Second semester is in full swing and midterm season is fully upon us. Add to that the fact that spring break is just around the corner, and you have a recipe for that state of complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion more commonly referred to as a burnout.
Instead of succumbing to the stress, be proactive and learn how to beat burnout with these simple steps:
Step 1: Re-evaluate your current situation.
You’ve reached your limits. You’re exhausted. You’re overwhelmed. But you aren’t so easily defeated. “I can do it,” you think to yourself. And the truth is, you probably can! However the real question is, will doing so make you happy?
Take some time to think about your schedule: your extracurricular activities, course load, and social engagements. Reflect on why you are involved in these activities. If you find that there is anything you are doing simply to pad your resumé, but don’t feel passionate about at all, nix it. Keep the items that really reflect your passions and strongly relate to your goals in life.
Change your environment.
Remember scoping out campus during the first weeks of school? Everywhere you looked there seemed to be a multitude of study spaces tucked away in various locations. Now that the year is in full swing, many of us have fallen into routines which take us to the same places day after day.
Rediscover that enthusiasm from your first days on campus and force yourself to venture out to new study locations, whether it be a nook in the student life center, a library that you don’t usually visit, or the new café down the street. Changing your surroundings can bring the refreshment you need to keep from getting stuck in a rut or bogged down by rigid routines.
Separate work time and “me” time.
This simple concept is life-changing. Set aside time for work and time for yourself, family, friends, etc., and give each your undivided attention at the appropriate time. Create a schedule for yourself to make this even easier.
When it is time to do work, force yourself to focus solely on your work. There are many helpful apps, such as Self Control, that allow you to block distracting websites for a specified amount of time. Turn off your phone. Try to remove all distractions. You lose valuable time by switching between your work and other miscellaneous tasks, and doing so also reduces your quality of work.
On a similar note, when you are taking time for yourself or spending time with your friends, leave work out of it. Don’t fret over answering e-mails when spending quality time with your friends or family. You will maximize your productivity in both areas by creating a clear divide between the two, and giving your undivided attention to each activity when its time comes.
Adapt your goals.
Burnout is common amongst those who want to do it all. This is where it is important to be realistic with yourself. Maybe you want to be super fit, but if you are juggling a full course load, an internship, and a part-time job, spending six days a week at the gym may not be practical.
Instead, shape your goals to fit your lifestyle by, for example, aiming to get to the gym three days a week. It is also a good idea to find small ways to incorporate your goals into your already-established routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a set of crunches between each chapter of your reading. The important thing is to adapt your goals to your lifestyle rather than setting unrealistic goals that ultimately leave you feeling disappointed or incapable.
Step 2: De-stress and relax.
Make sleep a priority.
When you have a full schedule and a never-ending to-do list, the natural response is to sacrifice sleep in order to ensure everything is completed. While a long night here or there is inevitable, developing this into a habit will only accelerate and intensify the effects of burnout.
In fact, sacrificing 90 minutes of sleep can decrease daytime alertness by up to 83%, making it even more difficult to stay on top of your commitments the following day and instigating a vicious cycle of fatigue. Though it may take some practice in time management and organization, always make sleep a priority.
Find outlets for stress.
What is it that helps you escape your worries? Maybe it’s a good book, doodling in a sketchpad, or going for a run. Find activities that are therapeutic for you and utilize them. Never taking the time to de-stress leaves you feeling like a ticking time bomb. Avoid the explosion by giving yourself a well-deserved break now and again.
If no personal time exists in your schedule, MAKE it exist.
You didn’t get to this point by slacking. Oh no, burnout is the result of giving it 110% all day, every day. When you’re so used to constantly working, taking a break can actually be stressful. Sure, you could take an hour to go get lunch with the girls, but wouldn’t it be wiser to use that extra hour to finish your lab report?
The reality is there will always be something that you could do, but recognize that taking time for yourself is important! Make a point to literally schedule some “me time” on your calendar and resolve to stick to it. Bonus points if the activity of your choosing has physical, emotional, or mental benefits, such as a yoga class. However, a Netflix binge is totally acceptable (and oftentimes necessary) way to unwind, too.
The key is to give yourself a chance to relax and be stress-free in whatever way you deem fit.
Step 3: Get motivated!
Don’t forget the big picture.
Keep a journal to write down your reasons for all of the things that you do and the activities you are involved in, as well as your future goals, dreams, and desires.
When focusing on the day-to-day, it’s too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. By writing this information down and keeping it near, you’re constantly reminding yourself of how those seemingly meaningless, tedious tasks are propelling you forward to a better future.
Surround yourself in positivity.
Get crafty! Cut up old magazines to make a vision board of inspiring images, post encouraging quotes somewhere you will see them often, and make a playlist of energizing and motivating songs for when you need to kickstart your willpower. Surrounding yourself with uplifting messages will have a positive impact on your mood and can provide that little extra push you need to make it through the day.
Chances are, you’re going to college, interning, leading a club, etc. because you want to get a job that you love that allows you to live comfortably someday, or are trying to reach some larger goal. The intended results of your hard work are most likely far in the future, so it’s important to provide yourself with more timely incentives to keep you going.
However, this requires a certain degree of self-discipline. Set incremental goals for the short term, and upon reaching them, reward yourself. If you do not accomplish your goal, you must follow through and withhold the reward from yourself. This part is significant, because if you reward yourself even when you don’t meet your goals, the incentive vanishes and may instead have negative effects on your motivation. If you keep the system up, however, you’ll find yourself more motivated than ever!
What do you think?
What tips do you have for beating burnout and finding motivation? How do you de-stress? Let me know in the comments below!