OPINION — We’ve just entered February, which means there are plenty of things to do and celebrate right around the corner. Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras and Easter might be the biggest events some are looking towards, but many are focusing on their looming midterms. Approaching the middle of the spring semester, many students are beginning to feel the effects of a difficult school year. In our current political and health climate especially, I believe burn-out will be more rampant than usual this semester.
Some people simply think of burn-out as a symptom of depression, but according to WHO, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It’s included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition. Although the ICD-11 specifies that burn-out should only be used “in an occupational context,” it has become a common phrase to describe what so many experience.
The ICD-11 offers three characteristics of burn-out: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out is especially relevant to college students. College can open many doors for students, and some tend to take on more opportunities than they can handle at once. This, combined with classes, can cause students to overwork themselves, thus leading to burn-out. In 2017, the National College Health Association (NCHA) reported that over 30% of college students were afflicted with burn-out. Students aren’t the only ones who experience burn-out. Police, nurses and teachers are also often reported to feel its effects.
The good news is that since so many people suffer from burn-out, there are plenty of online resources and tips on how to prevent, manage and cope with it.
There are many things to take into consideration when preventing burn-out, and the most important is your body. College students are often depicted in the media as staying up all night, either to party or study, and it’s for good reason; however, those who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to burn-out. Seven to nine hours is the recommended amount from the National Sleep Foundation.
Getting the proper amount of exercise also contributes to your overall mood, along with your eating habits. Making sure you eat properly and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day will improve your overall health and wellbeing.
When discussing preventatives to burn-out, a common thing people bring up is self-care. WHO defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
Most people are simply referring to the practice of “treating yourself,” or being kinder to yourself. Take some time to relax and do the things you actually enjoy doing. Take a nice, long bath or lounge on the couch with a good book. Whatever you’re into, if you take a break from work to do it, you’ll feel better about what you’re working on.
If you feel like taking breaks is unproductive, let me reassure you that it isn’t. Breaks allow your brain to relax and focus better when you return to it. It gives you time to process what you’ve already accomplished and what your next steps are.
Small rewards can also be beneficial. For instance, awarding yourself an incentive after accomplishing a large task will keep you feeling motivated while working on it, thus reducing the chances of feeling burnt out.
It’s important to keep in mind that experiencing burn-out doesn’t make anyone less of a good worker. Burn-out happens to the best of us; usually, it affects the most dedicated of us, since we tend to take on more duties than others would. If you’re suffering from burn-out, focus on how to improve it rather than on what it says about you.