By now, students know where their classes are, they’ve turned in a few essays, crammed for a couple of exams, and have most likely experienced at least one all-nighter homework session. At week eight in the semester, the college routine is in full swing. But for many, their schedules might become burdened with a new assignment: overcoming the mid-semester burnout.
Every October, the University of Maine schedules a fall break for students around Indigenous People’s Day. The extra four days off from school serve as a time meant for students to relax, reset and potentially avoid detrimental burnout of mental health effects. However, that often isn’t the case for students who see those four days as their only chance to attempt to get their head out from under the water of assignments and responsibilities they are drowning in.
Many professors will schedule extra work, readings or essays over break since students have the extra time off from classes. Others pile on exams the week before or after, in order to make up for the lost class time. In any case, fall break morphs into a time where students are so overwhelmed that they cannot take full advantage of the time meant for destressing.
In college, it can seem as if stress is a right of passage. Students compare assignment loads, hours of sleep or busy schedules to gauge their stress levels amongst their friends. But at a certain point, a prolonged and excessive amount of stress will lead to mental, physical or emotional exhaustion that can leave students feeling overwhelmed in their list of responsibilities.
Burnout can be recognized in a variety of mental, physical and emotional symptoms. In these next few weeks, keep an eye on yourself and your friends for signs that often can be easily overlooked. This includes lashing out at others, irritability, stress eating, headaches, dizzy spells, frequently getting sick, a constant feeling of exhaustion, a loss of confidence or motivation, an inability to concentrate, making careless mistakes, losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable and many more.
Further, burnout becomes most evident when you see a decline in academic, work-related or social performance. Excessive stress is seriously debilitating and can impact everyday tasks and responsibilities. In addition to college stress, the changing seasons can add further burdens to student mental health. Shorter days and colder weather can drain students of energy and increase feelings of sadness or depression.
When these conditions unite, as they frequently do in the months of October and November, college students can be heavily impacted. If you see any signs of burnout or increased sadness in yourself or your friends, there are actions you can take. The UMaine campus is equipped with resources to help students perform and feel their best.
The Counseling Center is open Monday through Fridays every week to provide students with access to professional and confidential counselors, self-help and relaxation techniques, and links to online resources. Students have the option to participate in individual, group or couples counseling for any reason, big or small. The Mind Spa, located in the Memorial Union, provides daily relaxation workshops, space for meditation and mindfulness, access to light therapy, and materials for creative activities. The office of student life creates monthly schedules of daily and weekly fun events for students to participate in, such as Gamers Nights, trivia, Kickin’ Flicks, karaoke and much more.
All of these resources are available for students to take advantage of. Outside of external resources, there are also steps that students can take to arm themselves with habits and practices to ward off mid-semester burnout.
The first, and often overlooked or under prioritized by college students, is sleep. Instead of scheduling another 12-hour homework session, recognize that it is okay to put sleep before homework and assignments. The National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council suggests that people between the ages of 18 and 25 need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Getting a full night’s rest can actually better prepare you to take on assignments and exams than relying on coffee or energy drinks to keep your brain functioning.
Second, learn how to say no. In college, there are so many opportunities presented to students that we often say yes to everything that comes our way in order to avoid missing out. However, juggling an overwhelming schedule of responsibilities, classes, assignments and social engagements is a fast track to burning yourself out. Instead, sit down and make a list of what the top priorities in your life are, and say no to others that might be weighing you down.
Finally, always know that it is okay to ask for help. This could be reaching out to friends, calling home, confiding in a trusted professor or faculty member, or heading over to the counseling center. Starting a dialogue in any form with another person can help clear the mind and allowed students to see a clear path out of burnout.
There are seven more weeks in the fall semester. Make sure to keep your eyes and mind open to the signs of burnout, so you can continue to perform your best and make your college experience the best it can be.