How To Handle Burnout

Burnout is a very real experience that several people go through during their time as a student as well as in the workforce. I myself have experienced burnout during my time in college, and it is an experience that left me feeling a bit confused as to what to do in order to deal with it.

Realize what’s going on.

I had always been used to being on the go constantly and doing a million and one things, most of which I enjoyed doing. So when classes and activities that had always interested me or made me happy began to feel like burdens, I was scared and confused about what was going on. What I didn’t realize was that even too much of a good thing (or what seems like a good thing at the moment) can have some pretty negative results. In short, I was tired! Exhausted! Worn-out! However you prefer to phrase it, burnout still remains the same—feeling overwhelmed, exhausted (mentally, physically, and/or emotionally), and overworked.

While one of the largest signs that I was experiencing intense burnout was no longer finding joy or interest in things that I always had, burnout can show its head in several different ways, so it is important to pay attention to your body, thoughts, and emotions. Overcoming burnout can appear to be a very daunting task, which sometimes was the case for me because I felt like doing less was going to mean achieving less. But, the truth is that if you’re burnt out, it doesn’t matter how many wonderful things you’re doing because you won’t have the energy to do them well anyway. It is better to focus your time and energy on a few things that you really care about and that challenge you than to have your time and focus going in a million different directions.

I decided to come up with a few things that I could implement into my own life to help me overcome burnout while also doing my best to prevent it in the future.

Take a step back and examine your task.

The first thing that I did once I realized that I was burnt out was take a step back and examine everything that I was doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I recommend doing this as if your schedule isn’t yours but rather the schedule of a stranger, because it is a lot easier to be honest about how much work you’re doing if you feel detached from it. After doing this, I realized that I had no time to care for myself. My schedule was jam-packed with a million tasks that stressed me out because there was always something to do and not enough time to do it. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. So I had to make some serious decisions about what tasks were really important to me and which ones I could remove altogether. This also meant looking at my class schedule and really making sure that I was taking classes that not only interested me but that also were at good time slots for me as well. I am not a morning person, and I won’t become one, so why put myself through early morning classes? Take some time to weigh all of your responsibilities and only keep the ones that make you happy and that you can sustain doing for the entire semester or year. This will keep you satisfied with your schedule while also preventing you from getting overwhelmed or exhausted.

Prioritize having scheduled downtime.

I recently realized that any “free time” in my schedule wasn’t actually free time. They were mere blocks of time where I didn’t have to physically be in a specific place but still needed to be doing homework, tasks for work, or some other form of work. This lack of genuine relaxation time definitely played a role in my burnout because I never gave myself time to just sit down and do nothing or do something just for fun. A new goal of mines is to consciously schedule a time for me to do nothing at all. Everyone needs time to just relax and do the things that they enjoy because it helps our bodies recharge and keeps our minds happy, too! Keep time to do nothing in mind when you’re picking your class schedules, work schedules, and choosing any other obligations for the semester so that you’re less likely to start feeling overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities and tasks.

Do not be afraid to say no.

One of the most difficult things for me is saying no, particularly to opportunities. It is very important to take advantage of opportunities in college and all throughout life, but it is very easy to just become a yes-person without taking time to determine if you even have time for each opportunity that comes your way. I now try to really think about each opportunity that comes my way and analyze if I have enough time to fully commit to it, whether anything else in my life will drastically suffer if I add this opportunity into my daily life (school, work, social life, relaxation time, time with family, eating, etc.), and whether the opportunity aligns with what I’m passionate about and where I’m trying to go in life. If the answer to the first question is no, then I automatically know that I can’t commit to whatever the opportunity or experience is!

I hope that these tips help you with overcoming and preventing burnout! 🙂



Class of 2021
Hey y’all, I’m a History and Gender and Women Studies double major and a French minor from Chicago! I concentrate in all things Black and Black women studies and love long-distance running.

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