you down and make you feel like you’re being pulled underwater.

What Causes College Burnout?

Burnout doesn’t appear out of nowhere. The most common causes or factors that can trigger college burnout can include;

  • Unrealistic Expectations: The pressure college students feel, namely, to excel academically, make friends, and live an independent life – can create unrealistic expectations in their minds. The constant pressure to be perfect in college can be a recipe for burnout.
  • Poor Time Management: It’s not easy for a newly-minted young adult to juggle studies, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and social life. Between all of this, it can get overwhelming. Without proper time management, students can feel like they are behind everyone, leading to stress, and eventually, burnout.
  • Lack of Social Support: We like to think that going to college solves all social miseries. The moment we step onto our campus, friends will swarm. That doesn’t happen. While college is touted as a time to make friends, some students can feel lonely and excluded. This lack of social support can worsen stress and contribute to burnout.
  • Financial Stress: The burden of student loans and living expenses can be another source of burnout and anxiety for college students. Financial worries and insecurities can make it hard to study, leading to a downward spiral into burnout.

How to Recover From College Burnout?

Burnout might seem scary, but with effective tips and strategies, you can recover from it and reclaim your well-being;

The first thing you need to do is prioritize yourself. Sleep! Quality sleep can be nourishing for your mind and body. Try to aim for 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Don’t give in to the urge to stay up late, binge-eating, or watching movies in your dorm. Not getting enough sleep will add to your stress and anxiety.

Regular physical activity can release endorphins in your mind and body, boosting your mood and reducing stress. Try to schedule time for exercise in your routine. You can do little things like taking a walk, going to the gym, or even signing up for a dance class. Enjoy your college life, but also take care of yourself.

Fuel your body with nutritious snacks and meals. If you can, avoid sugar and processed foods – anything that might give you sugar highs and crashes. These foods can worsen your mood, increase your stress, and deplete your energy levels, fast. I know the temptation is there, but make sure you balance your treats with quality meals.

  • Practice Relaxation Activities

College might be a time to live your life to the fullest, but between enjoying your newfound freedom and dealing with burnout, make time for some winding down activities. Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help. Even exercises like progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can help you manage your stress and increase feelings of calm.

Know that you don’t have to tackle everything at once. It’s OK to take one day at a time. Learn to prioritize your tasks, create a realistic schedule, and don’t be afraid to say “NO” to additional commitments. Only do things that make you happy and don’t add to your workload. Credits are good to earn, but not at the expense of your mental health.

The one thing I wish I had done when I was in college was reach out to support groups and clubs in my university. I know it’s hard to talk about your feelings, but if you’re struggling with something, reach out for help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Sharing your burdens can be helpful and who knows, maybe you’ll help someone else as well!

College might be a fun time, but sometimes you have to relax and take breaks. Try to schedule regular breaks from studying, having fun, and your tech devices. What!? No phones! Wait, wait…before you hang up on me, listen.

Disconnecting from your phone can allow your brain to recharge and improve its focus so that when you go back to your tasks, you do it with a fresh mind. If you can find time, go for a walk, listen to music, or just do nothing.

If you’re still struggling to manage and cope with college burnout, then don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. A trained professional can provide personalized strategies for managing your stress, improving coping skills, and developing your emotional strength.

Wrap Up…

College is fun and all, but don’t forget college burnout is real too. It might not be the most talked about topic, but it doesn’t mean college students don’t face these challenges. It’s important to recognize the signs of college burnout and take steps to recover from it. Make sure you take care of yourself, seek help, and relax. All while having fun!

With care and help, you can work through college burnout and reclaim your college life with vigor and positivity. College is a time for growth and exploration, not the time and place to feel exhausted beyond repair.

Have fun with your college life, but also don’t forget to take care of yourself – mind, body, and spirit! Let us know in the comments below what your favorite college hack is to deal with college burnout. How do you cope with the stress of college life?

Until next time, take care!

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