Three Tips on Preventing Burnout This Semester

One of the planned breaks was going to feed these adorable alpacas just outside of my city.

One of the worst nightmares is having loads of assignments due, exams in the upcoming agenda, social and family obligations to meet, and not having a shred of motivation to do any of them.  Burnout for students is real, and sometimes the anxiety and stress stays with us no matter how many hours of sleep one gets.  When I experience burnout, I lash out at others I don’t intend to and sometimes become irritable at the smallest things.  Failing to “see the purpose” in our day-to-day activities can be dangerous, and one bad decision can lead to another.  Since most students can appreciate what the outcomes of burning out look like, how can we prevent it and achieve a better balance in the fall semester?

Have planned breaks:

Even though it might seem like the workload is overwhelming or the commitments are exhausting, having planned breaks away from your day-to-day activities is so critical.  Whether this may be going out for a dinner with friends or taking a hike through the mountains or neighborhood, plan breaks that are meaningful for you.  I found that when I had no planned breaks I always felt like I was working but not getting anything done.  The productivity was lacking.  The creativity was also lacking.  Planned breaks help you stay on top of self-care.  Planned also means that you’re dedicating a certain amount of time rather than spending all your time taking a break.

Most important and urgent things first:

Part of being a successful student is identifying which activities are priority and which ones can wait.  In my early days of freshman year, I would be aimlessly finishing tasks on my do to list even though some of them were trivial and non-urgent.  Finishing these made me feel good because I was crossing items off my to-do list.  But in reality, I was getting nothing important done.  Take out your colored highlighters and highlight the items that are of utmost importance and complete them first.  Another good tip I learned as a student was to complete the hardest activity first thing in the morning when I had a cup of coffee and was most energized.

Use color to highlight things that take up more time or things that are more urgent to help you prioritize.

One of the things I consider unimportant when I have multiple deadlines upcoming is meal preparation.  It takes thought, energy and time.  If you have a partner or a roommate, consider rotating meal preparation duties to cut down the amount of commitments.

Cut out unimportant things:

One of the common underlying reasons for burnout is overcommitment to different activities.  Are you juggling multiple jobs at once on top of school?  Perhaps you have a family with other commitments that are pressing.  If the goal is to manage time effectively, ensuring you cut out unimportant tasks first will free your mind and allow you to focus on what is important.  I found that when I overcommit to extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, work, and school I quickly started to dread going to them.  When I cut out a few of the commitments, I felt much better physically and mentally.  If you’re worried about disappointing others or feeling guilty from failing to meet your commitments, take the time to have an honest conversation with the other person.  Share with them your own struggles and even though you might upset some folks, looking out for yourself comes first.