When you start school, you’re so excited and it’s all new and fun. Then you quickly realize that you’ve just entered a life phase that isn’t going to end for at least a couple of decades, and often, burnout happens before that time even comes close to expiring.
If you were a high schooler who was wondering how you were going to make it through the next few years, you might have loved to have some tips like these – so lets pass it on!
16. Take a mini-holiday.
If you have any extra money (I know, easier said than done) book the cheapest AirBNB you can find within the area you can get to with the transportation you have available. Go alone or bring a friend, and have a mini-vacation, just for a night or weekend.
It’s very refreshing to have a change of scenery, even if it’s in your same city.
15. Focus on yourself.
Don’t listen to your fellow classmates who boast about study 60+ hours a week, they’re either exaggerating, straight-up lying, or have an incredibly inefficient study method. There will be times where you really need to be studying hard for extended amounts of time (ex. finals week), but for the vast majority of the semester it is completely unnecessary to do that in order to get a good grade.
If you do find that you need excessive study in order to do okay in a course then you need to reach out to your TA(s) and professor. Most universities have free tutoring services, use them.
Seriously just take more breaks and get more sleep. I didn’t pull a single all-nighter in my 4 years of undergrad and now that I’m in med school I don’t have any need for that either. Without real breaks and sleep your brain’s ability to actually store and organize all the information you’ve studied goes out the window. This is harder to do if you need to work to support yourself but you need to find some semblance of healthy sleeping habits if you want to be able to make it through all 4 years.
Eat real food. Don’t just live off of snack foods and coffee, your brain isn’t going to work properly if you don’t fuel it. It’s generally cheaper to buy canned and frozen fruit and veg so if you’re on a budget try those aisles. Additionally, most places have some sort of charity or community pantry/soup kitchen, use it if you need to. You don’t need to be completely destitute in order to reach out for help from these places, if you are struggling to make ends meet get help from your community. It is not weak, it is not shameful, it’s being smart enough to accept that everyone needs help now and then.
I mean it, don’t pay attention to classmates and social media influencers who say they spend all their time studying. They almost definitely aren’t and if they are they have an unsustainable view towards work/school that will bite them in the butt later on.
14. Don’t stress over your stress.
Give yourself a much needed break, like a clean break. If you’re still thinking about work or stressing over the fact that you’re not doing anything “productive”, it won’t feel like one
13. Start small.
When you find that you don’t have any motivation to do your work, so you lay in bed doing nothing and stressing about all the work you should be doing, make yourself do something small and arguably productive.
Take the trash out, clean a couple of dishes. Make a nice meal. Fix something that’s been bugging you. Clear out old emails from your inbox. Literally anything that is productive.
You’ll find that the work wasn’t that bad, and you’ll see the positive impact of the work. Continue with larger tasks until you feel ready to tackle your school work.
12. Take a day off.
Take a day to do nothing. And by nothing I mean stay the whole day in bed, watch a TV show, eat some popcorn and order in.
It works for me, forcing myself to stay in bed the whole day presses the invisible “reset” button.
11. Know when you need a little help.
If possible, go to a therapist
Exercise. When I exercise regularly, I don’t have my “low days.” When I don’t, they become more common
Diet: this sounds like hippie bullshit and I didn’t believe it at first but it’s honestly had the most impact for me. I (at the time) like most students are like shit. A lot of processed foods, almost no vegetables, a lot of grease. I eat a much more plant based diet (whole grain granola for breakfast, green smoothies for lunch, a largely plant based fresh made meal for dinner). Does this rewire my brain? NO. Do I feel better in general? Yes. And that makes it easier. When depression and anxiety make me feel like shit, I don’t need the 2 Baconators and Fries I ate the night before piling on.
Meditation. Again, sounds like hippie bullshit. There is a technique called “noting” that I learned from Headspace’s anxiety pack that I am sure is taught for free on YouTube somewhere. Again, this does not make my anxiety go away, but it makes me more aware of when it is happening and has changed my relationship with my anxiety to help me overcome it
10. Think of Hamilton!
This particular example might not work for everyone, but seriously; take a break. Your brain works better when you let it rest now and then.
Plus, if Hamilton had listened to Eliza and taken a break, his son probably never would’ve gotten shot, so there’s also that.
9. Communicate your issues.
Burnout is real. It means you have given too much of yourself to something, and you need to recover. While deadlines don’t wait, professors often will. You have to communicate with them if you are struggling. If they are worth their pay, they will do their best to accommodate you. It’s unhealthy to continue under so much stress.
Be kind to yourself. Nearly everyone experiences this at some point in life, and it’s pretty normal in our over worked society. Do what you can to clear your mind. Assign yourself a certain number of hours to completely shift gears away from all these responsibilities. Set an alarm if you have to, but give yourself enough time to reach a stage of full body relaxation.
You can try walking, meditating, sleeping, whatever your body needs. Just listen to it! There is no shame here. You must care for yourself and keep a balance. Deep breaths, often.
8. Find a friend.
Sometimes, try talking to your peers and seeing if anyone can relate can help a lot. If they feel the same, it’s kind of nice knowing you’re not alone.
7. Try some rules and boundaries.
One of the best things happened to me was one trick. I said after 18:00 i will not think about all the stress and deadlines that i have. All work no matter how small was good enough If it was done before that time period. And in my free fun time after that i can do what ever.
Ah and i have a limit for staying up late also. I say always nothing good comes after 2/3am. that helps me keeping up my sleep schedule.
6. Pick up a hobby.
I feel very qualified to answer this. I have been in college continuously since I was 18, and I’m now 32. I have 2 years to go before finishing my doctorate. I currently have an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s. I have also worked the entire time. Burnt out doesn’t begin to cover it. Here is how I stay sane:
Give school as little bandwidth in your life as possible. “Good enough” are the two most beautiful words in the English language. Get Bs on things. Write your assignments and due dates on a master calendar, block off times to get them done, and try to avoid thoughts of school outside of those blocks.
To increase productivity during your work blocks, use Freedom or something similar. I paid for a lifetime subscription and in one class alone it paid for itself. It just blocks access to your distractions on the phone and computer while you get stuff done.
Tackle other hobbies in life that you see progress in outside of school. Even if it feels like school will never ever end and you’re on a treadmill of misery going nowhere, you can go somewhere in other areas of your life. I’m currently training for a marathon, just started learning cello, I mentor first gen college students, and I’m in a book club. Pick your poison, but try to put away the laptop and push yourself in a non-academic area.
You social needs may vary, but try getting together with other people not in your circle of school misery. Join a sports league (yuck for me but maybe not for you). I host regular dinner parties. Volunteer. Now that vaccines are out, make sure you get one then connect with other people.
DO NOT TAKE A BREAK. When you stop school even for a semester you know what it’s like to be happy and not have the weight of misery pulling you down. You won’t want to go back. Slog through and just do it.
Don’t reward yourself with damaging things. Don’t eat or drink your rewards for school or you will be unhealthy and unhappy when you’re done. Reward yourself with something positive instead.
If I had to recommend one book, it would be Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Basically, it goes into the science of feeling burned out, why it’s bad for you, and how to fix it on a physiological level. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, if I could distil the most useful information it would be: exercise. The author digs deep into the science (which I love) behind why it works SO DAMN GOOD, but if you hate science and reading, trust me. Go for a run a few times a week, lift weights, dance a lot, just get your heart rate up.
Good luck. School sucks.
5. Take a break, even if it’s small.
Do something for yourself. Whether it be a random hobby or something you’ve always thought about wanting to do, just do it. I also can’t recommend physical exercise enough…. there’s no better stress relief than taking things out on the weights at the gym or the punching bag.
4. Get organized.
If your sensation is of being overwhelmed (i.e. you have an impossible amount of work to do with no end in sight) more than burnt out (you are exhausted and becoming detached from the work), then two tips:
Realise that it’s not infinite. If you stick it out until graduation (and I hope you do!), then many of the problems you’re accumulating will be wiped clear. Perhaps your GPA/final grade won’t be as good as you want, but remember that whatever you’re facing now – this too shall pass. Knowning that there is an inevitable light at the end of the tunnel is useful for me.
Make a list. If you are the under-organised type, making a list of things to do each morning on a sheet of paper dramatically reduces the stress level that those items cause you. You can implement some fancy to-do software if you prefer but tbh a daily todo is simpler and more effective…
3. A few little tricks.
Lots of things you could try!
Sleep. 8 hours a day, wake up spontaneously without an alarm and if you feel the need do a 30-90 minute power nap in the afternoon.
Meditate daily, 5-30 minutes to start in the morning or whenever you feel comfortable.
Limit the consume of caffeine.
Plan a healthy diet you can stick to, reducing the amount of junk food first to focus later on the composition of your main meals, snacks and so on. Eat plenty of greens, fruit, nuts and drink mainly water or sugar free drinks.
Take cold showers. Those are a huge boost, especially in the morning.
Decompress. As someone said, take the days you need to just do nothing during your week.
Last but not least, workout! Start small, build the habit and stick to it!
2. It can never hurt.
Make the switch to double ply toilet paper. Just do it now. Even if you don’t feel like you need it (you do), your house guests will be irritated if you have single ply, and if they don’t overtly comment on it, they’ll certainly be thinking about it and they might talk shit about it later.
No idea about the burnt out part though, best of luck with that.
1. No caffeine, what?
Sleep, drink water. No caffeine no alcohol. Sleep and drink water.
These are some great thoughts for struggling kids – I love it.
What other tips would you add to this list? Share them in the comments!