Getting stressed while attending college is a normal phenomenon, and because it seems normal, sometimes people fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout. While it’s often ignored or downplayed as everyday college stress, student burnout is more severe than day-to-day stress.
If you or someone you know could be suffering from student burnout, read on for tips on next steps. If you’re dealing with stress and are looking for ways to manage it to avoid burnout, read on for prevention tips. First, you should know that it is more common than you think and will get better the sooner you address it.
What is Burnout?
Burnout occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the pressure continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a specific role in the first place.
While the exact symptoms differ in every case, student burnout usually appears as extreme exhaustion, depression, negative feelings about oneself, and the inability to attend to necessary tasks. Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. In this fast-paced day and age, we all have many responsibilities and demands on our time and energy.
So, it’s unsurprising that we may feel overwhelmed, overloaded, or unappreciated. Sometimes it feels like all we do goes unnoticed or unrewarded; or just getting out of bed feels like a monumental task. If you feel like this most of the time, this could indicate a more severe condition than daily college stress, and you may be burnt out.
Typical warning signs that maybe overlooked:
- Making careless mistakes that you ordinarily wouldn’t make.
- Lashing out at others due to pressure and frustration.
- Lacking opinions or ideas for classroom discussions or group projects.
- Losing confidence, motivation, and otherwise feeling incapable of keeping deadlines.
- Constantly feeling exhausted despite getting sleep or not sleeping well at all.
- Habitually stress eating, forgetting to eat, overthinking, or picking up other bad habits.
- Not noticing pain and tension in your body from working or thinking about work constantly.
- Experiencing frequent headaches or dizzy spells.
- Finding yourself getting sick more often with head colds, stomach flu, etc.
- Finding yourself reacting more sensitively over minor issues with others, like comments or criticism.
- Not being able to concentrate or lack of enjoyment of leisure activities like reading or watching a film.
- Constantly feeling bored or uninterested in matters you used to enjoy.
Dealing with Burnout: Getting Help
Suppose you exhibit any of these symptoms and have severe negative moods or are overwhelmed and incapacitated. Then taking this seriously and dealing with burnout is essential. Unfortunately, sometimes people are too close to burnout and can no longer recognize the symptoms. If you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout in yourself or someone else, remember that it will surely only get worse if left alone. These signs and symptoms are your body’s way of getting your attention.
While students should strive do well in college, their health and well-being are also important. If burnout is looming, allow yourself to get support from professionals who can help you transition to a healthier lifestyle that include healthy ways of managing stress, respecting yourself, including your needs, and boundaries. Taking steps to get your life back into balance is a major step towards preventing burnout.
When you start to feel chronic stress from student burnout and emotional exhaustion, employ some stress management techniques that can be researched online. Also, contact family members for help – don’t feel alone! If you don’t feel like your family will be supportive, FNU will be there for you. Just reach out to our staff at the Student Services Center or utilize the resources in FNU CARES.
Most At-Risk Students for Burnout:
Nursing Student Burnout
Nursing school is expected to bring on stressors that not every student can handle. Burnout can manifest even when bright and motivated students are loaded with assignments and high-stakes tests. Long hours of studying, essays, and the constantly evolving nature of medicine all contribute to what feels like insurmountable pressure, yet we are still being told to push through burnout.
Nailing down just one cause of nursing student burnout is unrealistic, as all potential causes of burnout should be recognized and understood by school administrations. Some issues that are unique or especially common to nursing students include:
- Competing demands for the time between nursing school and family/friends.
- Strained finances due to student loans.
- The intense curriculum of heavy course load, high-stakes tests, and extensive reading.
- Unattainable expectations from family, peers, and mentors they admire.
- No incentive for well-being since a culture of ‘push through it’ is more encouraged.
How to Prevent Student Burnout
Tip #1: Time Management and Organization
Students are less likely to experience burnout when they keep up with their assignments on time and prepare in advance for exams. Effectively managing time and deadlines using a calendar is very helpful for keeping track of priorities, deadlines, responsibilities, and avoiding procrastination.
Tip #2: Breaking Down Responsibilities
Breaking down long-term goals or massive projects into smaller, more achievable benchmarks can go a long way toward avoiding the stress that occurs with procrastination and pulling all-nighters. Burnout often happens when people do not set smaller goals, achieve them, and feel good about their success before moving on to the next project or step.
Tip #3: Set Reasonable Goals and Stick to Them
Although stress is not the same as burnout, stress certainly can lead to burnout if not managed appropriately. Being unrealistic about goals and your ability to meet them, piling on more courses than you can handle, and having a social life that leaves little time for work can be a recipe for disaster. Scheduling a manageable load of classes and ensuring you have a mix of courses is essential. Even a student passionately interested in psychology may find taking only psych courses taxing. Likewise, setting unattainable goals often results in students throwing in the towel rather than persevering.
Tip #4: Maintain Good Health and Respect Personal Needs
It sounds like common sense advice, and it is. Eating healthily, exercising, and getting enough sleep are imperative to staying healthy and not letting everyday stress leads to burnout. In addition, try to consistently make time for stress-reducing activities such as relaxing walks, swimming, or another physical exercise, doing regular deep breathing, mindfulness or other healthy pleasurable activities. Remember that watching TV or spending idle time on the computer does not relieve stress – it often just lets it sit dormant. The most effective stress-reducing activities are calming, such as meditation, yoga, walking, breathing, physical exercise. Sports are great because they release positive endorphins and aid sleep. Adding these activities to your routine makes a big difference in feeling good and achieving a healthy life balance that will help you avoid burnout.
Tip #5: “Go Dark” with a Social-Media Shutdown
The constant presence of social media and internet updates can add to a sense of overstimulation that can overwhelm us. Taking a break from school is essential, and that doesn’t just mean putting the books aside for a day off from studies. Disconnecting from social media is recommended for students and workers alike. At least one hour before sleep shut off mobile devices and social media. While the excess of information can run you ragged, the light screens on computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices can interfere with your circadian rhythms and negatively impact rest or sleep through the night. Turning off and tuning out for a while is another way to avoid burnout.
Fight Back Against Burnout
To deal with burnout effectively and safely, you need to use the “Three R” approach:
Watch for and recognize the warning signs of burnout. Meanwhile, learn to say “no” and be OK with it.
Burnout happens when you try to “do it all” and fall short. You can lessen stress by delegating tasks, shifting your priorities, or being realistic about your time in a day. The word “no” helps you set boundaries and begin limiting sources of burnout.
Acknowledge the damage and reverse it by managing stress and seeking support. You don’t always have to move, catch up, or optimize yourself and your surroundings 24/7. Let yourself be and reflect, as this is sometimes exactly what your body and mind need most. Disconnect and take regular breaks where decompressing is the only objective. Doing this regularly gives you more energy to make progress when required.
Build your resilience to stress by caring for your physical and emotional health. Create time for yourself.
It’s easy to overextend ourselves by doing too much at once. Schedule personal time every single day, even for just 10 minutes. There is always something to do, but everyone can take 10 minutes for themselves to do something enjoyable and fulfilling.
At Florida National University, We Care
Florida National University cares about its student body and wants every student to achieve their goals. If you are having difficulties, please visit with our Student Services Office to find resources that can help you.