Three Tips for dealing with Academic Burnout

Many of us are or have been struggling with the pressures of a master’s degree, including balancing course workload with meeting assignment deadlines, studying for exams, researching our dissertation, and extra-curricular activities, leading to feelings of anxiety, stress, and sometimes a loss of enthusiasm.

These are symptoms of burnout and if you’re just noticing them now or have been struggling with them, then it is important to know that you are not alone. Burnout is inevitable in an academic environment because the demands can be high and also because we are facing additional stresses like the pandemic, home-life pressures and worries about our respective futures which challenge us to stay positive.

In March Chevening Scholars attended Haptivate’s virtual event: ‘Beating burnout and staying positive’.

Here are some tips to avoid academic burnout that I learnt during the event:

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present, savouring the pleasures in life as they occur, and becoming fully engaged in activities. It is about being aware of our thoughts and feelings that drive and motivate us and those that tend to get in the way of us flourishing; without distraction or judgment. When we feel exhausted, stressed or anxious as a result of the circumstances we are in, then practicing mindfulness will be helpful as it creates in us a greater capacity to deal with them.

Some of the things that help in the practice of mindfulness include –

  • Dancing
  • Having a bath
  • Celebrating small wins
  • Singing karaoke
  • Listening to audio meditations
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Doing some yoga
  • Volunteering
  • Journaling
  • Cooking
  • Going for walks
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Face-timing with loved ones
  • Doing something you’re good at
  • Exercising
  • Gardening
  • Watching something funny
  • Travelling

In essence, the goal is to do something that will make us feel good about ourselves and restore balance in our lives.

2. Time management

Lack of time management is a core factor for burnout. We have too many things to do on our plates with very little time. It is completely normal to want to do it all, however, its best to manage our time well and this can be done through the following three steps – organising, prioritising and scheduling.

At the start of the day or week, we can begin by visualizing our workload and know what needs to be done. Then create a list of the tasks that need to be done beginning with the priorities. These goals can be split into categories such as work or wellbeing goals and scheduling them throughout the day or week. This will help to ensure that we are allocating our energy over the course of the day so that we don’t get overwhelmed or overworked and that we are not neglecting key aspects of our life.

3. Ask for help

The key to beating burnout is by knowing when we are close to or at a burnout stage and then actually doing something about it. This can be through resolving to finding solutions on our own to reverse the burnout cycle or by seeking help from the resources available in our respective universities or Chevening. It is a challenging time we are in right now and it is okay to not be okay. However, we don’t have to go through things alone.

The universities have wellbeing and counselling services which help students cope with the symptoms and causes of burnout or mental health. If talking to a professional about stress-related issues is uncomfortable, sometimes a good venting session with a friend or a family member can be beneficial. Let us not suffer in silence. We may not be able to change the circumstances we are in but we surely have the ability to improve how good we feel about ourselves and life in general.