You may have heard about burnout. It can happen to anyone but seems to be more prevalent amongst women students. It’s that state of mind you get into around exam time when you’ve sacrificed your social life for the study that should have been done long before.
It’s when you’re reaching your absolute limit; it’s when you get home and burst into tears because the day has been more than you can handle. Despite its stressful reality, burnout remains a misunderstood part of being a student.
Burnout has 3 general characteristics:
- complete emotional and physical exhaustion
- growing disillusionment with the job and life generally
- self-doubt and blame
Characteristics appear gradually and grow in severity over time, depending upon the individual and the situation. Your burnout will be different from everyone else’s although you may be experiencing the same symptoms.
The way to deal with burnout is to identify and isolate what causes it in your life and then look at realistic ways for you to treat the causes of your burnout.
Emotional and Physical Exhaustion
Individuals often describe this as a type of “total” fatigue from which they are unable to spring back. As fatigue grows, skipping lectures, colds that won’t go away, insomnia, stomach problems, and ill health generally start to plague the victim. Fatigue often gives way to an overwhelming sense of disillusionment about the study and eventually the individual.
Disillusionment manifests itself mostly in cynicism, smothering the will or drive and damaging the spirit. Insensitivity towards friends settles in and it is not unusual for the individual to dehumanize interpersonal interactions and begin to withdraw emotionally. It is not unusual for the burnout victim to engage in “escape” behaviors like; increased use of alcohol/drugs, shopping sprees, overeating.
Self Doubt and Blame
As frustration and disillusionment increase, performance declines. This leaves the individual with an increasing sense of self-doubt. Spirit and vitality all but evaporate. Motivating yourself to study becomes a major problem. Poor concentration and apathy increase. Additionally, the burnout victim tends to consider the problem as theirs and theirs alone, that their level of intelligence and inability to cope is the heart of the problem.
Isolating Your Burnout
Students, particularly women, not only study but are often involved in clubs and activities, to the detriment of their health. So when they work hard, they forego their own leisure time, and time to look after themselves.
Solution? Take time out to look after yourself. A healthy body is more able to deal with the stress that you are putting yourself under.
Being involved in more than one activity makes “success” in each area difficult. Your lecturer wants you to get a distinction average, your club needs you to keep the membership happy, you want a social life and somewhere in there is a relationship. So really, what chance do you have?
Crash and burn time is almost upon you.
Most individuals are only able to handle this workload if their work environment provides them with adequate support. Predictable high levels of drop out (in the relationship, in the study, etc.) occur when that support is not forthcoming. The student participates in a constant struggle to get things done.
Solution? Limit the number of activities you are involved in. Do a small number of tasks properly.
And what thanks do you get? The university expects you to achieve academically, your lover expects tireless attention and affection, your club expects a professional job 24 hours a day and somehow you have to maintain your sanity and health. Who helps you to get through all.
Solution? Formulate your own goals on a weekly basis and stick to them so that you can feel that you are achieving.
Assessing Your Own Abilities
Of the following, ask yourself which apply to you. To what extent? Will the way that you perceive yourself affects the way that you deal with stress?
The way that we adapt to change has a significant impact on the way that we handle stress in our lives. Changes in life affect our day to day pattern of living. Excessive change can lead to an imbalance in your life. Negative changes (divorce, separation death, personal injury) are generally more harmful than positive changes (holiday, birth, getting your degree). If we have to adjust to too many of these changes within a short time period, the stress can leave us more vulnerable to ill health.
Individuals vary in their perceptions of changes within their lives. What is highly stressful for one person may not be for another. Some people are more anxiety-prone than others, they tend to perceive things in a bad light and impose chronic stress on their bodies. Making decisions about changes in our lives and maintaining some control over how we react to those changes gives us a powerful tool for managing stress and reducing the likelihood of burnout.
Type A Behaviour Pattern
Type A is a descriptive term arising from studies done in the 1970s. It is used widely and often interchangeably with a workaholic. Type A personality hosts a number of traits, including excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harried sense of time urgency.
The Type A person judges worth by the number of achievements, and regularly suppresses feelings such as fatigue, that might interfere with productivity. Not only does this pattern endanger the person’s health (Type A personalities have been linked to coronary disease) but it also affects the well-being of family and partners who have to put up with the atmosphere that these personalities create.
The keyword here is “excess”. Being obsessed with and compulsive about work is different from being just plain hard-working and productive. Modifying behavior does not mean giving up the desire to achieve. It means changing to achieving behaviors that are more appropriate and healthy.