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Apr 08 2017
by Jessica Vuong

What is Burnout and 5 Ways to Avoid It

By Jessica Vuong - Apr 08 2017
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College is a place where we feel we are handed an excessive amount of assignments and are pressured to stay on top of things. Schoolwork, along with club activities and managing your social life while still getting enough sleep, is difficult for anyone to handle. When our workload gets too overwhelming and we overwork ourselves,  our mental well-being is exhausted and the result is burnout. 

First of all, what is burnout? Burnout is the result of constant work-related stress and it can lead to you feeling detached from your work, physically and emotionally drained, hopeless, apathetic and unmotivated. It's worth noting that burnout isn't something that comes up out of the blue. It is the result of constantly overworking yourself until all that accumulating stress creeps up on you in the form of burnout. Other common symptoms of burnout include increased irritability, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, anger, anxiety, lack of concentration, chronic fatigue, insomnia and depression. If you are experiencing burnout or feel like you are on the road to burnout, here's a list of ways on how to avoid or prevent burnout so you can stay on top of your game.

1. Get Enough Sleep

We've all heard of the saying, "You can sleep when you're dead," but should we really believe it? While there's some dark truth behind the saying, pulling all-nighters is one of the top causes of burnout because you are overexerting yourself for extended hours. You need a good amount of quality sleep so that your brain can process the information it has already absorbed and find the energy to take in more knowledge the next day. Pulling all-nighters is also counterproductive because your mind can only take in so much information at once. If you keep trying to cram more information into your brain, you'll find yourself burnt out.


2. Exercise

We've all been told that we should exercise more, but guess what? It really does work! Exercise is not only beneficial to your physical health but your mental health as well. Because exercise releases your endorphins, it can lower your depression, anxiety and stress levels. Exercising also gives you more energy, stimulates your brain, boosts your immune system and gives you a sense of achievement. All of these physical, mental and emotional benefits help you stay further away from experiencing burnout. If you're not used to exercising or can't find the motivation to do it, then start off small. Take a short walk outside or choose to walk to places rather than drive. Try a quick 10-minute workout session and work your way up to longer, more intense workouts. Exercise in moderation and your stress levels will decrease in moderation.


3. Meditate

Since stress is tied to burnout, a great way to reduce your stress is to meditate. Mediation not only helps reduce your stress levels but provides other benefits, such as sharper concentration, positive thinking, increased self-awareness and better cardiovascular and immune health. Mediation doesn't have to take up a big chunk of your day; it can take up as little as five minutes. There are some great apps like Headspace, buddhify, The Mindfulness App and Calm which guide you through the art of mediation by allowing you to choose how long you want your meditation session to be and what topic you want to focus on. 


4. Relax (For Real)

In today's day and age, we are all trying to hustle and get things done. Everyone is scrambling along, which makes it so hard for some of us to just step away from the busy world and take some time off to truly relax. It's so difficult for us to fully relax because we are constantly bombarded with the thought that we could be using our relaxation time to do something productive. Some people might feel guilty for relaxing. Others might fear that if they let themselves relax, they'll fall into a pit of laziness. However, our relaxation time is productive because it allows your mind refresh itself. Simply set aside a bracket of time designated for relaxing and do whatever you want, whether it be napping, crafting, watching Netflix or simply nothing.


5. Don't Overload Your Plate

Tailor your to-do list to a reasonable amount of tasks per day. If you overload your plate by overplanning your day, you will only feel discouraged when it's the end of the day and you've only crossed off maybe half of the things you said you were going to do. Productivity guru Chris Bailey suggests The Rule of 3, where you write down and focus on only three large tasks each day. This method works because your mind will be focused on completing these three important, relevant tasks rather than being cluttered up by busy work. Now instead of having to finish ten different tasks in a day, you only have to focus on three important ones.


Because burnout is something that occurs due to accumulated stress, it doesn't go away in just a day. By making these small changes in your life, you can better manage your stress levels before burnout has a chance to creep up on you.

Lead Image Credit: Oscar Keys via Unsplash

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Jessica Vuong - University of California, Davis

Jessica is currently attending UC Davis and majoring in Managerial Economics. She was vice-president of teensReach, a community service organization, and has competed in several SJPL art & design contests. She loves coffee, sarcasm, and rainy weather. Follow her on instagram: @jsscvng | pinterest: jessvjess | VSCO: jessvjess

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