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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

A Savvy Guide to Surviving Burnout

“I guess I’m burned out after all,” 

– Lana Del Rey

With each semester comes a new sense of busyness in our lives. We’re caught in our vortex of academic, work, or social obligations, and it can get to the point where everything feels, well, pointless. You may ask yourself, “What’s all this for?” or “Do I enjoy any of this?” You’re experiencing burnout, a mental, physical, and or emotional exhaustion that decreases motivation and enjoyment. It’s commonly linked with depression and mental illnesses, making it an even more agonizingly exhausting battle. 

Burnout is debilitating and even immobilizing. When you finally can relax, you forget how to. When it’s time to work again, you barely have the energy to. Burnout can be attributed to personal stressors but can also be attributed to more abstract systems like capitalism (Herman Melville’s Bartleby, The Scrivener touched on this in the 19th century). 

As someone who has experienced burnout, I’m all too familiar with the constant fatigue that comes with it. Thankfully, here are some habits and coping mechanisms that have helped me through it, and hopefully will help you too!

Plan A Day Out For Yourself

Sometimes, you just need some much-needed solitude, so why not take a day to go out by yourself? Go on a nature hike or sit in your local park. During my freshman year, I used to take myself to rose gardens and have little picnics to myself. Maybe this isn’t your speed, but I highly recommend taking yourself to a nice place where you can explore. This can be a familiar place attached to your childhood or somewhere new you’ve been dying to go to. Go to a new bookstore that opened nearby, a shop-lined street you’ve been meaning to walk through, or even the movies by yourself (it’s not nearly as weird as people say it is). 

Create a little itinerary for yourself when you’re exploring or you can do what I did and make a playlist of new songs you haven’t heard of before to immerse yourself in the experience. Wherever you choose to take yourself, a day out can be a great way to detach yourself from a work or school environment and let yourself reset and refresh from everything. 

Cleaning (yes, I mean it!)

I know some people don’t see cleaning as a cathartic, therapeutic method but still, I would recommend it. You don’t have to scrub every nook and cranky or clean your entire house/dorm/place clean down to the last speck of dust. It can be something as simple as cleaning your desk or reorganizing your stationery. Whenever I’m overwhelmed, I throw on a playlist and rearrange my endless set of earrings for 15 minutes. Give yourself 15 to 20 minutes and tidy up a little. Put on a playlist or an episode of your favorite show while doing so. It doesn’t even have to be physical; for instance, you can digitally clean your computer or email inbox. Cleaning can be a great way of decluttering not only your space but your own mind. 

Make a Mental Health Kit

This one is a personal favorite. Make your very own kit of comforting trinkets, fidget toys, or anything that will help you unwind and give your brain a break. Have a childhood keepsake or a collection of something oddly specific? Add it to your kit! Want to add a heartfelt note or an embarrassing figurine your mom bought you? Go ahead! You don’t have to be super fancy with it; just take a box or container and fill it up with whatever your heart desires. 

People with depression or other mental illnesses like to put toiletries in their kits because sometimes, it’s hard to get out of bed and even brush their teeth. Having readily available items makes it easy to navigate this period of exhaustion, so feel free to add travel-sized hygiene products as well.

In my kit, I have slime, a collection of rocks and crystals, and a DVD copy of my favorite movie, The Hours. Remember that your kit can be anything you want it to be! It can be a great toolbox to have when you’re struggling and in need of comfort. 

Photo courtesy of Fatimah Bouri.

Step Away From Your Screen for A Bit (please!) 

Please, please, please take a break from looking at a screen! This may be difficult in our highly digitized world, but consider carving out some time away from screens. Digital burnout is a very real condition, and you grow increasingly anhedonic and exhausted when you look at digital devices for prolonged periods. It’s also associated with mood and sleep disorders and can worsen your mental and physical health. 

Between work and school, I struggled with migraines and eye strain. No joke, I used to hope my Macbook would explode so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore. Whenever I felt myself getting mentally and physically tense from looking at a screen too long, I would either read a physical book for a few minutes or take a five-minute break and rest my eyes in a dimmed room. 

Also be careful of computer vision syndrome, a condition that may give you vision problems when you spend too much time reading on digital devices. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends the 20-20-20 rule: a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Lessen Your Plate

In our disgustingly competitive society, we feel the need to take on so many tasks and be a part of so many different clubs and activities. I will say this: You do not need to do everything. 

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh, Fatimah! I know I don’t need to be a part of everything; that’s impossible,” but I’m being realistic. I’m not saying you’re incapable of doing a variety of things, but I am saying that you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with being president of every other club/organization. You can still be productive without being swarmed by endless obligations. 

You are allowed to step back. In fact, it’s okay to step back and lessen your load. If you find yourself not as involved in one role as you are with the others, that might be a sign to let it go. Be sure to communicate with others when you give up a role. Be honest about looking after yourself and preventing exhaustion or stress; after all, it’s not a crime. You’ll be surprised how understanding people can be when it comes to mental well-being nowadays. 

Also, you don’t need to go to every social event. FOMO is a cruel mistress (as a commuter, I should know), but trust me, there will always be other events. There will always be time for you if you don’t overly involve yourself in everything. Stick with what you know you can be consistently involved in, and don’t immediately jump to new responsibilities if you realistically don’t have the time for them because you still need time for yourself; I’ve made that mistake way too many times before!

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