It’s only natural to feel stressed or overwhelmed now and again - sometimes a bit of pressure can help keep us motivated!
Burnout is more than just feeling stressed; it's a state of chronic emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from prolonged periods of stress and pressure. Postgraduate students are particularly susceptible to burnout due to the demanding nature of their studies and the high expectations they often place on themselves. It can manifest as a lack of motivation, decreased productivity, feelings of cynicism or detachment from work, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
If the stress gets too overwhelming, leaving you to feel incredibly drained, this could be a sign of burnout.
In this case, it’s time to take a step back and try methods such as the ones below to help overcome this.
What Causes Burnout?
It is unlikely that this is caused by one particular thing - many factors can play a part in contributing to stress and anxiety. Over time if the stress isn’t managed properly then it can lead to burnout.
A number of our students have acknowledged that the following aspects have led to stress, please note that this may not be relevant to your situation, but it helps to know that you are not alone in this.
Neglecting the things you enjoy - spending time with family, canceling social plans, not exercising etc.
Personal worries such as health or financial concerns
Feeling isolated in online learning
Recognizing the Signs of Burnout
Being able to identify the signs of burnout is crucial for early intervention. Look out for these common symptoms:
- Fatigue: Constant tiredness, both physically and emotionally, even after sufficient rest.
- Decreased Performance: A noticeable decline in academic performance or research productivity.
- Cynicism and Detachment: Feeling disconnected from your studies, research, or colleagues.
- Lack of Interest: Losing interest in activities that previously brought joy and fulfillment.
- Irritability and Negativity: Increased irritability, impatience, or a negative outlook on life.
- Physical Symptoms: Headaches, gastrointestinal issues, or other stress-related physical complaints.
- Social Isolation: Withdrawing from social interactions and feeling isolated from friends and family.
- Procrastination: Finding it challenging to start or complete tasks, leading to increased stress.
How Can I Overcome Burnout?
Be reassured that there are a number of things that you can try to overcome burnout. We have provided a few recommendations below that we find particularly helpful.
Recognise and Acknowledge - The first step in dealing with burnout is acknowledging its presence. Take the time to reflect on your feelings and identify the sources of stress contributing to burnout. Accept that it is okay to feel overwhelmed and seek help when needed, this can help you begin recovery. It will allow you to break down your problems into manageable chunks.
Set Realistic Goals - Break down your postgraduate journey into manageable milestones. Set achievable goals, prioritise tasks, and celebrate small victories along the way. Be kind to yourself and avoid setting excessively high expectations.
Take Regular Breaks - Try going for a short walk or grabbing a drink of water to take some time away from the screen. This can help prevent any strain on your eyes and allows you to refresh your mind and perspective
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others - You are doing the best that you can and everyone has different responsibilities in their lives. For example, others may have more time to post in the Academic Forum, but you will just add more pressure on yourself if you compare the number of posts that you are submitting to a peer in your group.
Ask for Help - You shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask for support, we all need help at some point in our lives. Talking to someone can help, this could be your tutor, a peer, a family member or Student Services etc. Telling someone can be the first step of recovery and they can then direct you to someone who can help further if needed.
Find a Support Group - Use the social forums to reach out to your peers as you may be surprised to learn that others could be feeling the exact same. Even if they are not experiencing burnout, it’s likely that they have in the past and know of great ways to deal with this.
Scale Back Your Workload if Possible - It’s important to reflect on the goals that you have set for yourself, perhaps these have become unrealistic. Consider how you could feasibly scale back your workload by speaking to your tutor and Student Services. You could even speak to your employer at work to see if they can help reduce your professional workload.
Find Time To Switch Off - Try to set hours that you work every day and outside of these hours spend time doing things that you enjoy. It’s important to find time for yourself to give yourself a mental break from your worries so that you can return feeling refreshed.
Connect with Your Passion: Reconnect with the aspects of your research or studies that originally ignited your passion. Remind yourself of the purpose and meaning behind your work.
Take care of yourself - Make sure you are getting enough sleep, try eating healthier, and have an exercise routine. It sounds simple, but it is so important to ensure that you are looking after your own well-being.
If you need to speak with someone to discuss any concerns that you may have, please do not hesitate to reach out to Student Services at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are here to help!
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