Burnout is Real: How it Manifests and Ways to Cope

Burnout happens we encounter ongoing stress and frustration, with no time to relax and recharge.

When you are studying, you are learning something new. Yes, I am sounding like Captain Obvious but stick with me here I’ve thought this through, it will make sense. When at University, you are training to get a qualification in that profession, which means that you are not expected to already know. If you already knew it, you wouldn’t need to be on that course. Therefore, learning will mean making mistakes because you don’t know.

Recognizing when you are experiencing burnout and need to take a break is the key to longevity”

If you’re finding your course hard this doesn’t mean you are stupid. It could just be that it’s hard. In fact, it is hard. So, hang in there.

For University students, there will be times when everything will seem impossible, when essays stack up, when a dissertation is looming over you, when placements are exhausting, when you are struggling financially, when your social life vanishes, when you are juggling between caring for loved ones and studying.

I could go on…. But please don’t give up. Talk to someone about it, there is a lot of support available out there.

Although I am a university lecturer, I also happen to be a student for my PhD and Prior to my current job, I also worked as Students’ Mental Health Advisor. So, it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about students.

It is not hyperbole to say that for students, university pressures can be exhausting; exams, assignments, coursework, personal issues, financial worries, different deadlines all coming at you quickly – all can be emotionally and physically exhausting and draining. On top of all that, having time to do a shift whenever you can, to make ends meet. With all these factors at play, something else called burnout comes into the picture.

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, and it is sneaky because you don’t realize you’re borrowing from tomorrow to push through today.

Think of burnout as a response to repeated attempts to make meaningful change while lacking the agency to do so.

How Burnout manifests

It can manifest itself in different ways; Behaviourally, Physically, Emotionally

Emotional symptoms, for example.

Feeling exhausted,

The feeling of helplessness and of feeing defeated

detachment and a sense of isolation in the world

decreased sense of accomplishment and happiness.

Feeling trapped

Low mood

Having a sense of self-doubt, thinking of self as a failure

The feeling of depletion lacking motivation to perform to your usual standards

Cynicism, such as feeling as though what you’re currently doing is pointless and won’t help you in the future.

No longer enjoying a course or other activities that you once did

Physical symptoms

These could also include headaches, muscle pains, tearfulness, insomnia

For the most part feeling worn out and drained

Recurring flu and other illnesses due to decreased immunity.

Headaches and muscles persistently aching.

Insomnia – disrupted sleep patterns

Alteration in eating patterns.

Behavioural symptoms

Isolated and lonely for the most part.

abandoning one’s obligations.

Procrastination – You may start to procrastinate, have negative thoughts like self-doubt, low motivation, cynicism or negative self-talk (there’s no point in trying, I’m stupid). You may start perceiving negative feedback as criticism and this will impact on your academic performance.

Turning to food, drugs, or alcohol to cope

Irritability- being irritable and quick to get angry.

To doing any work or assignments

Turning up late for appointments or classes or leaving early.

How can you help yourself?

When you burnout, your body is trying to communicate to:

To value yourself, your time, and your energy.

Start by taking a break to recharge and prioritise things you enjoy.

Bear in mind that taking a break may feel uncomfortable because you may feel like you are neglecting responsibilities. You also may feel like you are falling behind or disappointing other people, resist this.

Self-care is essential

Challenge these thoughts by remembering that taking a break is essential to serve at the highest level.

Avoid pulling ‘pulling all-nighters to revise – get enough sleep, eat nutritious food and hydrate, take some leave if you need to – you are entitled to it.

Find a support network and where possible reduce your responsibilities – learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilt.

In my experience, it’s easier to avoid burnout than to recover from it. Take some time for yourself… the work will still be there.

Last thoughts

Recognising when you are experiencing burnout and need to take a break is the key to longevity.

If we treat rest as a reward to be earned instead of something you need, burnout will continue to be a problem for so many.

Remember you are absolutely worthy of all the time you need to recharge, in whichever way that applies to you individually. And how are you going to support others when you need support yourself?

As the singer and musician Michael Gungor says: “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”

This article was first written here by me.

3 thoughts on “Burnout is Real: How it Manifests and Ways to Cope”

  1. I had a lot of these symptoms recently, and it was the first time I’d ever experienced full on burn out. It was terrible, I lost a lot of weight and I was completely drained. I’ve made alterations in my life and I am now basically back to normal- with a lot more healthy habits in place 🙂 thank you for sharing this post, it’s so important to raise awareness and help other spot the signs x

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