October 17, 2018

How to Deal with Burnout

17th October 2019: “Is this all worth it; feeling like a zombie from The Walking Dead?” while chugging back another can of V.

How to Deal with Burnout

It’s that time of the semester again. General library gets pretty packed. Finding a computer to use on any level in Kate Edgar is near impossible. Money seems to mysteriously vanish from your bank account, replaced by much needed coffee and energy drinks.

You wake up and ask yourself

“Is this all worth it; feeling like a zombie from The Walking Dead?” while chugging back another can of V.

Hey, maybe you’re like me, struggling to get to the finish line. I remember wondering why it got more difficult every semester. Was it foreshadowing?  Was I just less motivated? Unlike me (I hope!), you managed to pull through.

Here’s a little backstory: I broke down. Several times. In fact, I lashed out on the people closest to me and just couldn’t seem to get it together. I kept thinking that I was being weak for not being able to pull through like the rest of my cohort. Eventually, loved ones suggested I go to counselling. I did -best decision ever. Through counselling, I realised that I had been suffering a burnout and had been denying it for a while.

What is Burnout?

Well, according to Wiki (yea I know, but let’s be real, everyone uses it as a starting point), burnout can be defined as

“occupational burnout resulting from long-term, unresolvable, job stress."

Symptoms include

  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Frustration, cynicism, other negative emotions.
  • Cognitive problems (inability to pay attention, maintain focus – may result in “tunnel vision”)
  • Not taking care of self – (I know “We’re uni student, we don’t usually take care of ourselves”, well this is like a step further, e.g.  forgetting to eat, not sleeping, self-medication with pills, alcohol, too much coffee)
  • Not being able to switch off- thinking about uni even when in your down time.

TL:DR – Being in a zombie state physically, mentally and emotionally. In the long run, you will eventually become a zombie.

Why does it occur?

It’s your body’s way of telling you that you currently do not have enough resources to meet all your demands. Essentially your body’s saying :

"Stop this torture please"

Imagine a rubber band that’s been stretched to its limits, now imagine trying to stretch it even more. It breaks or snaps back, hurting you in the process. That rubber band 'IS a burned out individual'. When we keep pushing, we either break down, and/or end up hurting everyone around us in the process. Eventually, the rubber band permanently loses its elasticity and form.

In the long run, burn out can lead to a whole range of issues, such as heart diseases, digestive issues, depression, depreciating performance.

How to Deal with Burnout

Here’s an amazing video by Thomas Frank to help:

His tips are:

  1. Be willing to challenge yourself but acknowledge limitations – take on commitments only if you feel you can
  2. Make sure systems are in working order (yes this means getting some rest, a little pro tip about this at the end)
  3. Get organised – I struggle with this too
  • It can be taking a day out of studying and doing other things like cleaning your room, going out for lunch
  • Sorting out a flexible schedule and jotting down to-do’s, to-study per study session. I personally write a list of things I need to get through before starting each session. Then try to get as much done. Start with micro things such as “list important concepts”, “get study schedule done”, then move on to bigger things like, “listen to lecture recordings”. That way you build motivation as you go along.

4.  Take a break

  • Schedule time to separate self from “work/study” life.
  • Have a bunch of little breaks each day and each break should be spent doing something completely out and away from your study space. This can   include going for a walk, reading a book, having lunch, watching a movie at a cinema.
  • Have a “break day” every week or so. A day to rest, relax and do whatever you feel like, whenever.

5.  Ask for help; let’s talk about it.

  • Who you talk to is crucial. Talk to friends and loved ones, as long as they are supportive.
  • University Health and Counselling Service. These people are MVPs. If you feel overwhelmed, schedule an appointment with the counselling service. Every student is entitled to 3 free sessions every semester (University of Auckland). They are also able to provide with you appropriate recommendations and may be able to help talk to university about supporting you, like messaging your lecturer to let them know you might not be able to make a deadline/ not being able to do well in a test and take that into consideration.

My simple tips:

  • Go for a walk – I remember cramming really hard for an essay and stressing out so much. My flatmate came home that day to see a circle of journal articles around me, while I stared blankly at the screen. He suggested we go for a walk, I said he was crazy. I only had a few hours left till the paper was due and I had writer’s block. We walked around for 3 hours, got coffee, talked about life and the weather. When I got back, my words just flowed.
  • Tea Break – no studying until you’ve finished your tea. Tea is meant to be appreciated, I usually couple this with an episode or two of Buzzfeed Unsolved. Shout out to Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej.
  • Realise that grades aren’t everything. I got my first internship with subpar grades. I asked them why they accepted me with those grades and they told me they didn’t look at my grades. It was my experience and passion for the company they liked.

Good luck with exams <3

P/S: Want to to share your story? Have a topic you want me to write about? Flick me a message at keexiaolin@gmail.com. 😊 Always keen for a chat!