What to Do About Academic Burnout

Sadie Basila, Managing Forum Editor

With midterms season upon us, we’re all feeling the pressure of academics. For me, this year is the first time in a long time I had sit-down exams to study for, and I definitely felt like I totally forgot how to be a student. 

I’m taking four courses in the same subject this semester, and this combined with the return of “normal” academics has led to me feeling a sense of burnout. For me, this feeling manifests itself as a loss of passion for my work, a negative attitude, a lack of interest in learning, and a desire to constantly sleep. From speaking to friends and peers, I believe that a lot of people are feeling this way, so I decided to put together a list of things I think have helped me get out of that rut, in case they could help you too. 

1. Change your location

If you’re always in your room and you’re trying to study in there, try switching up your location. Your room has your bed and you’ll probably want to take a nap instead of working if you’re in there anyway. It’s good for you to try to break up boring routines and shake up your environment. I usually study at my desk, but I started studying in a study room in 280 recently just to try something different, and I felt that it drastically improved my ability to focus. 

2. Listen to your body 

If you’re feeling burnout, you may be feeling sick or tired. Even if these physical symptoms are the result of the psychological circumstances of burnout, they are still real. While taking six hour naps to avoid studying isn’t necessarily a good idea, it’s important to listen to your body about taking breaks to protect your health and to protect you from burning yourself out further. 

3. Get off campus 

Should you have access to a car or bike or some method of transportation, it’s good to try to get off campus and take a breather. While I studied for midterms, I left campus to go get coffee. This is obviously a privilege not all of us can afford, but even if you just take a walk into Lewiston and get some fresh air, this can be helpful. The whole environment of campus can just remind you of the factors contributing to your burnout, so it’s a great idea to get away for a little bit. 

4. Talk to a mental health professional 

If you’ve been feeling burnt out for a while and are having a hard time addressing it, it may be time to try to get some help from CAPS or another source of professional help. Sometimes what starts as a small case of burnout can snowball into something worse. It’s okay to admit that you can’t handle everything completely on your own, even if you’ve never tried therapy or medication before. For me, I was feeling exhausted and down for several weeks, and it was really important that I kept my therapist and psychiatrist up to date on how I was feeling. I had a medication change that really helped me address the burnout I was feeling. 

5. Try something creative 

Sometimes there aren’t ways to make academic work more enticing or interesting. Sometimes it’s just plain boring and it isn’t mentally stimulating me as much as it might have in the past. In that case, it can help to look for other sources of activity for your brain. I’ve always used music as a creative outlet. A friend of mine who has been struggling just started trying embroidery, for instance. There are tons of crafts and projects that come with how-to manuals and have really low barriers to entry. 

6. Talk to your professors 

The vast majority of professors I’ve had at Bates have been incredibly understanding and flexible with me. As long as you don’t wait until the last minute, I think it is always a good idea to reach out to your professors and ask for extensions if you feel you need them. Your mental health is just as important as physical health, and many people will understand this and cut you some slack. It’s important not to put your work off too far, but if you know you’re just not at your best, it’s okay to reach out and ask for some flexibility. 

I hope these tips are helpful to you, if not all of them then at least partially. The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and not get too down on yourself for feeling unproductive, because we all feel that way sometimes.