From overwhelmed to reinvigorated

Four ways to conquer burnout during the school year

As the semester begins, it is easy to become caught up in the hectic mess of essays, quizzes and other assignments. This can especially be the case when juggling other responsibilities such as jobs and personal matters.

The term “burnout” was first coined by German psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1974. He defined burnout as a work-related condition in which individuals experience exhaustion, depression and an overall disinterest in everyday function.

Recent University of Toronto graduate J. Wang found himself grappling with these symptoms during his time in school, particularly the loss of motivation. “Not wanting to attend classes, being unable to focus and disassociating from my body,” he says. “I knew where I was, but I didn’t know why I was there and I certainly didn’t feel very present.”

Wang says he dealt with burnout for a long time and struggled to overcome it. “I thought if I just worked harder, I could escape these feelings,” he says. “It required me to shift how I viewed my life and grades in order to really change.”

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s important to take the steps you think are necessary to get back up on your feet again. Here are some ways you can beat the burnout blues: 

  1. Don’t ignore it

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important that you do not undermine your struggles, says Ary Maharaj, a registered psychotherapist from Hard Feelings Toronto. 

“Burnout is something that’s really, really normal,” he  says. “It’s something that, especially in post-secondary, can sometimes even be glorified to hustle, hustle, hustle and work yourself to the point of exhaustion. And sometimes you don’t even feel like you want to do that.”

Rather than brushing off the feeling of being burnt out, Maharaj recommends recognizing it as an obstacle instead that can be overcome. 

  1. Put yourself first 

Instead of pushing yourself until you reach your limits, take some time off and breathe. You can use this period to re-evaluate your workload, spend some downtime with friends or simply relax.

“Realize that your grades and your school activities are not priority number one. Your mind and body are worth infinitely more than a number or a committee,” Wang says.

  1. Do what makes you happy 

The stress of school and work often leads to fewer opportunities to indulge in personal interests. Whether it be rewatching your favourite TV show, listening to music, working out or cooking, indulging in your interests can be the perfect way to wind down.

“Some of the coping strategies we use are physiological ones,” Maharaj says. “We incorporate your senses and help you ride that initial wave of distress so you can feel like your brain can be back online and use all of its wonderful coping skills.”

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

One of the most important steps in conquering burnout is seeking help when you need it. This can be from your friends, family, colleagues or mental health professionals. Often, a support system can be really helpful in aiding you through troublesome times.

“What I usually ask [my clients] is, ‘How can I surround you with a web of support?’” Maharaj says. “So you can not feel hopeless, but you can feel like there’s some kind of control you can have with the scenario.”

Overall, it’s important to remind yourself that it takes time and patience to bounce back from stressful periods. Burnout is temporary, but prioritizing yourself and your own well-being is forever.

About the author

Alyssa Bravo is a former reporter for Youth Mind. She is a coffee fiend and likes music, movies and food. She wishes to travel to Italy and Greece, and hopes she’ll live to see the day the Toronto Maple Leafs win their 14th championship. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her watching videos of dogs or baby pandas.

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