The last few months were extremely busy with courses. I got a lot accomplished in a short(ish) amount of time, however, this has the side-effect of leaving me burnt out. It leaves me wondering if it is worthwhile to go at that pace and then struggle for a couple weeks to motivate myself again. This time, I was particularly burnt. I have never been so burnt out, I tried my usual burn-out-cures to no avail: switching up my study material, taking a day or two away, refreshing my schedule. All of these standbys failed me this time. I was beginning to think that my final 30 credits may become my Everest.
The answer came to me along with a few days of sunshine: 14 hour days of manual labour in the heat of the sun. With the recent hot streak, we started work on building our shop. We worked long days, moving lumber, cutting lumber, lifting walls that were sheeted in and probably weighed a literal tonne. The first day we erected three walls. The second day we erected the fourth and moved trusses on top of the 12-foot walls, readying them to be put in place the next day. Day three was flinging trusses around while precariously balanced on a ladder (or the 6″ wide wall) and hammering them into place. Luckily we have friends who are skilled carpenters and they directed us amateurs on what to do. I spent two of those three days with my mind completely away from school. Between learning how to build and boiling in the heat there was no time to consider professional ethics, women’s health, or women and violence. All I could consider was who needs what, where should I be, and if we were running out of water.
The morning of day three we started later than the rest because of poor weather. That morning I was able to attack my women and violence essay with a renewed vigor. Vigor that I had thought was lost. I got more accomplished that morning in two hours than I had in the last couple weeks. I wasn’t feeling stressed about how much I needed to get done, or where I should be in my course; rather, I was happy to be working on it again. I was enjoying the material and writing an essay on the topic?no longer feeling lost and intimidated.
I pondered why this worked so well when my other methods had not. It
‘s not because I dislike physical labour, I have enjoyed the process of seeing the shop take shape and knowing that I helped create it. There is great satisfaction in being able to say, “I helped build that.” When I was busy working on the shop I was too focused on the task at hand and was not thinking about school, not even subconsciously worrying about getting behind or being burnt out. I could not stress about what I thought I should be doing, or about how I was going to get out of the rut. By allowing my mind to take a real vacation away from school, consciously and subconsciously, I was able to recharge.
How to deal with being burnt out, I have found, depends on the degree of burn out: from minor to extreme. Depending on the degree, it can be as simple as taking the morning off, doing some yoga, or changing your course-focus. In extreme cases the answer is, apparently, to build a shop. Though I do not foresee the need (or have the space) to build another, so I will need to allow this to morph into other versions of hard physical labour. Who knows, maybe I will end up getting lots of things built this year if these last credits all prove this challenging.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature