Are you a motivated student who’s ready to have your best semester yet? Are you eager to meet lots of new people and join a variety of different organizations? Do you plan to pursue success and take advantage of every opportunity given to you? If yes, then this article is for you. Even the best of intentions can lead you down the wrong road. Be careful, or you could find yourself experiencing stress, becoming overwhelmed, and, eventually, college burnout.
What is College Burnout?
College burnout is emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that is caused by ongoing stress. Students who are experiencing college burnout often feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. If students don’t change their lifestyle and get help, the ongoing stress can cause students to lose interest in their educational and career goals, or even lead to serious health problems.
College burnout is a plague that debilitates the most motivated of students. I personally dealt with college burnout this previous fall and have since learned how to live my life in a more sustainable and healthy way.
My Experience with College Burnout
Fall of my sophomore year of college started out amazing. I loved hanging out with friends, starting my shampoo business, being a member of the Entreprenuerhip club (CEO), attending my 18 credit hours of intense classes, and participating in a myriad of other activities.
Then all the sudden it wasn’t so amazing. Come November, I found I didn’t have much interest in any of the things I had been so involved in. I felt tense, so I started to go out more, party, let loose and ignore my obligations. This didn’t help; instead, I started to feel sick and lethargic. Then homesickness and anxiety set in. I found myself struggling to make it through each day.
Doesn’t sound fun right? How did a semester filled with so many hopes, dreams, and good intentions go so horribly wrong?
In this article, I will discuss how to prevent experiencing the college burnout that I went through. Trust me, it’s much easier to prevent college burnout than it is to recover from it (t took me over four months before I felt like myself again). Since that awful fall, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that have helped. Here are the most important:
5 Tips to Prevent College Burnout
1. Map Out your Dreams
Woah, does it feel like I just dropped a bomb? If you had asked me to do this fall of Sophomore year, you would have been asking for the near impossible. You may have no idea where you want to go in life. Or, like past me, you have too many ideas about what you want to do and can’t pick.
Without focus, your schedule can easily become cluttered with needless things. Whenever someone said “this is fun” or “this will make you successful,” I signed up. My schedule quickly became overly packed and I had no time to actually think about whether I was using my time in a meaningful way.
Grab Your Pen and Paper.
Please, take the time to figure out what you want. Grab a pen and paper and map out where you potentially want to be in the future. Don’t just think about it, write it down. Write down where you want to be a year after graduating college, five years afterwards, and, if you can, ten years and later. If you have multiple dreams or ideas, write each down.
If you’re not sure what you want to do in life, you can start by writing down what you definitely don’t want to do. Write down your strengths and weaknesses, what makes you happy, what makes you unhappy, etc. Are there any things that you absolutely have to accomplish before you die?
Each time a new opportunity presents itself to you, think about whether it will help you get where you want to be. Obviously, not every activity has to relate to the future. Some can just be for fun in the present, but if it’s not bringing you present happiness or helping you achieve your dreams, then why invest your precious time in it?
It’s hard to stay focused on your dreams if you don’t have them clearly defined, speaking from experience.
2. Underestimate the amount of time you have.
We tend to overestimate our time. We over-schedule and over-plan to the point where we start to fall behind and get stressed out, which in turn makes us fall further behind and get more stressed out, and so on. The cycle of doom spins on and on until we crash. A surefire way to achieve college burnout.
I have a list from a awhile ago of things I wanted to accomplish before the semester ended. The list included several big ticket items such as expanding my shampoo business, starting a blog, getting a waitressing job, joining the crew team, interning with a fitness studio, joining a business frat, becoming active in the rock climbing club, and more. There was no way I was going to accomplish all of that in one semester, and stay sane doing so.
It took me a few weeks of slowly dropping commitments until I was left with only the rock climbing club and my waitressing job. That’s it. Two things out of my 20+ item list. I went through a lot of stress and anxiety before reaching that point, but once I got there I was able to actually enjoy myself.
Pick One Large Focus and Three Smaller Focuses
Managing your time successfully can be hard, but picking one large focus and three smaller focuses can help you be productive without overwhelming yourself.
Start by listing out all of the things you want to accomplish this semester. Then chose one large focus. This could be being the president of a club, taking a super hard course load, starting a business, taking on an intensive internship, etc. This focus is something that takes up over 10 hours of your time each week. Pick one of these things.
Then pick three smaller focuses. For example, these could be clubs you’re looking to get involved with or personal goals such as reading more books or going to the gym several times a week. The three smaller focuses should take about five hours a week or less each.
By choosing only a few focuses, you’ll be able to delve deeper and get more involved, versus spreading yourself thin over a barrage of different commitments.
If you can handle more, then add more later on once you’ve settled in. It’s better to slowly add new commitments than to quit old ones.
3. Learn When to Say No and Actually Say It.
This goes along with my first two pieces of advice. In order to manage your time well and not get overwhelmed, you need to learn when and how to say no. Keep in mind that it’s one thing to know when to say no, but it’s another thing to actually follow through.
When you are offered an opportunity, don’t just accept it because “it will look good on your resume.” Will it? Will it really? Say you accept an opportunity to do undergraduate research in Business Psychology, but your dream is to be a travel blogger (like me). Will this opportunity actually help get you want to be? Sure it’s impressive, but you need make sure it’s impressive to the right people.
This also goes for friends and non-academic things. If you’re tired, stressed, and don’t want to go out, say no. If you know you have several projects due that week, pass on the beach trip. Know you’re limits and guard them fiercely.
Of course, I’m not recommending you become a boring no-fun person. There are some instances that are worth the added stress, but too many yes’s and you may find yourself dealing with college burnout. If you stay on top of things, don’t become overly involved, and take care of yourself, you won’t need to pass on fun events.
4. Do Not Put Your Email on the Mailing List of Every Single Club that Looks Interesting.
This is an easy piece of advice, but personally I’ve always found it hard to follow through with. My email is flooded with fun and excited events from millions of different clubs. It’s overwhelming. So many fun things to do, but no where near enough time.
As a freshman, it was overwhelming trying to get to all of the different initial club meetings that I was emailed about after the involvement fair. I ended up going to some that I wasn’t really interested in and missing others that I was interested in. By saying no initially when a club or organization you’re not particularly interested in asks for your email, you’re saving yourself a lot of potential time and stress later on. Know what you want to get involved with before going to involvement fairs and putting your email down.
Email is the gateway to your mind. Don’t let it get cluttered.
5. Self. Care.
If you do nothing else in this article, you absolutely must take time for self care. Self care is so important in avoiding college burnout that I plan to write a whole separate article regarding it.
If you don’t take care of yourself, then who will? Make love to yourself.
Your body is a temple and it needs to be treated as such. Try to get an average of 8 hours of sleep each night, each healthy wholesome food (and don’t skip meals), and stay active. These are so basic, but yet so hard to actually do.
It’s especially difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle with the prevailing college culture. Staying up until 4 am partying, eating late-night drunk food (rarely healthy), and then not moving at all the day after is pretty standard in this town. Times like that can be fun, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Like I mentioned before, know when to say no.
There are lots of resources on the internet and on college campuses for staying healthy. It’s all a matter of committing and following through.
Your body isn’t the only thing that needs to be nourished, your mind does too. Take some time to relax and decompress. Some of my favorite things to do are writing in my journal, doing yoga, meditating, drinking tea, reading a book, and taking baths. Take time to reflect on your life and let your mind breath. Even if you’re not an introvert, this alone time is important.
Spending time with people you love and care about is also an important part of caring for yourself. Create and nourish a supportive network of friends and family. Doing so is huge to your mental health and avoiding college burnout. Take the time to talk to friends back home, call your family, and spend time with your college friends.
Don’t fill your schedule up to the point where self care gets ruled out. Self care often the first thing to go, but that’s a surefire ticket to college burnout. Soon I will share one of my secrets to easily incorporating self-care into your daily life. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend signing up for the newsletter to get all my travel and wellness goodies sent straight to your mailbox.
Good luck this semester!
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