College Burnout: The Warning Signs, and How to Prevent It

Attending college and earning a degree is becoming more common, with 40 percent of adults over 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree in the United States. Earning a college degree is a massive accomplishment you should be proud of. It takes time, hard work, and dedication to achieve the right to walk across that stage and receive your diploma.

Reaching that point could put you on the verge of college burnout, especially during mid-terms and finals. Learning to balance your college experience with fun and academics is a struggle many faces, and only some are prepared to handle it. You must learn how to identify burnout in college and take the proper steps to overcome it.

The good news is that you’ve discovered this practical guide to help you identify signs of becoming a burnout college student and the steps to avoid that burnout. Continue reading to overcome your college challenges and maximize your time at university!

What Is College Burnout?

College burnout results from experiencing a constant state of stress and exhaustion during school. Many college students face burnout due to the academic demands they face when attempting to earn a degree. Add in other activities like athletics, Greek Life, and other campus activities, and it’s easy to see how a college student could struggle with burnout.

Many students find themselves becoming depressed and cynical during their college experience. Academic scores could suffer as a result of burnout in college. It’s the first time balancing the many aspects of the college experience for students, and learning how to cope without burning themselves out is critical to get through college unscathed.

What Are the College Burnout Symptoms

You should look for several symptoms if you fear you’re becoming burnt out. Each student is unique, but there are several encompassing symptoms to monitor to start coping without burnout. Most students face the same six warning signs that should set off alarm bells that you need to make changes.

Failure to make changes could result in deteriorating mental health and lower course scores. Don’t let the situation get to that point. Here are some signs to look for so you can take corrective action.

1. Exhaustion

Exhausted college students are a cliche; some will tell you it’s part of the college experience. You shouldn’t be feeling tired constantly when you’re in college. Constant and extreme exhaustion is a telltale sign that your body and mind struggle to keep up with your courseload and schedule.

You’ll continue feeling sluggish and drained each day when exhaustion sets in. No amount of sleep helps the situation.

You’ll likely feel drained both physically and mentally. Getting through your day-to-day activities will feel like a massive burden you can’t overcome. Stay aware of this sign of college burnout to make lifestyle changes.

2. Lack of Motivation

Many people who enroll in college get there due to their motivation and dreams. It’s a new experience that exposes you to different ideas, cultures, and thoughts. When you enter a phase of college burnout, you lose all motivation and interest in the people and things around you.

Feeling emotionally drained is typical when you get overwhelmed by your courses and other college activities. You’re facing burnout if you lack the energy and motivation to see friends and spend quality time away from school. Going to class can feel like an impossible burden when your motivation dwindling.

Look for signs that you’re losing interest in things you enjoyed previously. A lack of interest is a sure sign that you’re experiencing college burnout. You’ll also lose the ability to get out of bed in the morning and make it to class on time.

3. Lack of Creativity

Creativity is another beautiful trait that falls by the wayside when you fall into the abyss of college burnout. You know you’re struggling when completing basic tasks requiring minimal thinking feels impossible. Look for signs that you’re struggling with course assignments and projects.

It’s especially notable with assignments that require original and authentic ideas. Many students will cope with this lack of creativity by procrastinating on their work or pushing through to produce a subpar result.

4. Increase in Irritability

The lack of energy also creates other signs and symptoms of burnout in college. One of the most prominent is an increase in irritability. Frustration builds as you realize that you can’t handle tasks that were easy weeks or months ago.

That frustration only grows when you can’t find the solution to the issue to produce excellent work again. The inability to enjoy social time with friends and indulge in the college experience is another reason behind elevated levels of irritability in those suffering from burnout in college.

You’ll begin to feel stuck in a rut, and there’s no solution to get out of it. The longer you’re stuck in that rut, the more likely you will lash out and take your frustration out on those around you. Monitor this symptom and take steps to alleviate it to overcome your college challenges.

5. Frequent Illness

Your immune system takes a dive when you start getting overwhelmed with stress as a college student. Many students struggling with college challenges find they’re sick frequently. Illness is one of the most obvious signs that you’re facing college burnout, and you need to make changes to overcome the issue.

It clearly shows that your body tells you you’re overworked and stressed. The illnesses could be colds that never go away or more noticeable and aggravating conditions like hives. Digestive issues are another common sign that you’re a burnt-out college student trying to get through the end of the semester.

It’s also worth noting that your illnesses could be related to other serious health issues. Consider visiting a doctor to get a proper diagnosis to move forward with peace of mind.

6. Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are the most dangerous symptoms of college burnout, and you should never ignore these feelings and problems. Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in students with pre-existing mental health disorders. A student already suffering from mental health disorders could spiral when facing college burnout.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by depression, take steps to get the help you need, and consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Depression and anxiety are signs of a severe mental health episode and should not be ignored. It’s wise to consider going to therapy in college.

Dealing With Burnout in College

Now that you better understand the common signs of college burnout, looking at what you can do to avoid burnout is worthwhile. Stress management practices are an excellent way to overcome stress and anxiety. Schedule time into each day to focus on your mental health and well-being.

Learning to remind yourself that you can recover from college burnout is the best way to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the first step to creating a plan to prevent burnout and help you enjoy every aspect of your college experience.

Here’s a deeper dive into how you can alleviate stress and burnout during your college days.

1. Physical Activity

Physical activity releases endorphins, which are one of the best ways to combat stress and burnout when you’re in college. You don’t need to become a powerlifter or marathon runner to enjoy the benefits of physical activity for your mental health. Students that stay physically active achieve higher scores in their classes and have better mental health.

Most universities have a fitness center that you can use as part of your benefits as a student. Use the fitness center or join a local gym to kick your fitness routine and mental health into high gear.

Going for walks and hikes in your free time is another excellent way to get your mind off college challenges. Hiking in a beautiful park will provide relief and help you get into a different frame of mind.

2. Study Abroad

A change of scenery is also an excellent remedy to avoid college burnout. Studying abroad lets you explore a new culture, make new friends, and get a different take on life. Burnout can occur from your settings getting stale, and traveling across the pond to attend university in a foreign country will shake things up.

Taking a semester to travel abroad and try something new will inject life and color into your daily routine. It will also help you become more culturally aware and boost your resume when you graduate and search for a job.

3. Take a Gap Year

School is challenging, and sometimes you must put your health first by taking a break. A gap year is one of the best solutions when you need a break from college challenges to reenergize your mind and explore the world. Many college students transition from high school with symptoms of burnout already present.

Take your time earning your college degree if your mind and body need more time to prepare for the challenge. Take a year off to travel and learn more about yourself and what you want for your life. You’ll have a much clearer picture of your goals for college and the life you picture after graduation.

4. Start a Self-Care Routine

The best way to care for yourself is by creating a self-care routine. Reflect on the things that bring stability and happiness to your day and find ways to incorporate those things into your daily life. Recovering from college burnout requires you to look at how you should take care of yourself instead of how you want to take care of yourself.

Consider attending weekly therapy sessions to discuss your problems or weekly walks with your friends at your favorite local park. Getting a coffee from the cute cafe down the street and picking up a new hobby are excellent ways to build a self-care routine you’ll love.

5. Prioritize Sleep

There are always parties and significant events during the college experience, but you shouldn’t put those events ahead of your sleep. The body and mind need rest to function at optimal levels. “All-nighters” are common with college students attempting to cope with college challenges while maintaining a social life.

Learn the important things to prioritize for your college experience. Your personal and academic success will fall off a cliff if you don’t focus on optimal sleep each night. Students prioritizing sleep tend to earn higher scores and enjoy a more fulfilling college experience.

6. Use Campus Mental Health Resources

Colleges know that the rigors of a college schedule take a toll on students. Most colleges have mental health resources on campus to assist students struggling to get through the semester. Counselors will lend a helpful ear and connect you with local therapists who will help you work through the mental health disorders you’re battling.

Take advantage of the mental health resources while in college. They’re part of your tuition, and passing up free help to enjoy your college experience is a serious mistake.

7. Process Your “Why”

Taking time to process the reasons behind attending college and working so hard will help you understand your situation. Burnout happens when students start going through the motions and losing sight of their reasons for attending university in the first place.

Think about why you’re studying in college and if what you’re studying provides fulfillment. It’s easy to lack motivation and happiness when you’re spending tons of energy (and money) on college with no logical reason for being there. Consider why and determine if the college or degree program suits you.

Start Coping Without College Burnout Today

Getting through each semester in college can be a grind, and college burnout only worsens the struggle. Understanding the signs of college burnout is essential to get the most from your college experience without losing who you are.

Consider taking a gap year to determine what you want from life before enrolling in college, and prioritize sleep to ensure mental health and optimal test scores. Pick up new hobbies and start a mental health routine to keep your mind healthy as you move from being a college student to a successful graduate.

Your health is not something to trifle with, especially if you have dreams of living a full, healthy, and happy life. Check out more of our Health blog content for inspiring articles and helpful tips and tricks to maximize your health for a successful life!

Written by Patricia

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