Recent statistics on student stress are disheartening. Many catch our eye, but this is especially alarming: “39.1% of college students in the U.S. report feeling well-rested for only one or two days a week.” And 19.5% don’t feel rested at all.
There’s no way college students can be at their best, not getting adequate rest. And it’s no wonder academic fatigue and burnout are hitting them harder than ever. If we don’t address it now, the performance of college students will continue to diminish, and their futures will hang in limbo.
If you’re experiencing academic fatigue, stress, and burnout, these four tips can help you get to the other side.
Know When You’re Experiencing Burnout
University of the People defines academic burnout as “a negative emotional, physical and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced ability in school.”
Understanding the definition of general burnout is also critical. You don’t want to overlook a burnout diagnosis just because school isn’t what’s making you feel burnt out. The three criteria for a burnout diagnosis include:
- Severe lack of energy and complete exhaustion
- Feeling mentally distanced or increasingly negative about one’s job
- Diminished effectiveness in one’s role
Whether you’re experiencing general burnout or its subset academic burnout, you need to be able to pinpoint when you’re experiencing it so that you can manage it. If you’re encountering any, all, or a combination of the below symptoms for a prolonged period, academic fatigue or burnout is likely the culprit:
- Your creative spark is gone
- Your attendance is suffering
- Your body is simply exhausted
- You can’t concentrate in class
- You’re more irritable and frustrated
- You’re missing deadlines more often
- Sitting through a lecture is nearly impossible
- You’ve lost confidence in the work you’re producing
- There’s a spike in feelings of anxiety and/or depression
- You’re no longer interested in participating in discussions and group projects
It’s important to note that burnout can overlap with other mental health conditions. For example, you could be losing your creative spark and energy because of depression. Or you could be more irritable, frustrated, and lack confidence because of an anxiety disorder.
With this in mind, separating burnout from other mental health challenges is vital to getting better.
Be Intentional When Choosing Classes and Your Schedule
College students are known to take on more than they should when choosing classes, whether to graduate earlier, have a better shot at an internship, or something else entirely. In addition, getting into specific courses can be so competitive that many students will take, say, the 7 a.m. class even though they know they aren’t morning people.
Taking too many classes and choosing the wrong times to take them can lead to high levels of stress that ultimately result in academic fatigue and burnout.
It’s much better for your health and educational success to be intentional when choosing classes and your schedule. Really take the time to select courses you’ll enjoy and engage in. Now, you won’t enjoy every class. So, supplement the ones you don’t care for but have to take with those you’re excited about.
And be sure to put together a schedule you can maintain. For example, don’t go for early morning classes if you know you do your best work in the afternoon and vice versa. Also, figure out the best way to spread courses throughout the week to ensure you’re accommodating how you learn, study, and live.
Grow Real Relationships With Your Professors
Good for you if you’re lucky enough never to experience academic fatigue and burnout. But for those that do, having good relationships with professors can help make the experience much more manageable.
You know those office hours your professor tells you about on the first day of class? Unfortunately, not nearly enough students use them to their advantage. But you should. Use office hours to develop genuine relationships with your professors.
Commit to getting together with your professors at least once a week. Not only can they help you with any challenges you’re having with coursework, but professors also encourage students to use office hours to talk about things other than school, burnout, and academic fatigue included.
When you have a strong relationship with your professors, you’ll be more inclined to be transparent about what you’re going through. And together, you can develop a plan to simplify school and life.
Put a Plan in Place for Recovery
You’re burnt out, and academic fatigue has gotten the best of you. What do you do? Well, first, don’t panic. Most students will experience burnout at some point. Already having a plan to recover from it will fast-track you getting back to yourself and your studies.
The first step is putting the books down and taking a break. Then, do something that you’re passionate about. And for the long term, focus on boosting your energy levels healthily. For instance, incorporate a self-care routine in your day. Drink more water than anything else. Cut down on your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Exercise regularly too.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to do, understand, and manage all that comes with college on your own. Burnout and academic fatigue will be right around the corner if you do.
Instead, lean on your relationships with your professors for support. Choose classes and schedules strategically. And finally, know the signs of burnout and put a plan in place to recover from it.