Burnout sucks: here are some tips to pull out of the spiral

Summer Merkle | Cartoonist

It probably doesn’t need to be said again, but this past year has been rough. Thirteen months of pandemic life and a spring semester without any (planned) breaks added to the already taxing requirements of college. There’s a number of simple things you can do to help manage the pressure. And if you’re feeling burnt out, it’s not too late to make some changes to get your life back under control.

With the last couple weeks of the semester bearing down, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of deadlines. Set a schedule, work or study in chunks instead of cramming everything in at the last minute and take advantage of the free time you do have to relax and take care of yourself. This is the most stressful point in the semester; don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Next: the basics — stuff like getting enough sleep, keeping yourself and your room clean, getting some exercise and eating healthy (or at least not eating like a Ninja Turtle). These things seem obvious, but are often some of the first to fall by the wayside, especially when burnout mixes with other factors like depression.

Humans are social creatures, and it’s important to maintain a support network. Even if you don’t often have the time or opportunity to see your friends, some amount of social interaction — both for enjoyment and support — is a necessity. Hiding away from the world when things get hard only deepens the downward spiral. Reach out to people, not just for yourself, but also because if you’re struggling, some of your friends probably are too.

Picking up a new hobby can also be a great way to relax. Once finals are out of the way, the end of the semester may just provide the perfect opportunity to throw yourself into something new. Learn guitar, go hiking, try out painting, even something as simple as reading or playing video games can become an outlet to blow off some steam after a stressful day, and you might even pick up some cool new skills while you’re at it. Crucially, though, keep it casual. Turning a pastime into a side hustle works for some people, but it can also quickly snowball into yet another source of stress.

Being selective with commitments is also important. If a club or organization is bringing more stress than enjoyment, it might be time to consider cutting it loose. If you’re the people-pleasing type, this is where it pays to be a little more selfish and put yourself and your own needs first. There are only 24 hours in a day, and so many of those are already taken up by school, work and sleep. We owe it to ourselves to be protective of our free time, and a big part of that is recognizing what does and doesn’t align with our priorities and goals.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Everyone’s best effort looks different, and not every day will be a good one. Not to sound cliché, but we are living through unprecedented times. While we can always strive to do better, sometimes just waking up another day is enough.