As college students these days, we’re bombarded with pressure to do any and everything to set us ahead of the pack. College life used to resemble a balanced triangle divided into academics, extracurriculars, and socializing. Now, it’s morphed into more of a geometric blob with the additions of internships, online networking, Greek life, resume building, and much more. Keeping up with all that society asks of students is near impossible, and it’s taking a toll on their motivation and drive. If you’re feeling drastically overwhelmed with life responsibilities that you used to have under your belt, you’re not alone.
Read on for 10 ways to identify your burnout and tips to rekindle the enthusiasm you felt during the first week of school.
1. Time for Your Hobbies Seems Non-Existent
It’s natural with your constantly changing schedule to pencil in time rather than block out a day in black sharpie to enjoy your favorite hobby. But if you’ve replaced your favorite nonacademic activities with getting work done or fretting about what happens if you don’t, you might have gone too far. An example that rings true for students: abandoning reading for pleasure. “In high school, I used to read every night before bed. My mom said, ‘you don’t read anymore.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do! Every class I have is reading!’” said Barnard College junior, Asela Eatenson. If you feel like class work always takes priority over the things that make you happy then now’s the time to put the readings down. Consider putting schoolwork on the backburner a night or two a week so you can rediscover your personal interests. Or simply carve out 15-20 minutes in the morning to dedicate time for your interests, especially reading for fun. Once you take this much needed time to yourself you can return to your 15-page researched paper with renewed energy.
2. Sleep Turns into More of a Suggestion
We hear about the importance of getting sleep all the time, but that doesn’t make it less true. It’s impossible to stay productive while keeping up with the other aspects of your life if a consistent sleep schedule doesn’t exist. If you feel like you’re about to crash every day at 4 p.m. or you’ve upped your coffee intake by another cup a day, take a step back. With the weight placed on all the other aspects of college life, the required 8 hours of sleep often turns into more of a suggestion. Worst of all, getting a good night’s rest can feel like a sign that you’re not working quite as hard as those furiously working long past midnight. We promise you, pulling that all-nighter may get the project done, but you’ll feel the lack of sleep in the other areas of your life for at least the next week. If getting an assignment done is seriously cutting into your sleep time, don’t be afraid to ask a professor for an extension. And if you absolutely need to stay up late to finish work, plan a night in the coming week when you can stay in and catch up on rest.
3. Staying Locked Away from Any and Everyone in Your Dorm
Balancing a social life alongside the obligations of college is a feat within itself. Sometimes, college students overlook the positive benefits that come with maintaining contact with friends throughout periods of extreme stress. Your fellow hardworking pals may even spark some inspiration in you to tackle your next paper. “A lot of students are tired of their schedule, but I think a lot of them still have a positive attitude. If I see some friends actively overcoming their problems, I’m encouraged to be active, too,” said Columbia University graduate student, Yu Qing. Hanging out with friends doesn’t mean dropping all of your pressing duties and heading to a party an hour off campus to spend quality time together. Instead, try setting a date for a chill activity with friends. Grab a friend and make your way to the new coffee shop down the road to try their seasonal lattes on a chilly morning before class. You can even reward yourself for a study session with a group run for the best local late night eats.
4. Stress Level Goes Up By the Number of Unreads in Your Inbox
You want to stay on top of things, but you’ve become obsessed with answering every email as soon as it hits your inbox. Missing a text or online message makes you lay into yourself: ‘Why didn’t I answer that sooner?’ If this sounds like you, set aside extra time for relaxation. Just like it’s impossible to stay on top of every new trend on the web, it’s impossible to answer every message perfectly on time. When it comes to emails and other messaging tools, prioritization is key. Try using the priority function on your email server to mark which ones need an immediate answer from those that don’t so you can get the necessary communication done without stressing out.
5. You Go For Runs…For Two Blocks…To the Grocery Store…For Ice Cream
“Selfcare,” a word that calls to mind pricey clay face masks and luxurious bubble baths; also known as the trendiest new buzzword around college campuses. Just because it’s morphed into an advertising point for aromatherapy kits doesn’t mean it’s not important. With work piling up, summer internships calling and clubs calling out for new members, we often end up putting our bodies last. But physical activity is essential; not just health and wellness, but also for releasing the stress that bottles up from sitting in class all day. Staying active doesn’t mean you have to drag yourself to that early morning yoga class or run until you’re blue in the face. Instead, try committing to a form of physical activity that you enjoy and know that you can stick with. That could mean a gym session listening to your favorite tunes, or just stretching in your dorm. Whatever it is, once the habit starts, you will look forward to it as your much needed ‘me’ time.
6. Free Time Is An Hour of Envy-Liking Instagram Beach Posts
You’ve had a long day, and now all you have energy for is vacantly swiping through other people’s stories. Next thing you know, you snap back and realize you’ve spent the last hour on a vacant e-tour of brunch mimosas and workout selfies. The longer you engage in this scroll fest, the more you’ll start comparing your own faults to another’s filtered life of success. “You live your life, and then you put out your highlights [on social media]. Everyone else is just putting their highlights, which means you compare your life to that,” said Columbia SEAS senior, Erik Skalnes. Social media is designed to showcase a dressed-up picture that’s just not reality. It can make you feel envious of the glamorous lives of personalities you follow online or discouraged that you don’t match up to the competition. Disconnecting from the network for a period of time, like turning your phone on airplane mode or setting a limit for your social media apps can help you not fully absorb yourself in the world of likes and follows.
7. The Once Important Summer Internship No Longer Seems Like an Accomplishment
As students move from high school into college, they set their sights on higher projects and achievements, which helps with progress. That doesn’t mean you should devalue past achievements because they seem small in comparison to the competitive pool. The tales of other people’s summer internships suddenly moves your once exciting mentorship to the same level as the neighbor kid’s lemonade stand in your mind. Well, now’s the time to push those undermining thoughts to the curb with that watered down lemonade. Just because you’re in a new environment doesn’t mean that you should discount your own accomplishments. If you take one piece of advice from the standard career counseling handbook, it should be this: getting hired depends much more on how you package your achievements than a couple flashy, selective programs.
8. Unfinished Work Haunts Your Relaxation Time
You should never feel badly for reserving some time to yourself. With obligations for schoolwork, clubs, teams, and jobs, it’s easy to find yourself questioning whether that hour spent chilling in bed would have been better used another way. “Relaxing and literally being still and not productive feels like a foreign concept to me,” said Barnard College sophomore, Julia Coccaro. “I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not being productive, bettering myself in some way.” When doing nothing still stresses you out, it’s a sign that your schoolwork consumes too much of your headspace. Try doing some anti-scheduling or putting aside time when you don’t have to work. If you find your thoughts slipping to next week’s paper, remember that you can always schedule in work time after you give yourself a break.
9. You’ve Entered into a Dependent Relationship with Your Netflix Account
Watching movies and TV shows in college from the comfort of a dorm bed gets a bad rep. These days, we use the term “binge-watching”, as if it’s an addiction that once you start, you’re unable to stop. Still, there’s nothing wrong with using movies and shows as a method of relaxation, especially if you’ve had a long day of work. The media freaks out over statistics like 90% of college students binge-watch Netflix (watching 3 or more episodes in one sitting). But that ignores the amount of time they spend studying comes out to 3.5 hours every weekday, not including 2.3 hours for working and related activities. Indulging in a couple of episodes here and there serves as the ladder for your brain to climb out of that bottomless study hole.
10. Fulfilling Your Dreams Now Means Getting Out of Bed Before 2 PM
When you were a kid, you wanted to win the Nobel Prize. Now, you would settle for finding a rent-controlled apartment. Of course, it’s important take on realistic goals but feeling hopeless about the things that used to motivate you, screams of burnout. In this day and age, it certainly doesn’t help that weight of increased competition surrounds your every decision. “We live in a pretty globalized world, and we’re seeing the competition that we face in front of us every day. It’s in your mind that there’s always someone doing better, doing more, working harder,” said Barnard College sophomore, Kendall Downend. If that rings true to you, instead of thinking about where you’ll end up in twenty years, try setting a goal for the semester that’s challenging, but still within the bounds of achievement. Whether it’s raising your GPA a few points higher than it was last semester or winning a sports match, these small victories can keep you determined, not discouraged.