It happens to the best of us: you start off a new term with a set of resolutions you’re positive you’ll stick to (“I am not going to fall behind on a single lecture or reading”) and – by the time reading week is on the horizon – it’s all gone pear-shaped. Feeling like somewhat of a zombie, you lumber to your classes, entirely lacking the vigour and enthusiasm you’d had when you made all these ambitious plans. It’s not even just the lack of motivation for classes – all your society commitments have started piling up (who knew being on three committees was a bad idea?!) and even the idea of going out can start to feel overwhelming.
The reality is most students feel the same! You’re not alone in your summative-induced breakdown; in fact, it’s likely that many of your friends are suffering from the exact same exhaustion. So – other than running away to live under a different name in a country halfway across the world – what can you actually do to help make burnout less intense?
One particularly difficult part of uni is being around other people. All. The. Time. While it’s definitely nice to see familiar faces whenever you’re walking around your hall or on your way to campus, there’s no denying that sometimes, when you’re making yourself tea in the kitchen at 11pm, brooding over how little time you have left before your essay is due, you just don’t want to make friendly small talk with your flatmates. And that’s okay! We’re not always in the mood to be our friendliest, happiest, most sociable selves.
That’s why one way to get back on track is just taking a small break and spending a bit of time by yourself: if the weather’s good, a walk in the park listening to some music or a favourite podcast is always relaxing. Alternatively, going to a café/ library/ museum can be a great way to recharge and remind yourself that life is about more than just working to the next deadline. There’s something really refreshing about taking some time just to treat yourself (and that doesn’t mean having to spend a ton of money!).
If you’re particularly stressed about being behind, you don’t even have to leave your room to do this! (Although there’s definitely an argument to be made for changing up your environment to feel a bit more refreshed). Even doing some breathing exercises/ yoga/ stretching can be a nice way to restore your energy levels.
2) Get more sleep
At the risk of sounding like a concerned mother, I am going to include this: there’s really nothing that beats a good sleeping routine! Sometimes, it’s better to let yourself rest and wake up early with a fresh head to get a start on things, rather than pushing yourself to do unsustainable all-nighters. It’s certainly not the most original advice, but being behind on sleep doesn’t just affect your efficiency – it makes you more irritable around people and more easily stressed.
3) Perspective from friends & family
Being at uni can feel incredibly insular: there’s a lot of pressure to be embodying the ‘work hard/play hard’ mentality from peers. Even if it’s not on purpose, LSE students have a tendency of taking every grade to heart and setting very high expectations for themselves, which can feel a bit suffocating. Even with friendships, day-to-day dramas can really take over your head and cause a lot of stress. That’s why calling someone who isn’t at LSE can help give you the necessary perspective: none of these issues is the end of the world – or even approaching that. Getting a bad grade in a formative doesn’t reflect your worth, your potential, your future, or any other ridiculous thing you’ve convinced yourself it may impact. The moment you voice these anxieties to people who aren’t in the same environment, you realise that you’ve been freaking yourself out over things unnecessarily.
That’s not to say that you can’t talk to people at LSE about these things – if anything, they’ll be able to relate better than most. In fact, as long as you make sure the conversations don’t veer off into stressing one another out, sharing how you’ve been feeling can be quite relieving and even cathartic. One issue I’ve always had with burnout is that the sense of dread I get from impending deadlines starts spreading to all areas of my life, making me feel quite panicked because I can’t always make sense of why I’m as stressed as I am. Setting it out logically and explaining it to someone else can bring a lot of much-needed clarity!
I’ve tried to keep these tips to fairly manageable things because I know that, as a student, the idea of taking a whole day to meditate, go on a run, etc. can feel impossible to replicate. Indeed, a lot of advice has to be quite individualised – for instance, if you’ve been keeping to yourself a lot, it might be that you need to spend some time with others to recharge. Either way, it’s worth experimenting with what works best for lifting your mood and, at the end of the day, don’t forget that there’s usually a holiday around the corner!
If you’re suffering from burnout and need to talk to someone, check out the Student Wellbeing Service.