Even packing our days with things we love to do can result in burnout. It’s time to listen to our friends, family and ourselves.
by Alexander Montgomery
Student at Cal State Los Angeles
Understanding Burnout vs. Detecting It in Ourselves
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
One of the things I’ve realized about being an Adult is that you don’t really understand what certain words mean until you’ve lived them out in your life; sometimes Googling the definition to satisfy random midnight curiosities or to settle an argument at a party chock-full of English majors just isn’t gonna cut it.
For example, I knew the definition of the word “burnout” but I didn’t really know what it actually meant, you know? Some words have a certain living connotation, and I learned that the hard way this semester.
In my evening Acting class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the professor starts every lesson by having everyone sit in a circle on the floor and, in turn, just say a few words about how you’re doing that day.
By an incredible margin, the words most used by myself and the other students to describe our state of mind are “tired” and “hungry,” and it wasn’t until we were almost halfway through the semester I realized that no, I’m not weak or less-than or anything like that.
I’m just one of millions of college students around the world struggling to reconcile not only the myriad responsibilities that come saddled with a college education, but also with maintaining a decent grasp on their mental health, managing their social lives–everything that comes with being a person.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Tuesdays and Thursdays are by far my busiest days of the week; I start work early in the morning, and after that my schedule’s vacuum-packed with club meetings, class, and theatre rehearsals. Usually, because the buses run farther apart the later it gets (thanks, LA Metro!), I don’t get home until 10:30 PM. And while I like to harp on and on about how tired I am and how I hardly have any time for myself and blah blah blah, the funny thing is, I don’t dislike doing any of these things. Far from it!
Even Doing What We Love Can Cause Burnout
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t commit to anything I didn’t actually want to do (and neither should you). But doing anything for too long is going to wear your nerves down, just ask any nub of chalk once long and solid and proud.
But even when you get to that place where your neurons burn out like a lightbulb whose filament keeps evaporating little by little until it finally just gives up and melts because it just can’t go on anymore, the most important thing you can remember is that you’re not any less of a person because of your limitations. In fact, it’s our limitations that make us human, as well as the things we do to make ourselves feel like ourselves again.
Take a Break! No Really. Actually Take a Break
If you feel as if you are getting to that place, the absolute best thing you can do is just take a break. No, really. I know that sounds simple, but it’s one of the hardest things to do if you’re entrenched in that college workaholic mindset I have fallen victim to, time and time again, where you’re convinced if you stop working, even for a minute, you’ll start falling behind.
I could go into how the mindset is completely toxic and is only one of many factors contributing to the declining mental health of college students and young people all across the country, but that subject’s worth a whole other article.
Once you’ve taken the break you need and deserve, and you start easing back into your usual schedule of work or class, the LifeSpace app can help you make sense of what you have to do by providing a medium where you can see all your commitments presented neatly and concisely.
Of course, organizing your schedule this way requires some effort on your part, but the act of organizing, stressful as it might seem, can be a nice transitional activity, if only to allow you to take stock of your life.
I know from experience that letting the anxiety behind something as apparently simple as facing all your responsibilities build up in your head only makes it that much more difficult to actually do it.
Listen to Your Friends and Family
For now, have a nickel’s worth of free advice: if your friends or your family or anyone who cares about you is telling you to take a break, do yourself a favor and actually do it. Even if that break means getting away from your computer or and taking a walk for a few minutes, or just taking a short nap, you’ll thank yourself down the line, trust me.
Please, please try and remember that you aren’t a machine, you’re a living, breathing human being who can only go on so long before your body says, “that’s enough for now.” Please try and remember that’s not a bad thing. And if you think one of your friends is struggling, give them a call or a text or a DM or whatever, just to check in; they’ll appreciate it more than you can know.