It is that point in the semester again: the dreaded but inevitable burnout. We are so close to being done! I must admit, I never understand how the semester passes by so quickly. However, with the break just within our reach, classes become harder, assignments pile up, and the burnout seems to get worse. I still have exams, projects, lab reports, essays, and presentations for the Honors section of my medical Spanish writing course. As a Writing Fellow, there are conferences I need to schedule with Honors freshman and essays I need to read. It all feels so overwhelming at times. There is so much to do in a day, and I do not know how it will all get done–especially now that it feels like the days are shorter with the sun setting at 5 PM.
Additionally, having a full course load, being involved in research, taking on leadership positions in clubs, and learning to live on my own again has left me with very little free time, which means that there are more chances for faster burnout. There are days where I find myself continuing to work well into the night when I know I should be sleeping. There are times when I skip a gym workout to work on my physics labs instead. Yet, when I find myself working late into the night, or when I find myself skipping the gym, the work that I produce or the studying that I do is not my best. Without breaks or sleep, I am not able to focus on my work, and I am suffering from burnout much quicker. I am learning that breaks are important, and I need to listen to that little voice in my head that says, “That is enough for today; go to sleep.”
However, it is not just about realizing that I need to be taking breaks–it is also about knowing how to take effective breaks that will help me combat burnout. Taking a break is not just about scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. I am talking about going out for a walk, making food (or going out to get food from the dining hall or Main Street), talking to friends, calling family back home, reading a book, listening to a podcast, singing to your favorite song, or doing anything else that is not working on homework or looking at a screen. I think we are all feeling burnt out more so than ever because we are forgetting how to take effective breaks that truly allow us to recharge. Taking these necessary breaks are part of the process of fighting burnout.
If you, too, are struggling to finds ways to take effective breaks, I have a few tips that may help:
First, separate your break spaces from your workspaces. After reading Chris Hope’s 186 South College blog post “Work From Outside Home”, I took their advice and found that going and studying at the library has helped with overcoming burnout. I have found that I can fully focus on my work at the library, and then come home to my apartment, where I can fully relax.
Second, set a time limit for yourself when working. Don’t try and finish all of your work in one sitting. I have found that trying to complete all of my homework at once leaves me exhausted by the end, which means that I will make careless mistakes as I push through physics problems or writing essays.
Third, listen to your body when it tells you “enough is enough”. When it gets late, or when you feel that your productivity slipping, this is a sign to step away and take a break, or even to go to bed. I know I have had many days where I have woken up wishing that I would have listened to that voice the night before telling me to get some sleep.
Overall, what I am trying to say is to start listening to your body and what it needs. If you feel like you are not fully focused or really tired, this is a sign that you need a break. Get the sleep you need, even though you may think you can keep working. This semester, we are all adjusting to life back on campus, and with that, it means remembering and relearning how to take care of ourselves so that we can avoid burning ourselves out.