The golden season of burnouts

Fall is here, and it is often called the golden season. However, autumn is not just about drinking pumpkin spice lattes while looking at the golden leaves falling from the trees. For a lot of people, this season means finding oneself in a bad mood and having burnouts.

It is no surprise, since the days get shorter, we do not get that much sun, it is getting colder, and we do not consume as many vitamins as in summer. More than that, fall often means the beginning of something new, especially for students. Autumn is always the beginning of a new semester at university, and students often find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of things they have to cope with.

This year, it is even more stressful because the pandemic has brought a lot of changes into our lives, and nobody is sure what their semester or work life will look like. One is for sure: it will be different.

What is burnout?

All these things together can lead to emotional burnout. This mental condition can have numerous side-effects, but it is usually combined with apathy and permanent exhaustion. This state is so common that it is even referred to as the 21st-century syndrome.

As the name suggests, when you have burnout – you feel burnt out and empty, as if nothing you do makes a difference or matters.

According to the World Health Organization, the burnout is characterized by:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

However, burnout may show itself differently. In some cases, even though it sounds strange, you may not want to do anything, be late to work and leave it early, skip lectures, neglect your homework. In other cases, you may want to do everything perfectly, and you find yourself in an endless circle: you work all the time, but you’re dissatisfied with the result and start all over again. It may be perfectionism or Impostor syndrome (stay tuned for the next articles to learn more about this syndrome).

The symptoms of burnout

As paradoxical as it may sound, perfectionism can lead to procrastination. However, even if you do not do your work, you end up thinking about it all the time, which exhausts you mentally.

One way or another, you don’t get your work done (properly) and feel tired continuously because of working or thinking about work all the time.

Even though burnout is about your occupational life, it also impacts other parts of your life.

For instance, burnout can be harmful to your social life as you can distance yourself from your close ones. You may also take out your anger, frustration, and other negative emotions. Burnout can also make you more cynical and negative, where nothing can make you happy or satisfied, since these emotions are blunted.

As a result of burnout, you may lose appetite, sleep, get headaches, and feel tense or drained. It may also provoke frequent illnesses due to lowered immunity.

How to cope with burnout

This is where our body tells us to slow down and take care of ourselves. However, instead of listening to our body and giving it what it needs, people tend to underestimate their condition. People think that they are just lazy and should work harder to get out of their slump.

This is where we find ourselves trapped, where we work more (or think about it) even though we cannot work anymore. It slows us down, and instead of taking a break, we try to do more. It results in an endless circle of being constantly tired but not getting anything done at the same time.

Emotional burnout is a complex problem consisting of various mental issues. However, there are some ways to deal with it.

Take time off.

This means not taking work home or studying at night and turning off the work/study messengers when you’re done with the day. It is also useful to take micro-breaks while working in order to recharge yourself. It may be a quick stretch or an exercise for eyes, or a small talk with a colleague in the kitchen while grabbing a cup of coffee. You can take these breaks as a reward for getting something done or even plan them into your schedule. Allow yourself to breathe – you cannot be productive for a long time when working round the clock.

Planning is key.

Plan your day and think ahead of what you want to achieve today. Students should also plan their semester, so they don’t end up having five deadlines on the same day.
Make it a good habit to look through your diary and check your upcoming tasks, add new ones, and cross out what you have already done. This little trick will help you visualize the amount of work you have already done and will give you satisfaction from achieving something.
Stick to your working hours, so your brain understands when it has to be more focused and close your laptop when it’s time to finish. Don’t check your emails, don’t look at your courses and deadlines after the working hours.

Take care of your body.

Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Drink plenty of water, ventilate your room, do some exercises, go for walks.
Exercise can make you feel more powerful as you achieve something, you get more enduring. You can see some results, and it will help your brain understand that you can also cope with work. These are simple pieces of advice that actually work.
You may also want to see a doctor and get a blood test to check whether you get all the microelements needed. We can often feel depressed in autumn and winter because of the lack of vitamins.

Distract from work.

Allow yourself to get some free time from work or studying and enjoy it. Try not to think about what you have to do during your free time, even if it is only 15 minutes. Read a book, take a bath, sit in the park, whatever small thing will make you calm down.
Plan your weekends, spend time with your loved ones, talk to them, and share your emotions. Socializing is extremely important while coping with psychological issues. You can get the needed support through communication.

A small life hack.

Quite often, the most difficult part of getting something done is to actually start. So, begin with small steps:
Answer an email.
Go to a library and look at what may be useful for your thesis.
Look through the works available to understand how you want to structure your work.
Take these actions as part of the process, not as something useless and minor.
Finally, open that empty document that stares at you and start writing your ideas down – even if they don’t make sense or if these are just some key words.

All these techniques can help you to cope with a seasonal burnout. However, don’t be afraid to get some help from a therapist and work out your issues with a professional. Remember that it is okay to feel tired, and we all need to recharge sometimes.


header image credits: Oscar Dario via unsplash

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About Olena Levitina

A journalism student from Ukraine willing to change this world for the better with words (that will motivate to take action). Besides writing, Lena is passionate about history, art and different cultures.

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