Updated: Apr 14, 2020
University can be the highlight of someone's life, it is both social and rewarding. However, it is also filled with textbooks, tutorials, lectures, exams and assessments, and it is normal, at times, to feel overwhelmed and stressed. It's now getting to that time of semester for most Australian universities where students are starting to feel the pressure. Assessments are due, exams are coming up and most have multiple subjects to concentrate on, then you add family, social events, work, sleep, exercise and food to the routine and you can quickly find yourself in a panic. This blog post is all about how you can avoid burning out during each semester through the implementation of a few small strategies into your daily life. Many of the strategies to avoid burning out build on previous blog posts and study tips, which means there may be some repetition.
So, how do you know if you might be burning out? Well, there are few signs and they include; fatigue, lack of motivation, lack of focus during study and classes, emotional and physical exhaustion which you can't explain, inability of the brain to absorb more information, an unwillingness to study further, and, a decline in academic performance. Some of these symptoms and feelings are normal to a certain level, however when they persist you might be leading yourself down a turbulent pathway.
If you can recognise that you might be starting to burn out, there are some really easy ways to get back on track with study and your health. The first major recommendation is to take care of yourself when you're unwell. When you're unwell, its really important to make sure you get enough rest, sleep and healthy food into your system to fight any bugs that might linger. When you push yourself to study when you're unwell, it can take longer to recover, exacerbate your illness, and more than likely, the study you do will be unproductive and you won't absorb the information. If you feel like you're beginning to get sick, slow yourself down, take a day off and stay in bed, this way you can minimise the severity of the sickness. Being able to recognise when you need to take care of yourself could be the difference between one sick day and two weeks of feeling gross.
Writing down your thoughts is another great way to clear your mind when you feel like there is too much junk going through your head, or when you feel as if everything you have to achieve in that day or week is overwhelming. Writing down your thoughts and what work or study you need to get through can help you prioritise and allow you to set reasonable goals. It also removes/limits the mental clutter which can help you be more productive.
Another way you can minimise your chances of burning out is to make sure you avoid setting unrealistic goals and expectations. Definitely set goals, but, know your boundaries and what is achievable. For example, setting the goal that you will receive 100% in an English exam, or that you will complete three assessments and read four chapters in a day is very unrealistic, and to place that kind of pressure on yourself will only cause harm. Setting unrealistic goals and expectations can lead to being overworked, which can prevent your body from physically and mentally recuperating. Work hard and be productive, however set yourself boundaries. Know when it's time to sleep and when it's time to study. When you're studying work out a plan that works for you, for example, study for 1 hour and then take a 10 minute break to stretch your legs, or, if you prefer to study for 4 hours, take an hour off and eat something healthy. Taking regular breaks can assist your body and mind rest and recover each day.
Eating well is also another way to prevent yourself from burning out. Eating nutrient-rich food is one of the best ways to fuel yourself during study periods and it is also the best way to defend yourself against nasty bugs. Personally, I source a lot of healthy and balanced recipes from Foodmatters.
Finally, socialise! Having a social life can also help prevent you from burning out as it gives you an outlet to have a rant and gain some support from your friends through stressful assessment and exam periods. Studying with friends can also reduce your workload and help mitigate stress.
It's also really important to look out for your friends during stressful periods. If you think someone might be heading down that turbulent pathway of burning out, start the conversation and check in with them.
Eat and sleep well
Prioritise and set realistic goals
De-clutter your mind by writing down your thoughts
Take care of yourself when you're unwell
For more tips on ways which can mitigate the chances of you burning out you can check out our Study Tips page.