A fresh new academic year is just about to begin for university students, but with all the excitement can come immense amounts of pressure.
Final year students will know this is the year to make it count, and all other groups will have their own unique set of challenges.
As well as study, there’s the balancing act of having a thriving social life and pressure to make university ‘the best three years of your life’ (which, by the way, isn’t true for most people).
All of this, coupled with living independently – perhaps for the first time – can mean burnout is a possible reality for many.
Burnout is a pressing issue across the board.
A 2018 YouGov poll for the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% people have felt so stressed they’ve been unable to cope.
When looking at young people, only 7% said they’d never experienced this.
So while the stereotype of the ‘lazy student’ is alive and well, being overwhelmed is a common experience.
Psychologist Lee Chambers has partnered with Tide to share tips on preventing burnout as the new academic year commences.
Study your thoughts
It can be easy to go with the motions and forget to really check in with yourself.
Lee says: ‘Looking at our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours is the first step, as awareness allows us to break free from being on autopilot and just going through the motions in life.
‘We need to understand what negative behaviours have contributed to where we currently are,’ he says, if we’re to avoid burning out, especially if it’s happened before.
Though an overused and thrown about word, it’s popular for a reason.
‘Finding ways to reduce your stress and reignite your passion are likely to involve self-care.
‘What is important is that we don’t try to rigidly shoehorn self-care into our lives, as this can potentially cause us to fire the perfectionism which might have been a factor in burnout, or leave us being critical if we fail to meet those standards, which is not beneficial as we certainly need to be kinder and have more self-compassion,’ Lee explains.
Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and candles, it’s about finding what works for you.
Balance work and play
When we put too much emphasis on one part of our lives, it’s possible to become so absorbed and worn out by it.
‘The balance between work and life is so often an issue that needs addressing when looking at burnout,’ Lee says.
‘In reality, we just have life, and university is integrated into our life.
‘By working on this balance, we get more clarity on who we want to become, and start to find the time and energy to be both productive at university and like the things we enjoy doing outside of our studies.’
Don’t neglect life outside of study
On a similar note, it’s important that you’re invested in things outside of grades and that other things are enriching your life.
‘Looking at what you do for hobbies and interests, are these things that recharge you both from enjoyment and the people you are surrounded with?
‘Sometimes we can burn out because we feel we have to be everything, or can’t say no, and we end up doing lots of things that other people enjoy.
‘It is vital that we find the things that make us smile, laugh and feel warm inside.’
Listen to your body
Burning the midnight oil when you’re genuinely tired will only get you so far.
It might solve the problem of a last minute deadline, but do it regularly and it could leave you depleted of energy.
Lee says: ‘We all have biorhythms, little clocks in our cells. If we honour these, we feel energised and alive.
‘These rhythms are like waves, and it is important that we flick the off switch a few times every day, and disconnect from the world of stimulation and inputs.’
Build a support network
Trying to juggle everything alone is tricky, and university enforces a certain level of independence many won’t have experienced before.
‘Planning where to turn in challenging times is essential.
‘Having the knowledge that there are people who can support you, resources you can access, and a whole network out there to use makes us feel more connected and that we no longer have to find all the solutions ourselves,’ Lee says.
Take a break
It’s not a sign of weakness if you need to mentally break from study, part-time work and social commitments.
‘Taking an intentional break is vital to rest and recharge the body and mind.
‘Taking yourself away, especially into a natural environment, induces feelings of grounding and serenity, and solitude can give us the headspace to start to process the bigger picture.
‘It is also an intentional message to ourselves, giving ourselves permission to stop spinning and find a natural rhythm,’ Lee says.
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