This article was written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Burnout is no joke. Debut writer Christine lays out the signs of burnout you need to be watching out for:
Essays, societies, deadlines… regardless of whether you’re a student preparing for exams or a graduate desperately job-searching, burning out is a real possibility. Sometimes, burnout can feel inevitable, but knowing how you get to it is a great way to make sure you never do. Here’s a few pointers on the symptoms – and how to get yourself back on the self-care track.
1. Energy levels
Take a look at how your energy levels are during the average day. Say you’re usually super efficient, but now your movements are sloth-like. Perhaps you’re generally pretty relaxed, but nowadays you’re all jittery and nervous. A massive change in your energy levels is an easy way to tell you’re rushing towards burning out.
How to avoid this: get some rest! With the most recent iOS, the default Clock app has a “Bedtime” function that can help track your sleep cycle and get it back on track. Try to get to bed at the same time every day if you can.
2. Appetite and cravings
Listen. I love food. As in, I really, really love food. On the cusp of my personal path to burnout, I found myself either eating too much or nothing at all from day to day. Checking yourself and how and when you eat is super important.
How to avoid this: meal plan! Have a look at preparing food in advance so you can take control of when, how, and what you eat. There’s a great subreddit, /r/MealPrepSunday, that can help inspire. Alternatively, plan meals with other people. You can’t skip dinner if you’re cooking it with a flatmate.
3. Reliance on vices
We’ve all felt that bizarre mixture of anxiety and calm when we’re faced with far too much to do. Instead of a) taking a healthy break or b) getting on with the work, it’s easy to take the third option en route to a flame out by running straight to your vices. Be it alcohol or smoking or anything that makes you forget your responsibilities, know that the relief it grants you is only temporary. The work to do hasn’t just disappeared.
How to avoid this: Reward, don’t procrastinate. Obviously, I am not condoning these vices, but if you absolutely must indulge in them, use them as incentives as opposed to escapes. If you’ve had a long day, by all means indulge in a glass of wine or two.
4. Silence and/or humour
If you’re struggling with juggling all the events in your life, it’s easy to avoid the truth. Some people stay silent and shoulder their burdens by themselves. Others use humour to deflect attention – “Haha, yeah, I’m so busy, I’m basically crying inside but it’s totally fine and I am also totally fine!” – from their inability to cope.
How to avoid this: Honestly, just talk to someone. It may feel embarrassing or shameful to admit that you can’t quite stay in control of your life, but you never know if that person can help. And at the very least, venting can help you sort through all the things you have to do.
5. Seriously skewed priorities
At the height of my personal burnout, I found myself forgoing grocery shopping and slowly replacing real meals with an assortment of instant noodles from the local Asian grocery store. This definitely wasn’t the best decision.
How to avoid this: Physically write a list of what you’re prioritising and what you’re avoiding or ignoring. You’d be surprised how jarring it can be when you realise you haven’t been doing something important, even essential.
6. Mood shifts
You might find yourself snapping suddenly at something minor. Maybe the bus is five minutes late, and you find yourself sobbing at the bus stop. Or perhaps a friend bails on you and you feel absolutely nothing. Your mood is one of the best ways to keep track of how close you are to burning out.
How to avoid this: Watch how you react to things. Take a deep breath and count to five. Try to keep track of whether your emotional reaction is appropriate to your situation.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help. It’s easy to get caught up in how busy you are. Just remember to take a few minutes and breathe. You’ll be just fine.