By Katherine Howatson-Tout, Third Year, English
The Croft Magazine // Running out of steam at university is something we all go through, Katherine explores how we can recognise this burnout and start tackling it.
Burning out is an experience that most of us will have to negotiate at one point or another. Whether it’s handling the seemingly never-ending influx of work during term time, the lead up to an essay deadline or a brief but anxiety-inducing exam period, it can get to a point where it’s all just too much, and we start to stagnate. Burnout can look different for everyone, but some common symptoms can include exhaustion, stress and lack of mental clarity.
It can be tempting to just ‘push through’ the stress and think that it’ll be worth it in the end; ‘I’ll thank myself later’, that old soul-crushing chestnut. The hard-to-swallow pill is that, in fact, by allowing your physical/ mental deterioration to unfold during these times and regarding it only as background noise, you partake in a form of unconscious self-sabotage disguised as self-help. Going over-board in times of demanding work can jeopardise not only your mental health, but also long-term success.
Pressure to succeed in university is so immense in our productivity and achievement-based culture that feeling guilty when taking breaks doesn't seem uncommon. Uni is demanding, and it’s an objective truth that you can’t just simply turn your back on your deadlines, you have to somewhat embrace the sardonic revelation that, “oh, well, I guess this is what I signed up for”. You can get through it by managing factors in your personal life to prevent or lessen the severity of burnout. Take it back to basics, because without taking care of the vessel that fuels your brain, you may find yourself taking one step forward and two steps back. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
· Protein intake, which is essential for brain function
· Caffeine intake, which, in high doses, can often worsen symptoms of anxiety
· Regular meal times, which help in avoiding blood-sugar spikes, and can regulate mood
Another effective way to manage burnout can be by separating your work and rest environments. Disassociating your places of rest (home/ bedroom etc.) from the places you experience the most stress and intensity (workspaces/ the library) can be a really useful practice to help with winding down in the evening, and I’ve often found it helps to encourage more peaceful sleep.
Maintaining a healthy balance between work and life can help you manage the symptoms of burnout before you even experience symptoms. Another key thing to remember is that managing burnout is entirely personal. You will inevitably acquire the tools you need to manage stress as you experience repeated deadlines through university. Don’t underestimate the power of learning from experience, as self-reflection can help you to recognise what’s best for you.
Featured image: Epigram/Emily Fromant
How have you dealt with periods of burn out? Let us know!