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College Mental Health Mini-Series - Teen Transitions

College Mental Health Mini-Series

Managing Stress and Burnout as a College Student

As a student who just completed her first year of college under virtual and pandemic circumstances, I have learned about the difficulties of maintaining motivation and finding the right balance of working and taking breaks. With our two mental breaks during a very long semester, I found myself counting down the days until I would no longer have to open my computer and join a zoom call and study for more time after. I realized quickly that I was not the only one to have these difficulties and learned about how many of the people around me were struggling with burnout.

“Burnout” According to the American Psychological Association, burnout is a physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. Burnout can result from working at high performance level until stress and tension take their toll. In 1975, Dr. Herbert J. Freudenberger, a psychologist, was the first person to coin and use this term. Now that we know what burnout is, I think it is crucial to breakdown what to do to if you have burnout and how we prevent burnout.

Let’s start with what do we do when we feel burned out and how do we take care of ourselves to feel better. First, prioritize taking care of yourself. This can include fueling your body, get a good workout, sleep some more, and introduce practices such as meditating and journaling. Then, it is important to think of how your habits are affecting you. For example, you may want to look at how much time you spend working and what kind of work you are doing. It is important to think about how you feel about these different tasks. Finally, it is time to make some changes. If that means you must schedule in some downtime for yourself or reorganize your schedule, it would be a good idea to make those changes. Burnout is not an easy issue to just move past, and it would be beneficial to speak with a mental health advocate to help you along the way and work through those stressors.

Given that burnout mainly stems from stress, preventing burnout means that you must think of methods to manage your stress. If I am feeling stressed out, I typically put on some music and dance around in my bedroom or I will bake. However, managing your stress ahead of time could involve creating a schedule where you focus some healthy habits. Creating time to exercise and nourish your body with healthy foods sets you up with better ways to fight burnout. Furthermore, it is super important that you make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep and sleeping well. Creating a bedtime routine to help in winding down from your day is a great way to reduce stress. I know that I struggle sometimes to make sure I get enough sleep when I am stressed out, specifically with midterms and finals scheduling. The best thing that I think we can do is to work on creating good habits, so it is easier when things are a little bit more difficult in school and in life.

At the end of the day, stress and burnout are issues that I know I will continue to see in my college and adult life. I do not think there is a way to completely prevent it, but there are ways for all to figure out how to manage stress. Most importantly, the biggest thing anyone can do is to reach out for help. If that means reaching out to friends and family or meeting with a professional, I think we can all find ways to better manage our stress and perhaps prevent burnout.

Here are some resources that I think are helpful for managing stress and learning more about burnout:

How to Prevent Burnout

Steps to Take When You’re Starting to Feel Burned Out

Burned out in college? Here’s how you can recover

Managing Stress


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