Students can experience "burnout" that stems from stress over their university courses or workloads as they oftentimes challenge themselves take on more than what their mind or bodies can handle. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have been struggling. Nothing, in particular, has been wrong, but something has felt off. I wake up tired, the things that used to bring me joy now frustrate me and I get angry at people for no reason at all. And for the life of me, I could not figure out what was wrong until someone told me about burnout and its damaging effects.

According to Help Guide, an online informational website, burnout can be described as a state of exhaustion caused by an exceeding amount of continuous stress. This exhaustion can show up emotionally, physically, mentally or socially. While it may start as just a pile of stress during chaotic times, it can quickly turn into something that completely warps your mind and life. 

Some signs that you may be experiencing burnout, or could be getting there, are continued exhaustion, consistent headaches, little to no motivation, detaching yourself from the world, unhealthy coping patterns and procrastinating. Symptoms will not only be prevalent mentally and emotionally but physically as well. 

When I realized that I was experiencing the beginning stages of burnout, I felt both relieved and ashamed. I was happy that I finally knew what was wrong, but I was frustrated with myself that I was not able to keep my stress in line. However, I soon realized that I was not alone. 

People from all across the world are experiencing the effects of burnout. College students are learning to be adults, earning their degrees and working all with just one day off for spring break. Teachers are exhausted, but they are still trying to provide for their students in the best way they can. Healthcare professionals are having to turn away families from saying goodbye to each other before they pass, but people are still not taking the proper safety precautions.

In this world, no matter where you live, stress is something we are living with. Although many people were able to keep it under control at the beginning of the pandemic, we have hit over a year of living like this and we have pushed ourselves past our breaking points. 

“I’ve experienced burnout this year by juggling a full-time job, multiple organization duties, and of course, school,” said Justin Coleman, an East Carolina University (ECU) communication major. “I have my times where I want to completely ignore all of my responsibilities and just rest, but I know I’m doing this for a reason and that it will all work out in my favor in the end.”

One of the scariest things about burnout is how it can turn the things we love to do into things we hate to do. For example, let us imagine that you get your dream job. It is everything that you have ever wanted, but you get very little time off and the hours are insane. But you accept it because this is your dream and you have no idea when this kind of opportunity will arise again. 

However, a year later, your dream job has become something you dread doing. You count down the minutes until your day ends; you cannot remember the last time you saw a friend. You cannot force yourself out of bed and all tasks get constantly pushed back because you do not have the energy to deal with it. You have lost all interest and love for the thing that caused the burnout initially. 

Once you begin to suffer from the effects of burnout, it feels as if there is no way out. Thankfully, that is not the case. There are many ways to deal with burnout:

  • Reach out to those you love or healthcare professionals

    • Click here to find out how to contact ECU’s counseling center, the Center for Counseling and Student Development (CCSD)

  • Reevaluate priorities and discover what is truly important to you

  • Secure balance in your life

  • Make yourself take time off

  • Set boundaries 

  • Join a virtual support group (Facebook is a great place!)

These are just some of the first steps you can take. It will not take away your burnout instantly, however, it will put you in the right direction after this has been weighing on you for so long. By just admitting that there is a problem, you have already done more than ever before. 


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