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Student Burnout: How To Prevent It & How To Survive It

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The struggle of being productive in a world without mercy is persistent, ongoing, and pervasive. When we start out on a journey of education, most - if not all of us - believe that we have some idea of what we are in for. And once again, most - if not all of us - underestimate the reality of the challenge ahead. So, what do you do when you get to a point where you realize the magnitude of what you have taken on? Whether it is three or six months in, or during the first week, what do you do when reality hits you?

You may often find yourself up to your eyeballs in readings, paperwork, seminars, lectures, office hours, family life, work, and somehow writing for deadlines that never quite go away. These demands never seem to stop, but you will have to once you encounter something that you may not have met before - your limit.

The tension from all of those stressors and demands will build-up, and then one day, things may change for the worse. With that many plates in the air, spinning faster, and the pressure rising - eventually one may fall. You might hear a clatter and a smash, and who knows?... maybe it will be the start of a chain reaction, one plate after the other may fall like dominos: a growing crescendo of disaster. Or, perhaps it will be followed by an echoing silence and you may start to feel like a failure and wonder if you have let yourself down. Who knows, maybe this is it for you. The falling plate(s) represent being burned-out, a point of complete exhaustion that can be experienced in all domains of life, including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional domains. While burnout is not an inevitable part of life, it is accompanied by persistent and in some cases overwhelming negative emotions.

So, what happens when you are burned-out? Different people experience burnout differently. You may wallow. Take perhaps a day, a week, or a month off. Maybe longer. While taking the time that you need, you might delve into mental health support groups and consume all the healing content that you can find. Self-care may become your mantra while you comfort yourself, because if you do not heal from being burned-out, how can you possibly return to the pressures of life? Maybe your commitment to self-care is genuine and you notice that the overwhelming negative emotions will leave you alone if you directly address them. You may also find yourself using burnout and self-care rituals as excuses to procrastinate “for a good reason”, but in the back of your mind you know that all of those deadlines have not *actually* gone away… so, you eventually poke your head out of your cocoon and crawl out from underneath th