Dear Distance Learning: I’m Burned Outcsudhbulletin November 20, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Student burnout is an unfortunate fact of life for many at this point in a semester. But in the midst of a pandemic, it can feel like it will never end. Niklas Hamann on Unsplash.
By Raven Brown, Staff Reporter
Every semester, I start off with the same anticipation, excitement and willingness to get back to learning and continuing my education. After all, the degree I’ve worked so hard for is almost in my reach – I can see the finish line.
The beginning of this semester, however, felt intensely different. Instead of the excitement I usually felt to go back to school, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and by the state of the world. I know I’m not the only one.
Usually, about midway through the semester, I feel tired and burned out. It’s not like feeling burned out and tired is unusual for me. It usually happens midway through every semester. But I’ve always been able to push through and rekindle my sense of motivation But that feels impossible this semester. I feel overwhelmed every morning when I wake up and I struggle to get through the day. I’ve never felt so drained.
Being on a computer all day might be the “new norm,” for college students, but our brains aren’t meant for this much screen time.The typical college experience, you know, shuffling from building to building, pen to paper, in-person lecturing; everything once so familiar, is now a distant memory. I’m becoming more like a robot, methodically typing away on my laptop and attending one zoom meeting after the other, like it’s my programming, instead of choice. This is not what I signed up for, nor is it how I envisioned my last year of college.
You’d think that the lockdown would equate to more free time. I wish I could say that I’ve slowed down, but that would be a lie. Like most students, I have a life outside of school. I have personal issues to deal with and bills to pay that require a lot of my time and attention outside of the endless stream of assignments.
The long list of to-dos is overwhelming, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken down this semester feeling like a complete failure. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but not like this. The burnout I feel now is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. With so much doubt and uncertainty in the world, it’s become harder to tune it all out.
The coronavirus, the elections, the social unrest, and the never-ending lockdown are constantly weighing on me. I just want to throw my laptop and phone away and never look back.
My brain can’t take this much negativity. This feeling of burnout is quite different and my nervous system seriously needs a break from the chaos.
This feeling is not uniquely mine and I know I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed, as in I’m constantly in fight or flight mode. Short bursts of stress are tolerable, but what about feeling this way almost 24 hours a day? It’s enough to drive anyone insane.
The physical effects of stress are becoming more apparent. I clench my jaw when I’m nervous, and with that comes debilitating headaches. My eyes ache from starting at a screen all day, and when all of your assignments are online, it’s impossible to escape the eye strain. Blue light blocking glasses are a must if you have any respect left for your retinas.
But if you have any respect for yourself, you’ve got to figure out a way to defuse. Checking out of school and the virtual world for periods at a time can be helpful. I have made it a point to stay off social media as much as possible so that I can recalibrate in the real world.
When I work out in the mornings or go for a walk, I’m able to breathe again. Maybe not as deeply as I would like, but it definitely helps. I’m able to focus on something else for a while and it gives me the motivation to jump back into my to-do list.
Another thing I’m still learning to do is say no. It’s typical for students to want to take every opportunity they can in their last year of college because of the impending transition from graduation to a career. Whether it’s extra hours at work, or more responsibilities in classes, I always say yes because I want to be dependable. But sometimes I need to say no in order to maintain my sanity.
It’s important to check in with yourself during the times when you feel overwhelmed. Practicing deep breathing and meditation has helped me tremendously when I’m in over my head. You can’t fix all your problems and worries in an instant, so why try? Taking 10 minutes a day to rewire your brain with meditation could be the key to preventing total burnout.
With three weeks left, we’re almost there. The world may be heavy right now, but it’s so important to not lose that focus when something out of your control happens. Focus on you, our education, and that end goal. Student burnout can make the best of us burst into flames. But instead of letting it consume us, let’s use it to light a fire under our asses, propelling us to graduation day–and beyond.