Take time to avoid academic burnout

Joseph Bulmer

Academic burnout. Associated with emotional and physical exhaustion, it should not be confused with the expected tiredness and frustration of an occasional all-nighter before a big exam.

Academic burnout can be caused by strenuous studying, a continuous routine with coursework and revision while neglecting your wellbeing.

An easy habit to slip into during online learning within your 7ft by 10ft dorm room. Disengagement, lack of motivation, and increased feelings of anxiety are all key tell-tale signs of burnout. It can also extend to sleep disturbances, fatigue, and changes in appetite.

Generally arising in response to negative stress, I would emphasise an awareness of academic burnout in students for the upcoming weeks.

The uncertainty of how effective the new system of grade-awarding will be and the uncertainty of how different these assessments will be in comparison to the norm will only escalate the annual anxiety.

Awareness is important to also prevent the narrative of a failing student. We all have spells of procrastinating that sociology essay and handing it in a few weeks late. Or ditching the history lecture on a Friday to start the weekend early. Or just having a downright horrible, no good week of being completely and utterly unmotivated is normal.

However, sabotaging academic burnout with labelling it as laziness is not the cure, nor glamourising burnout when it is only a case of the Monday blues.

Burnout was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2019, a reason as to why so many are not familiar with this term.

I can only estimate that I have experienced burnout countless of times during my academic career, all put down to laziness and therefore enduring the guilt of being unproductive until it come to pass.

Quite a homebody myself, it is easy to downplay.

However, there is a pattern of timing. A build up to exams, following the same mundane routine within lockdown, disengaging socially, not attending online lectures, etc and the pandemic has only made this more accessible.

It is a slippery slope – easy to follow but hard to quit.

With que-cards and revision timetables stacked ceiling high in preparation, what tricks are there to avoid burnout?

For revision, the 20-20 method is extremely beneficial. 20 minutes working, 20-minute break. Consistency with revision is a healthy alternative to the sardine method: smashing out the ten-item-to-do list the night before the due date.

A known frenemy of many students but discipline is key in breaking the burnout cycle. Discipline in where you are revising is another tip. Picking the dining room table over a laptop tray on the bed creates two separate environments for work and leisure - opposed to relaxing and working under the same duvet.

Importantly, allow the bad days to be just a day. Exaggerate the need to sulk and slack within your four walls but add an expiry date.

Academic burnout can be consuming and taking time to detox can be the cure.