Attending university is an incredible time due to the educational, social and career opportunities you get along the way. However, having all these opportunities can also be undeniably overwhelming. That’s why university is a balancing act. It’s a time to focus on your studies, make new friends, and figure out vital next steps.
If all this sounds stressful, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
While I did expect some stress when starting my postgraduate degree, it got to a point where I was facing more stress than I could handle. Usually, this type of overwhelming stress leads to fatigue and eventually burnout if it goes on too long. I can attest that although I enjoyed most of my first term at LSE, I did, unfortunately, experience burnout. Luckily I’m on the other side of that experience and thought I’d share my advice on how to avoid burnout or what to do when you’re experiencing burnout.
I want to be clear that everyone’s journey with mental barriers is different. So while what has helped me isn’t guaranteed to help you, I’d love to share my story in hopes that some of these takeaways will benefit others.
Preventing an issue is always better than dealing with the issue post-flare-up. Based on my past experiences and insights from others, I know there are proactive approaches to dealing with burnout. Here are a few that you may want to try.
How to manage stress?
Keep a healthy regimen even during busy periods. This means taking care of your physical health but also your mental health. I personally always make time for activities like exercise and walking outdoors, even when deadlines loom. Other great options include cooking nutritious meals, incorporating meditation, and talking with friends. Pick one or two commitments throughout the semester, and notice the difference it makes.
Remember that university is about balance. You can’t forget about the social side when academic deadlines are approaching. The opposite is also true. The key is figuring out what things to say “no” to – aka practising discernment. While it may be tempting to blow off your academic commitments to attend a bunch of social events, this isn’t always the best use of time. Discernment gets easier with time, so don’t worry if you feel off balance at first. Unfortunately, this is something I struggled with in the first term. Attending a university in a new country with an unfamiliar academic system left me feeling slightly unbalanced. While the early half provided many opportunities for socialisation, the latter left me pretty isolated as I had to scramble when working on my assessment deadlines. In the second term, I was proactively committed to focusing on academics even when deadlines seemed far away. This way, I was sure that I still had time for some social events as deadlines approached.
However, while prevention is usually the best option, it’s not always possible. Although I tried my best to manage stress during my first term, avoiding burnout was not always possible.
How to confront burnout?
Accept your mental state and take a break. It was rather difficult for my pride to accept that I was burnt out. I blamed everything on laziness and a lack of discipline and tried to double down on forcing myself to continue at my current pace. This plan backfired, as I quickly realised that the more I pushed to forget about the burnout, the less disciplined I felt when trying to do work. Luckily, there was a trip that I previously committed to taking with a friend while I was facing this period of burnout. The trip meant three days where I didn’t have time or access to work on my assignments. While I thought I’d be more stressed upon returning from this break, I felt a sense of calm and recommitment to my work. Where travelling isn’t possible, I’d recommend taking a few days off during a busy period, where you give yourself the freedom to stop focusing on your assignments.
Seek additional support. Another great way to deal with burnout is to seek additional support. Support can come in many forms. I chose to seek support by talking through assessments with others in my cohort and depending on my close family and friends for emotional support. I also made sure to email and set up office hours with professors during times that I needed additional help. Professors are a great resource you can tap into even more by requesting further clarification or an extension if unforeseen circumstances arise. Lastly, seeking professional help from counsellors at LSE can help you both deal with burnout in the moment and develop a personalised strategy for approaching future potential burnout.
While I’ve mainly relied on my own personal experience with burnout to offer advice, I’m sure this isn’t solely a personal issue. A lot of people have faced this. Is burnout something you’ve dealt with? If so, what tips do you have for dealing with it? The more we can all share, the better!