Burnout is a form of exhaustion that is triggered by stress and demands, usually in the form of your workload. It can have a very negative impact on your physical and mental health wellbeing. It leaves you feeling exhausted with nothing more to give, and it can also make you more susceptible to catching illnesses such as cold and flu. With a lockdown recently announced following the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems like there is no better time to discuss beating the burnout.
With all of us now staying at home and avoiding unnecessary trips out of the house, many of us will be faced with tackling our workload from the confines of our own home. With boredom to try and avoid, there’s a possibility that many of us will now immerse ourselves into our work, particularly if it’s a final project such as a dissertation. With this immersion comes the potential to overwork ourselves to the point of this exhaustion. Whilst we should embrace these opportunities to learn and work hard, it’s important to know your limits and when to keep some of your energy and brain power.
There seems to be a burnout culture that has emerged in recent times. Working past your limits and to the point of exhaustion seems glorified and often a measure of success. We idolise people that appear to push themselves to their limits of working and are successful in doing so. All-nighters are common, and often encouraged. Of course everyone works best at different times, but all-nighters to me are a sign of either poor time-management or a potential burnout situation. I think comparing ourselves to others also has a lot to answer for. It’s about time we all started focusing on ourselves, instead of concerning ourselves with the work ethic of others and trying to compete. This work ethic is probably exaggerated and glorified anyway. As an example and all too often, I have seen praises for ‘girl bosses’ on my social media. Sounds like these are powerful and organised individuals, right? They have everything in order. They can balance their workload, a job or side hustle, a social life, and spending time with family. We’re fed this narrative on social media, but really these ‘girl bosses’ might be struggling too. They may well be burnt out.
We need to step back and realise most of this is a facade. Not everybody is capable of pushing themselves to such limits. Perhaps if everyone was honest and truthful about their work ethic, then there would be no burnout culture. We all have times where we feel unmotivated, and where we need a day to ourselves to relax and recharge our batteries – there’s no shame in that and it’s perfectly normal. There is no need to work flat out to the point of exhaustion. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but eventually you won’t produce work to a high standard.
So, how do you beat the burnout? Here’s some tips on how to stay organised with a healthy work ethic:
Avoid comparing yourself to others
Sometimes, feeling the need to work to the point of exhaustion comes from comparing yourself to others, whether that’s fellow students or people on social media. We have a habit of comparing our progress to the progress to others. For example, I know if one of my friends tells me where they’re up to with their dissertation and I’m not there yet, I feel behind. And I might not be, it might just be that we work in different ways. If you start to feel behind, but probably aren’t, you have to avoid the temptation of overworking yourself. And if you genuinely are behind, then look below on how to avoid this again!
Plan in advance – don’t leave things until the last minute
If you constantly leave things until the last minute, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and you’ll stress yourself out. Keep a note somewhere visible of any upcoming deadlines in the semester, so you’re aware of them ahead of time. Plan your workload in advance around this. For example, you’ll know that if you have a module deadline coming up, you’ll probably put dissertation work on the backburner for a short time whilst you make this your priority. Because you know this in advance, you can work on your dissertation more before you start to work on the other assessment. Knowing when your deadlines are and prioritising tasks around these will help you feel in control and organised.
Create a routine or work plan
Again, having some structure or routine to your day will help you to feel organised. If you create a plan for the week and stick to it, there’s no need to burnout. I always find it helps to still wake up early, even on the days where I don’t have seminars or lectures, and I structure my day around allocated times for working, and then allocated times for taking breaks. This might not work for everyone – we all have different ways of working. You might find instead that just creating a to-do list for the day is enough. If that’s the case, just make sure you still make time for breaks.
Leave time aside for exercise and hobbies
Whilst it’s important to take breaks, it’s important to make time for exercise and hobbies too. Exercise gives you the opportunity to boost your physical and mental health and improve your sleep and positive thinking. Making time for hobbies allows you to remove yourself completely from being in ‘work mode’ and doing something you enjoy will make you happier too.