Academic Burnout Is Real And Common But Manageable

Commentary By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern

In the spring of my junior year of high school, the world around me permanently changed. The rest of my time in high school was uncertain, as well as the state of the world. We were put under a two-week quarantine, which at the time we looked at as a break from school, nothing serious. We made plans to see each other during this two-week break, watch movies and do puzzles. Two weeks became a month, spring turned into summer, and before we knew it, we were entering our senior year, virtually.

What once was challenging and invigorating, school became unbearable. I dreaded attending every Zoom call and every assignment due. Where I should have felt grateful for the teacher’s efforts to maintain any type of normalcy, I felt resentment. Resentment for what I was missing, for what was happening around me, for all the uncertainty that had entered my life.

Now in my second year of college, things are seemingly back to normal. Forever affected, but back to a reality we’re all familiar with. Specifically, schools are back to in-person classes.

Being in college gives me the freedom and flexibility to choose whether I want online or in-person classes, which I can now appreciate. College has reignited my life-long love of learning, yet one thing still haunts me from my days of solely online school: academic burnout.

Academic burnout defines the feelings of pessimism, exhaustion, and disengagement that students feel from school. While this is something that has always existed, COVID-19 exacerbated this issue for many students. Between juggling the demands of remote learning, the loss of milestones students had spent years looking forward to, and the unpredictability of what was to come next, students were left overwhelmed and defeated. The National College Health Assessment reported that 80% of college students feel overwhelmed and 40% have difficulty functioning.

In my own personal experience, I did not feel burnt out before the pandemic. I would feel stressed at times like anyone else, but I was always very dedicated to my academics and my extracurriculars. Then suddenly, I was no longer interested in my classes and the clubs I had put years of time and effort into. Now post-pandemic, these feelings of disinterest and doom sit in the pit of my stomach when school becomes too much.

Although combating burnout can feel overwhelming, there are some steps that can be taken when faced with those feelings. For college students specifically, they must learn how to say no. When faced with a multitude of opportunities, it is tempting to say yes to all of them. While it is good to be involved, this can lead to an overload of responsibilities on top of your studies.

Another thing students can do to keep themselves in check is focus on time management. Procrastination is a beast we have all had to face now and then, and only grows more powerful when in the midst of a burnout period. Developing time management skills will help students prioritize assignments and prepare for deadlines.

It is also important for students to make time for adequate sleep each night and find a balance between schoolwork and fun. Pulling an all-nighter to finish all your work may sound like a good plan in the moment, but the next day you will leave yourself practically useless. Along with this, spending all your time only doing schoolwork will turn your brain to mush, so it is important to give yourself proper breaks.

Lastly, the most crucial thing struggling students can do is ask for help. Chances are your friends and peers are going through something similar, and sometimes just getting together to complain lessens your stress levels. Students can also seek counseling and mental health services from their college.

Academic burnout is all too common in college students. We all have the resources to tackle this, and we have one another to lean on.

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