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Getting to the root of burnout


Burnout is something everyone should know decently well. I would say going to school in the United States makes burnout a constant worry you have to work around. I think it’s not a bad skill to learn as you go through schooling even if it’s not explicitly taught, but as we approach finals week, I again become concerned about a pattern I’ve noticed students take in general. That pattern is working with burnout and acting as if it’s better than taking a break due to burnout. 

For the blessed angelic few who have never experienced burnout: burnout is the state of being overworked to a degree you must recuperate to regain energy. It is an unenviable condition. As such working with it feels incredibly taxing, and almost any task can cause burnout. Burnout can be caused by anything from working a normal job to just studying. The problem is some people think that working through burnout makes you tougher. It’s extremely common to hear people say something to the effect of “ I spent x amount of hours studying last night with no sleep.” We all know that what’s being displayed is extremely unhealthy, so why don’t we say anything about it? 

In my opinion, it comes from three societal pressures. The first is the idea of productivity being equal to the amount of burnout you’re experiencing. We have this strange antiquated idea that working yourself to the bone is a noble sacrifice for the product you’re producing. Anyone who has done this to themselves can tell you it’s a zero sum total. The end product will be worse off for it and so will you. 

Another of these pressures is the idea of success going to those who work unhealthily hard. While it’s true obviously working hard will give good results, working to the point of mental and sometimes physical anguish isn’t admirable. Often the corners you cut to make such efforts will hurt not only your mental health but your physical health as well. 

The final societal pressure is the fear of people deeming you lazy or unrealistic. This is the one I have seen more prominently in my own life as a student. The pressure from fellow students, educators and even outside influences to pick up so many extracurriculars, do so much homemark and push yourself to an unrealistic limit. 

My main piece of advice is to ignore these pressures. Your work can occur naturally without the need of pushing yourself past an external limit. In fact, the best thing for your work is to take regular breaks, set good limits, spend time with friends and set healthy habits. As we approach finals week, I implore you to work towards setting those healthy habits to keep yourself healthy and happier. While academics and grades are important, nothing is more important than your mental and physical health.

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