Burnout: That Funny Feeling
How to (hopefully) get better.
Written by Jake Ryan
Stress is a good thing. It keeps you alert, focused and aware of your surroundings. Stress can also be a terrible thing. It has this uncanny ability to consume your mind and leave you in a rough spot. You may have heard of burnout, which is when stress levels become overwhelming. You know how when you have a big test coming up or have a long project at work, you start to feel stressed? That feeling eventually leaves you once you’ve completed the previously mentioned test or project. Burnout is that feeling of stress you get, but it doesn’t go away and it continues to stack. It leaves you feeling drained and makes it hard to be motivated.
"We all have our low points, but it’s important to remember there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel."
Alright, so we’ve identified a problem. What’s next?
Disclaimer: This information is coming from a fellow student who is infamously terrible at taking his own advice. If you believe your stress/anxiety is a result of an underlying condition, seek professional help.
You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” But many people seem to miss out on just how important sleep is. A solid night of rest is as important as drinking water and breathing air. Giving yourself a chance to recharge after a long day helps to take the edge off. Lack of sleep leads to all sorts of problems for your mental health — not to mention, the physical toll it takes on your body as well. Getting your eight hours can be a game changer.
Take a break
Studying is important. You know what else is important? Your sanity. Stress from work is a vicious cycle. Staring at a screen and taking notes for three hours straight sucks the energy out of even the most active students. Find a system that works for you. If you work for an hour, take a ten-minute break to decompress. You could stretch, do some yoga, drink some water, breathe some air or anything that helps take your mind off of things. Keep in mind, it’s important not to lose track of time. You need to find a balance. Too long of a break can make it harder to get back into work. Too much work makes it harder to soothe your brain. Incorporating a cutoff time for your work allows you to balance this otherwise vicious cycle.
Make a schedule
There are two types of people in this world. People who have a schedule planned out and people who don’t. The schedule people are nodding their heads in sincere agreement, while the non-schedule people lost track of time again. Having an itinerary allows you to see your progress as you go along and motivates you to get more done. It is important to remain actively working during this time as to not procrastinate.
Congratulations, you (ideally) got the first part down. Now there’s everything else. The worst part about burnout stress is that it doesn’t just go away when you’ve finished your homework or taken your test. It sticks with you. You continue to worry about everything to come, everything you’ve done already and things you don’t even have to do. It piles up until you feel like you’re going to explode.
Sometimes it’s the exact opposite. You just feel empty. The amount of worrying has drained your psyche of the ability to recharge. Remember what we said earlier: burnout is overwhelming. Part of that is the feeling of your nerves getting fried. Everything feels heavy. Time moves in slow motion, super speed, or both all at once.
Turn your phone off
Avoid doomscrolling: seeing one negative news article, then another, then another, until it seems the only thing you ever see is headlines like “breaking news: world ended last week if you didn’t notice.” It’s okay to disconnect yourself from everything going on for just a few minutes. Take a deep breath and clear your mind.
Trees aren’t a cure-all that will miraculously heal you of all ailments, but they’re definitely nice to look at. We don’t have a lot of trees in Cleveland, but there are plenty of parks within the general area. Go to a park. Take in some fresh air, listen to birds chirping. Watch a sunset or (a personal favorite) go stargazing.
Pick up a hobby
Giving your mind something to do other than school work will help improve your mood. Learn to knit, pick up an instrument or drawing. Anything that allows you to express your creative side. The progress you make will also fill you with satisfaction that stress normally hinders.
Talk to somebody
We all hit low points. There’s no shame in reaching out to a professional who will help you better cope with your problems. Not properly managing your stress can make things exponentially worse. There are plenty of services available online and in-person that allow you to get in touch with somebody at a moment’s notice.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but if even one of you can take anything away from this and it helps, it’s a job well done. We all have our low points, but it’s important to remember there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.