Fresh Perspective | How to prevent early burnout

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Staff Writer

The first couple weeks of school are filled with silly icebreakers in class, quizzes to make sure you actually read through your syllabus and the exciting feeling of a new school year that is bound to bring you millions of memories. The start of a new school year is always fun because you get to enjoy the first couple of weeks of school without any rigorous class assignments and exams looming over your shoulder. But now that we are almost five weeks into the fall semester, things are starting to get real and probably difficult to handle.

With the stress kicking in, you might already feel yourself unmotivated this early in the semester. With assignments, exams, extracurricular activities, jobs and your social life taking up your entire calendar, it might get overwhelming trying to navigate through it all without getting burnt out. Feeling tired and unmotivated and a little burnt out is completely normal — it happens to everyone. But here are some tips to help you prevent that feeling so early on in the semester.

Build good habits and a routine

Something I struggled with my first year was how to create a set routine for myself that involved good habits. With online classes due to the pandemic, I found myself doing all my classes and homework in bed most of the time. I also didn’t know how to separate my academic life from my social life because the two were so interconnected since I was learning online while living in a dorm building with all of my friends. But later on, I found that going to the library or a study spot for a designated amount of time a day helped me not only stay focused in my classes but helped me separate my academic and social life.

The amount of work you have to do for your classes each week may seem daunting, especially when your Canvas to-do list has 5-10 assignments listed under it. But if you divide up your work throughout the week, that to-do list gets smaller and smaller without you realizing it.

Set aside time each day to go to the library or your favorite study spot and get done as much as you can in that allotted time. Then, take a break. Maybe go to the gym at the Petersen Events Center, go for a walk around Schenley, or grab a bite to eat on campus. Leaving your house or dorm room to do school work, exercise or get something to eat will make you feel productive throughout the week. And instead of piling on all your tasks in one day, try spreading them out throughout the week to ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed and stressed from your coursework.

Prioritize yourself

College, especially during your first year, feels like a big social bubble. You meet new people and create your own social group. Making friends in college is probably one of the biggest stressors and priorities of first-year students. But as the semester goes on and there is more on your plate, it is important to prioritize yourself and your needs over your social circle.

Something I learned last year was how important it was to take time for myself to decompress and focus on how I’m feeling. I would get so wrapped up in the weekend plans or what my friends were doing that I lost sight of what I actually needed. There were times when I would go out when I really didn’t want to, just because I didn’t want to miss out on what my friends were doing. But prioritizing your friends and your social life gets exhausting, especially when you start to forget to take care of yourself.

If you start feeling stressed or unmotivated, do what feels right for your mental health and body, whatever that looks like to you. It could be staying in on a Friday night to watch your favorite comfort movie and order takeout, or taking a day off from classes to relax and have a self-care day. Prioritizing yourself and your mental health over your friends and academics is not selfish. It is essential to make sure you place your needs first because they are the most important.

Ask for help

College is stressful no matter what year you are in. Many students experience stress-related anxiety and depression while at school, especially in their first year. Most students are away from home for the first time in a whole new and unfamiliar environment while facing the pressures of receiving good grades and trying to find where they fit on campus. So while it is normal to have feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, you don’t have to go through them alone — there are resources on campus that are designed to help you.

The University Counseling Center has a ton of great resources to help you through your semester. You can call to set up an appointment to talk to a counselor, or just check out their website for more information on their virtual wellness workshops and their self-help and wellness tools. Asking for help can be scary, but there are so many resources out there, like the counseling center, that can help you.

We all feel burnt out and unmotivated at some point during the school year, but there are tools and resources out there that can help us navigate through it and set us up for a successful semester ahead.

Julia Smeltzer writes primarily about mental health and college experiences. You can reach her at [email protected].