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Suffering from college burnout? Let’s get better together

It has been a difficult year for Millsies: with the continuation of COVID-19, ongoing police brutality, growing incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate and news of Millsclosure, it is no wonder Millsies near and far (due to distance learning) are ready to quit. Burnout, the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress, is a common phenomenon. Eighty-five percent 85% of college students said they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point in the past year and 50% of college students reported that their level of stress had a negative effect on their academic performance, according to the Anxiety And Depression Association Of America (ADAA).

“Everyone has to deal with stress. In balancing work and personal lives with academic expectations, college students face even more stress. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you have a lot on your plate. Recognizing signs of burnout, knowing how to handle your responsibilities, and making sure you’re taking care of your mental health can make college stress more manageable,” Ashley Wallis from Southern New Hampshire University writes, advising students on how to avoid burnout writes.

College burnout can cause an array of serious health issues.

College burnout refers to an extended period of extreme fatigue and apathy that often results in a decline in academic performance. Burnout can be triggered by a variety of factors, but it’s most often caused by overwhelming work demands and prolonged levels of intense stress.

“Having the wrong friends, the wrong level of support, the wrong major, the wrong goals, etc., will rather quickly lead to burnout,” Dr. Lee Keyes, Former Psychology Professor at the University of Alabama, explained.

“Chronic depletion can result in similarly chronic health problems, such as depression, infections, susceptibility to viruses, and even immune system issues and cancer,” Keyes said. “With burnout, this trajectory can be altered when it is successfully addressed.”

It can be difficult to know whether you’re experiencing early signs of burnout or simply adjusting to the stress and responsibilities that come with college. According to Keyes, some of the major symptoms include “cynicism or ‘letting go’ of previously identified goals and relationships, feeling like a failure, and, when negative coping is involved, escapism through increased alcohol and/or drug use.”

Below is a list of some of the most common burnout symptoms:

  • You’ve lost interest in social and extracurricular activities
  • Your grades are suffering and you’re having trouble meeting deadlines
  • You’re feeling a lack of motivation to carry out everyday tasks
  • You’ve lost enjoyment in your daily activities
  • You’re feeling more lonely than usual
  • You’ve been increasingly irritable

The good news about burnout is that you can reverse it before it becomes a serious health issue. To do this effectively, you need to listen to your body and understand why you’re stressed. Once you identify the sources, you can start to manage them.

“The first task is to identify being under stress,” Keyes said. “Slow down, remove yourself from the ‘noise’ and negative coping so you can feel and think. Once sources are identified, each one will have multiple solutions arrived at through creative problem-solving.”

Here are some other essential tips for recovering from burnout:

  • Don’t ignore the warning signs. Burnout can result in serious health issues if left untreated. Listen to your body, and don’t keep pushing yourself.
  • Develop a plan. Develop a plan that involves identifying your burnout and its source, then create strategies to address it to help you function.
  • Set aside time to decompress. When you’re experiencing heightened levels of stress, it’s important to devote time every day to resting and relaxing your mind.
  • Evaluate your situation and make changes. If you’re balancing a heavy course load with other responsibilities, such as a part-time job, you may need to scale back on some of your commitments.

You are never alone in feeling stressed or burned out. These are feelings that most students experience, and sometimes it’s just due to a busy term or difficult course. Remember that overwhelming emotions can pass and there are counselors and advisors available at Mills that are happy to help talk with you about stress or burnout and provide helpful suggestions — or simply to listen.

Mills offers a variety of remote resources which can be found here.