College Burnout

               What is college burnout? Let’s think of this like a candle. When you’ve burned the wick down to its end, it can’t stay lit anymore. Try as you might, the flame goes out almost immediately every time, if it lights at all. Now, the candle was just doing what it was meant to do, but it has a limit. Once the limit is reached, the candle no longer functions.

               To put that in the context of a college student, too much all at once and we reach our limit. Like the wick of a candle, we burn out. Now, the limit is different for everyone, but the message is the same: too much school, work, or socializing, even though those things are part of what we are meant to do, will cause us to burn through our limit and leave us with college burnout.

               College burnout is when we are constantly in a state of stress that becomes prolonged and causes us to feel exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally. This leaves us unmotivated, tired, and disinterested. It can make it pretty hard to function or focus on school, work, and life.

College burnout is not the same as regular stress. Stress has its place in life and school, and, to a degree, is actually healthy. Stress over an assignment, a date, or a project for work is normal and indicates that we are engaged with what’s going on. Stress, in those cases, will help motivate us to get the thing, whatever it is, done, and then the stress will leave.

In the case of college burnout, there is no foreseeable end to the stress, and so it builds with every additional thing to do and becomes unbearable, leading to exhaustion and disconnection.

Symptoms

               It isn’t always obvious when we have slipped from regular stress into college burnout, so it’s important to know some of the signs to look for.

Constantly Tired

               Burnout can make you feel exhausted, drained, constantly tired or low on energy, which can make it difficult for you to complete assignments or focus during classes or at work.

Unmotivated

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               College burnout can leave you uninterested in your studies, your job, socializing, or in many of the things that you usually enjoy. This lack of interest or motivation can lead to lowered grades as you find it difficult to find the will to try, complete homework, or go to class.

Depressed or Anxious

               Feelings of depression or anxiety are common when experiencing college burnout. You may deal with feeling overwhelmed, extremely worried, stressed, hopeless, and possibly even feel very negatively towards yourself. (Note: College Burnout can become anxiety or depression if left unchecked or can worsen symptoms of an already existing condition. If you experience these symptoms, seek a counselor/therapist right away.)

Irritable

               College burnout can lead to a lot of frustration, as you have trouble focusing and doing things that used to be easier for you. You may become easily irritated or angry, and it can result in snapping at friends or family.

Trouble Sleeping

               Trouble staying asleep or falling asleep is something you may experience with college burnout as well. Despite feeling tired all the time, sleep may be hard to come by, which can increase exhaustion and fatigue that you may already feel.

Change in Appetite

               Among other things, college burnout may cause changes in your appetite, leading to increased cravings, feeling hungry all the time, or decreased appetite. The result could be unusual weight gain or loss.

               By now, you know yourself well enough to know when a change in these areas is new or unusual for you. That said, we are not always great at being objective about ourselves and it can be hard to admit to ourselves and others that we aren’t okay. Look for patterns and be aware of symptoms that seem to be constant. A day or two of bad sleep because we have an exam coming up does not necessarily mean we are burnt out, though it’s still not great for you.

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               A week of poor sleep is cause for concern. If poor sleep is becoming constant, there is definitely a problem. If we are snapping at our parents every time they call us, there is a problem. If we are not eating enough every day, there is a problem.

               So, when we start to notice these changes, or feel ourselves becoming drained and want to stop college burnout before it starts, what do we do?

How to Recover from Burnout

               Talking about how to recover from burnout is going to look a lot like a conversation about healthy habits for college students. For the most part, these are things that we should be doing anyway to help prevent burnout and keep ourselves healthy. In the case that we are already burnt out, we need to be a lot more intentional about making sure these things get done.

Counseling

               This may seem like a last resort to most people, but actually, seeking counseling or therapy is best to do before everything falls apart. Yes, when all else fails, this is absolutely where you should go. But therapy is also a great place to start, even if the symptoms are just beginning or are very mild. Counseling is an effective way to squash the problem before it begins.

               College therapists or counselors are familiar with college burnout and student problems. That’s actually their specialty. They are great FREE resources to help you work through your stress, emotions, and to help you build strategies or habits that will make dealing with your workload more manageable.

Time Management

               Learning to manage your time is one of many healthy habits for college students. When it comes to how to recover from burnout, managing our time is essential in separating the things that are causing our mounted feeling of stress, and conquering them one by one.

Sometimes, being able to pull apart our responsibilities and tackle them by what is most important or due the soonest can help alleviate some of the pressure rather than thinking of everything as a mass of looming responsibility. Smaller bites are easier to swallow, so take it one thing at a time.

Self-Care

college burnout, how to recover from burnout, healthy habits for college students

               Self-care is more than just skin care and “me-time.” Those things are great forms of self-care, and if that is something that calms you, absolutely make time for it. Prioritizing proper hygiene and activities that calm or sooth us are vital. These can be things like baths, massages, or meditation/prayer. Spending time caring for your body or recentering yourself in God’s word can provide relaxation and comfort amidst the stress.

Sleep Hygiene

               Among the most important healthy habits for college students is proper sleep. Easy to say, not so easy to enforce, especially when it feels like there are a million things that need to get done before tomorrow. Here’s the thing, sleep has immense effects on our cognitive function, memory, and overall well-being. Meaning, the less sleep we get, the less we are prepared to knock out all those things we need to do.

               So, when it comes to how to recover from burnout, proper sleep hygiene should be near the top of the list. Good sleep hygiene means that we are going to sleep around the same time every night and preparing ourselves for sleep at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Preparing for sleep means not staring at a screen, especially a phone or laptop, and doing something that signals to our bodies that we are winding down. That can be relaxing yoga, meditation, journaling, or maybe reading. Different things work for different people, but make sure whatever you decide to do to prepare for sleep does not excite your senses or stress you.

Diet and Exercise

               Eating healthy and exercising regularly are very common healthy habits for college students. A healthy diet can improve your mood, your brain function, and your bodily health. The benefits for recovering from burnout there are obvious. Regular exercise also improves brain function. Exercising can help you think more clearly, and it can be a great outlet for pent up emotion.

               Exercise also releases endorphins in your body, which make you feel happy or euphoric. This feeling can make dealing with stress or responsibility more doable. It can also combat any negative feelings or fatigue felt from college burnout.

Hobbies and Socializing

If you confine yourself only to the things that are causing you stress and anxiety, how do you expect to feel anything else?

               As contradictory as it sounds, recovering from college burnout can mean taking a break from the things that are stressing you out. If you confine yourself only to the things that are causing you stress and anxiety, how do you expect to feel anything else? Just because you have school or work doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also have time allotted for hobbies or friends.

               Having activities or plans to look forward to can be great motivators to get things done before then. It can also be a great relief to know that there is a break ahead where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Additionally, having friends that you can talk to who can relate to what you’re feeling or going through is important for being able to blow off steam.

               That said, it’s also important to be able to say “no” when things are piling up, or you know that you need to finish something and will have to choose between that thing and spending time with friends. Make sure that you are spending your time wisely and setting healthy boundaries so that you are getting your work done, but also not working yourself to the bone.

Conclusion

               College burnout is not inevitable, and it doesn’t have to be consuming. If you are already experiencing it, there are ways to recover from college burnout, as we’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, especially from counselors or school therapists—after all, they’re there to help you succeed. Make sure to integrate some or many of the healthy habits for college students and make your health a priority. College should be an amazing experience! Don’t let college burnout take that from you.

college burnout, how to recover from burnout, healthy habits for college students

As always, for information on Christian colleges, or to be entered into one of our scholarship drawings, visit us at The Christian Connector.

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