The term “burnout” gets thrown around a lot, but do you know what it really means? Burnout is defined as a state of chronic stress leading to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feeling ineffective and unaccomplished. It doesn’t happen all at once, but is rather a gradual, slow burn – until the moment it hits you. Symptoms can include loss of motivation, trouble concentrating, isolating yourself from others or feeling lonely, trouble sleeping, chronic physical and mental exhaustion, and feeling hopeless or persistently irritable. It’s important to take steps to combat and/or treat burnout, as it can make personal, professional, and academic functioning impossible when it’s full-fledged.
If burnout is preventing you from engaging in everyday life or obligations, it’s important to see a professional. Call your campus counseling center, see your primary care provider, or find a therapist. There are ways to feel better, and sometimes we just need some professional guidance to do so.
Here are some ways to help deal with burnout, as well as ways to reduce the risk of burnout.
- Set boundaries. Especially if you’re juggling school, work, and family obligations, it’s important to set boundaries to maintain order and sanity. If you can, don’t take on that extra project at work. Set times when you will not answer emails and when you will step away from your phone or computer. Make time for fun activities and hobbies. Put an hour aside each night to relax. Try not to take work home with you. Set specific times when you need to do schoolwork, and have your partner or a friend watch your kids. You’ll be glad you’ve made some lines in the sand, so to speak.
- Find/create a support system and USE them. Friends, family, fellow students – no one can do this alone, and you shouldn’t try. Graduate school will bring stressors, and everyone needs some support and help at times. If you’re finding yourself floundering, don’t be afraid to lean on these people; that’s what they’re there for!
- Step away from the screen. This is related to the boundaries tip, but really deserves its own attention. Schedule time every day – or every week – to unplug. That means from your phone, your computer, your laptop, your Bluetooth – everything. Get outside, go adventuring, spend time with people you enjoy, do physical activity. Technology is great, but everyone could use some time away.
- Give yourself a break. Literally. You need breaks to stay recharged and fresh. You might be hesitant to stop working, thinking you’ll just “push through” and then stop, but really…just stop for a bit and come back to it.
- Practice stress-management techniques. Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation – all of these are great ways to help manage stress.
- Get enough sleep. Yes, really. We know it can be hard, and many of us don’t get enough sleep as it is. But sleep is restorative for both body and brain.
- Evaluate what you can change. Take an honest look at your life and schedule. Is there anything you can change or modify? What habits can you change? Is your online shopping creating financial stress, adding to feelings of burnout? Are you choosing to stay home all the time instead of accepting invites with your cohort? What are some small things you can change that might make a big difference?
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