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What Is Study Burnout and How Do You Avoid It?

by Kevin Bellah

Getting stressed, feeling less motivated, and being more irritable are some of the most common struggles people face while studying. However, as this is considered a normal phenomenon, people often fail to recognize the early signs and symptoms of an entirely different condition—burnout. Though it is often ignored as normal academic stress, burnout is much more severe.

Those who struggle with the idea of studying or don’t consider themselves good at it might be making it harder for themselves through burnout. However, the good news is that academic burnout is diagnosable and treatable with the proper steps. If you are aware of the burnout symptoms, you will easily avoid it, study more efficiently, and feel less intimidated by it.

What Causes Burnout?

Before talking about the various ways to prevent or treat academic burnout, it is essential to understand its causes. 

While you may have experienced stress due to a singular task or event, like a looming test, burnout is quite different. It takes months or even years to develop. But why does it happen?

1. Procrastination

When you feel stressed, you might be tempted to put off assignments and projects. However, know that this will ultimately lead to sleep deprivation, frustration, and in turn, more stress.

2. Disorganization and Lack of Task Management

Academic burnout can also result due to the inability to make decisions that affect your academics. For instance, failure to schedule your assignments and projects can lead to study burnout.

To address the stress, you should essentially plan your workload, prioritize your work, delegate tasks, and learn to let go of perfectionism. Some projects take longer than usual, and unexpected delays can interrupt your schedule. So, you should plan for such unexpected events and be able to re-prioritize as needed.

3. Pressure from People Around Students to Study

Sometimes pressure can be a motivating factor for students to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, constantly pitting yourself against your peers can be harmful. When you cannot perform as well as your friends despite working hard, it might take away your sense of accomplishment. This can also make you feel like a failure for not being able to meet expectations.

4. Relying on Extensions and Retakes

Deadlines are perhaps the greatest source of stress in academics. However, a lot of deadlines are often flexible. For example, you might be asked to submit an assignment by Friday, but your professor might not plan to look at it until Tuesday. In such situations, you might be tempted to ask for more time.

However, the consequence of asking for deadline extensions and retakes can be study burnout. The retakes and assignments you have to submit will increase with time, making you feel more overwhelmed and panicked. Figuring out what’s causing your study burnout will help you quickly solve the problem and prevent it from happening later in your academic life.

Overcoming Study Burnout

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent burnout. Some include:

1. Take multiple breaks

Typically, a lot of students struggle to take sufficient breaks. Breaks are significant when studying. You ideally want to take frequent breaks when studying. If required, you can also use the Pomodoro technique or apply the spaced repetition method to learn information more efficiently. 

Consider scheduling time in your calendar to relax and indulge in activities that help you relax. Also, aim to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Go out for a walk every day at whatever time you find fit. It will clear your mind and help you de-stress.

2. Follow an Adaptable Schedule

While stress isn’t the same as burnout, stress can definitely result in burnout when not managed properly. The primary reason behind stress is being unrealistic about your goals and your ability to meet them, taking up more courses than you can handle, and having a social life that leaves little time for work.

Not only is it essential to avoid taking up many classes, but you should also ensure that you have a combination of courses. Even a student passionate about psychology would start finding the subject taxing when their schedule is filled with only psych courses. Similarly, you should also make sure you are setting attainable goals. This way, you will be more likely to stick to your schedule.

3. Practice Self-Care

One vital step to recovering from study burnout is by taking charge of your physical and mental health. In an ideal world, reaching a burnout point would mean immediately taking some days off to rest and relax. However, most students can’t simply clear their schedules.

For this reason, practicing good self-care will make recharging easier for you than other strategies to reset. A few habits to put to practice include making enough time for restful sleep, spending time with loved ones or alone if you prefer so, trying to get some physical activity every day, eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and trying meditation, yoga, or other mindfulness practices to tap into enhanced relaxation.

4. Mix Up Studying Habits 

Numerous studies prove that students who vary where and how they study remember the information better than those who don’t. Your brain is capable of making associations between what you study and where you study it. So, the greater the number of associations, the better rooted your memory will be. 

Consider mixing up study methods to avoid burnout. For instance, alongside learning from MCAT study prep books on your own, consider joining or setting up a small study group with other people on your course. You can use these sessions to revise for a specific exam. It will also allow you to test your knowledge to help others while also getting help from others. Additionally, working with other students might also help you stop procrastinating.

Ahead of the Curve

You are already one step closer to recovering from study burnout when you admit your feelings of stress. After all, you have taken the most important step to address burnout—acknowledging the problem. Burnout is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The earlier you address it, the easier it is to overcome.

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