Feeling the Burn, Not the Burnout

You’re a solid month into school now, and you may be feeling the burn (or burnout). At this point in the semester, many students find that they have a growing number of quizzes, tests, papers, and projects, and it can be hard to keep up with everything. Winter break is two months away, and you still have exams before you’ll be able to rest. How do you make it?

Before we begin, it’s important to recognize the difference between “feeling the burn” and “feeling burned out.” It’s good to feel mentally and emotionally tired at this stage. Your mental activity has increased significantly since summer, and it’s only natural that you would start to feel a little drag in your step. The adrenaline and emotional “high” of moving up a grade level has worn off, and now you’re wondering how you should be feeling. You should be feeling a little tired. It should start feeling a bit more like work. But you should NOT be feeling completely worn out, at the end of your rope, or at your wit’s end. If that is the case, you might want to consider trying a few of these strategies to combat burnout:

  1. Get back in the black

Catch up on your assignments. Late work can drag you down and compound exhaustion by “snowballing.” Plus, the emotional stress of feeling behind can sap your energy, making it harder to stay on top of your work. Steel yourself for a tough week or weekend, and force yourself to catch up. Then, plan projects and tests in advance so that it’s less likely you fall behind again.

  1. Force regular rest

Carve out time to regularly recharge. Learn your “rest style” to maximize the value of short breaks. If you are an introvert, maybe it would be worthwhile to journal or do some pleasure reading. If you are an outdoors junkie, maybe it’s time for a hike. If you’re a more social type, schedule some time with your friends to play a game of Pandemic. Believe it or not, building in time away from the books may be the best thing you can do for your grades. Study after study has shown the value of rest for improving retention, working memory, and performance. Don’t believe us? Check out this Scientific American article.

  1. Assess your involvement

Yes, it’s important to participate in activities besides studying. You are more than just a walking brain. You are meant to move around, to create, and to engage with others. But, if you’re feeling burned out, it might be worth asking if you’re doing too much. Do you look forward to your extra activities, or have they become chores that you “have” to do? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your weekly routine still leaves you feeling empty, you might consider cutting back. Do you really need to be in all six of those clubs? Can you feel fulfilled with only one singing group rather than two?

  1. Develop a positive perspective

It’s easy to slide into negative thinking. We’d rather critique a film and point out its deficiencies than praise its strengths. The same is true about the classroom, and the end result can be disillusionment and resentment if your attitude is left unchecked. Spend a few minutes each day and list three good things that happened. If you can, find a friend who you can share these with (and who can share their three things with you). Build it into your daily routine. It sounds cheesy — and can take work when you have a particularly difficult day — but the payoff in your attitude will be worth it.

  1. Ask for help

It’s difficult for many of us to ask for help. We tell ourselves the lie that we should pull ourselves up, be stronger, or just “deal” with things.  In all likelihood, you are surrounded by people who want to help. If you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, use your resources. Reach out to your parents, teachers, friends, or school counselors for advice.  You may be surprised how much it helps to share the burden with others.
Do you have another productive way to combat burnout?  Share it below!


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