In a world where we tell people about our jobs before we tell them about our family, it’s no surprise that burnout has become fairly common. Putting a lot of effort into a project just to get little to no reward can often feel draining, but there are ways to combat the negative symptoms brought on by burnout.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is described as an “occupational phenomenon” resulting from long-term and intense workplace stress. Although the term is officially only used in occupational situations, it is often used to describe various aspects of life, including in one’s school or home responsibilities or social life.
Symptoms of burnout include feeling tired and drained, detachment from work, loss of motivation and withdrawal from responsibilities, including intentionally missing work or skipping tasks. There can even be physical symptoms, including lowered immunity, headaches and change in appetite or sleep patterns.
However, there are things you can do to prevent burnout before it begins.
The first is choosing a career that fits your individual comfort level — something that you pursue because you are passionate about it, not just something that fits your expectations of a job. It sounds really simple, but if you work toward a career that you couldn’t picture yourself doing every day, it can be overwhelming.
If you are struggling to figure out what you actually want to do for a career, I recommend reading “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was” by Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith. The book is an interactive guide to help you discover your direction and passion in life. It does a great job of getting you to not only think about what you want to do but the type of workplace schedule, environment, etc. that fits you.
There’s also plenty of personality and career tests that you can find with a Google search. I’ve taken plenty, and they all have fairly similar results. However, those tests are a great starting point to help you think about your options. The more confident and passionate you feel about your career paths, the easier it will be to maintain a positive outlook with your coursework, internship and any other ways you are using your time at university to advance your future career.
Another problem with burnout is being overwhelmed. However, learning to balance your time with your responsibilities and avoiding things that negatively impact your mental state can help prevent burnout.
Set boundaries. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to people.
Although the right career and balance can be helpful in preventing burnout, you may still experience it. If you feel detached from your work or view your classes or job more negatively than positively, there are several ways you can combat this feeling.
If you can, take a break; stop working for a few days or just a few hours. Do something you love that relaxes you — something simple like painting your nails, going for a walk or taking a cold shower can help improve your mindset. You can also meditate, cook your favorite meal or listen to music or a podcast. Websites like helpguide.org have plenty of different ideas if you are struggling to find something enjoyable to help relax you.
You can also modify factors that have a dramatic impact on your mood, including diet, sleep and exercise. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night and that you are eating a balanced diet. This may sound difficult, especially for busy college students, but making time for yourself is an important part of avoiding burnout, and it may even help you save your time since it can increase your energy and focus throughout the day.
Remember that your job or schoolwork is only one aspect of your life, and this single aspect doesn’t determine your self-worth. Don’t prioritize a job you are not passionate about over your health. You don’t have to be productive to be doing something that matters — don’t be afraid to take breaks for yourself, and remember that your career path doesn’t have to meet anyone’s expectations except your own.