September has always felt like a great month: after a season of rest, dabbling in hobbies, and hanging out with friends, you come back to school ready to take on the new academic year. You’re ready to be that enthusiastic, straight-A student who can impress professors in class and in office hours. This year, you’re going to get involved on campus, make tons of friends, and be all-around successful, both academically and otherwise. You are pumped.
And then, jump to March: after months of being dedicated to your studies, you find yourself too tired to even open up your textbook. You’re so tired that you’re finding that you just aren’t that interested in anything, even extracurriculars or hanging out with friends. In fact, you start wondering if you were ever really interested in anything at all.
If this sounds like you right now, then maybe you’re burnt out. It happens to the best of us.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the result of long periods of stress. It can be the result of work, your personal life, and yes, even school. Symptoms include: exhaustion, pessimism, apathy, and other stuff that really isn’t great. In the worst cases, burnout gets in the way of getting things done.
I should note: while burnout sounds similar to depression, they’re two separate things. With burnout, you can usually do something about it to start making yourself feel better almost immediately. Depression tends to require more serious intervention, since it’s a bigger mental health issue.
The good news is once you know it’s burnout it’s easier to manage. Knowing that those negative things you feel (pessimism, disinterest, apathy, etc.) are the burnout talking can enable you to question why you’re feeling or thinking these things.
Let me use a personal example: for the past several weeks, pessimism has been hitting me pretty hard. There have been two weird thoughts that have been popping up in my head. One is something along the lines of, “You should drop out, even though you’re in fourth year.” The other thought is more like, “Maybe you should never leave university.” I’m not going to do either of these things (obviously).
Instead, I ask myself why I’m thinking this way. The answer is relatively simple: I have a major case of senioritis (in other words, my burnt-out mind is constantly returning to the fact I’ll be done university soon). Deep down, I know that I’m looking forward to my future, but I’m also acknowledging that maybe I should slow down and take some time to stop and smell the roses a bit.
Maybe this is what burnout is. It’s the big, yellow “SLOW” sign that your mind puts up after it’s been street racing. Like a real road, that sign is there for a reason. Once we see it, we just need to listen to it. As much as we’d love to have an infinite amount of energy, we aren’t the Energizer Bunny. It’s important to re-charge when we get the chance, and to make sure that we’re continually giving ourselves something to look forward to instead of just working. For me, watching episodes of “The Office” in between doing things has been working well.
So, when you start to feel drained, ask yourself why you feel that way, and remind yourself that burnout is only temporary. Also, make sure you take a step back and do something fun, even if it’s just for a few minutes.