For many college students, a full course load can often be a recipe for feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and burnt out, especially as we approach final exam season. These feelings have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added a new level of stress and uncertainty to the mix, and has led to students spending countless hours a day in front of their computer screens. What can we do to combat burnout? Read on to discover 5 practical tips to prevent burnout before it happens, and mitigate its effects if you find yourself desperately needing a break.
- Make time for activities you enjoy
It may seem simple, but making time to do small things you enjoy is critical to staying motivated and balanced. Try to sprinkle your calendar with activities that make you happy, like going for a mid-day walk with a friend, or grabbing a bite to eat at your favorite on-campus restaurant or food truck. You shouldn’t save all your fun for the weekend- if you find small ways to fill your days with things to look forward to, you’ll feel refreshed and more prepared to be productive during working hours so you can enjoy your fun break that much more.
- Set Boundaries
In a similar vein, it’s integral that you set boundaries with yourself and others in order to allow for adequate breaks. Even adults don’t work through meals, or sit on their computers all day and night doing work. While it may be difficult to shut our computers for the day at 5pm sharp, setting some boundaries can help prevent you from feeling bombarded or overwhelmed, and will keep you on a good working schedule. For example, maybe after 8pm you stop answering emails for the day, or from 12-12:30 each day you close your computer and make yourself some lunch. These small changes can make a world of difference when it comes to maintaining your sanity as the school year comes to a close.
- Avoid Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
Revenge bedtime procrastination is when we decide to delay going to bed in order to make up for a lack of free time during the day. It may feel like you’re finding new hours in the day for yourself, but ultimately this behavior merely makes you more tired, and sets you up for exhaustion the next day. Instead of searching for free time during what should be your sleeping hours, try to give yourself more breaks during the day instead, and establish a wind-down routine that you can stick to.
- Set Reasonable Goals
One of the biggest contributors to feelings of burnout is simply asking too much of yourself in a short period of time. You can’t possibly expect an 8-hour trip to the library with no breaks to feel good, and you will likely find that you are struggling to be as productive as you would like to be anyway. For this reason, it is important to be realistic about setting goals. If you know you have a time-consuming assignment due at the end of the week, make a plan that you know you can stick to, and that allows you to get the assignment done without sacrificing your mental health. This might mean writing a paragraph each day, or allocating 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time to the assignment per day until it’s due.
- Make time just for you
While allocating time for social activities is a super helpful way to avoid burnout, it is equally important to allow time for just you. Different people need different amounts of alone time, so figure out how much you need to keep you feeling relaxed. You could watch your favorite show, curl up with a good book, do a facemask or some other self care activity, or even run an errand you’ve been meaning to get to. Finding a little time each day to be with yourself and be present can make all the difference when it comes time to go back to work.
Managing burnout is something that every college student should incorporate proactive strategies for that fit into their day-to-day lives. While of course, it is important for us to work hard and push ourselves to achieve our full academic potential, we must do so with love, compassion, and respect for our mental health and sanity. There are ALWAYS enough hours in the day to take care of yourself first and foremost. From there, you’ll feel more refreshed, motivated, and focused to take on finals season like a champ!
—Grace Savage, Account Executive