Most of us have been there. Panic coffees and Red Bulls driving you through the 2am slog on the morning of deadline day, fuelled by the last of your adrenaline with no time to even worry about how you got in this position. At least, with the dull droning of the pandemic in my ears throughout my final year at University, I’ve certainly been there more times than I’d like to admit this year. I feel like I’ve been verging on the edge of “burnout” territory since November.
Defined by Calmer as ‘the state of mind that comes with long-term, unresolved stress that can negatively affect your work and your life’, burnout causes symptoms such as “inability to focus” and “irritability” in milder cases, to “complete neglect of personal needs”, “chronic headaches” and “feeling empty inside” at its worst. Whilst I believed that my complete lack of self-care around deadline season signalled the beginning of the dreaded burnout (which mostly manifests in my diet of potato waffles and anything else that requires very little preparation), I didn’t realise how serious it could get.
Unfortunately, student life lends itself to creating an environment which feels all work and no play, and the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped. With the rise in independent, online learning/teaching, our technology-based lifestyles have made it easy to feel like we could be doing something productive with our down-time, leading to overly long working days and guilt-fuelled Netflix binges until Summer exams have marked the end of the academic year.
Which is why it’s become EVEN MORE important to take care of ourselves. After all, self-care can’t just be a trend reserved for pamper days and Instagram hashtags – it has to be a lifestyle.
Here are a few ideas on how to get started…
Make a Schedule – It doesn’t have to be set in stone but having a plan will certainly help you feel more prepared when approaching the tasks at hand. Maybe try making a list of everything you have to do and then prioritise the most important stuff! And, of course, make sure to take breaks/plan fun things (and stick to them!).
Mindfulness/Meditation – (I know, classic.) Meditation is a great way to reconnect with the present and stop your worried mind from spiralling. If you’re new to it, Headspace have a series of practices available on Netflix which guide you through each session.
Yoga – Exercise in general is a fantastic way to help destress, however, like most of the things on this list, you need to commit to the practice if you want the most benefit! Thankfully, Adriene Mishler, aka YogaWithAdriene on YouTube, offers free monthly plans with daily practices linked to videos on her channel, making it easy to stick to it!
Get Outside – It is recommended that we get outside for AT LEAST 20 minutes every day. I don’t know about you, but sunlight has a habit of making me feel 1,000,000x better.
Eating Well – Whilst you’re scheduling, make some time to break for meals. A nutritious, balanced diet is the best way to feed both your mind and your body during exam season!
Take a Bath – Simple enough. Light some candles, grab a book, stick on your favourite playlist, or just enjoy the feeling of your muscles relaxing.
Sleep – PSA: Stop scrolling through Instagram until 3am and get those 7-9 hours.
Ask for help. If you’re struggling with feelings of burnout, you really don’t have to go through it alone. Be kind to yourself. Reach out to somebody you trust, go for a walk, study together, whatever helps you relax. It’s good to talk – let’s smash this exam season, happy and healthy!
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