Burnout consists of three dimensions: physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion; feelings of detachment; and low self-efficacy. For students, this might look like an unshifting sense of fatigue, detachment and cynicism towards your studies, and feeling incapable of studying well or achieving your desired results. This article addresses how you can recover from academic burnout, especially while navigating the e-learning environment.
Burnout is a consequence of chronic stress that often creeps up on us and clouds our everyday life before we are able to acknowledge what’s happening. Students have been faced with digital learning environments, new assessment formats and uncertainty regarding what their education may look like going forward. Research has shown digital learning, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased cynicism in medical students who began to doubt the usefulness of the studies. Another study confirmed that COVID-19-related changes to students’ routines increased their anxiety.
Particularly, they found social media usage was making anxiety worse among students because they were experiencing “learning, living and leisure” through mobile social media. However, social media was a greater predictor of anxiety when academic burnout was present. Students that were exhausted by study demands, presented a detached attitude to their studies and lower self-efficacy. This highlights that addressing academic burnout can reduce social media usage and in turn, the anxiety caused by COVID-19 related changes to student’s routines. If you’re distracting yourself from feelings of tiredness, disinterest in your studies, and ineffective study sessions that are consuming your day, addressing burnout can resolve these difficulties.
Engage in active recovery
It’s tempting and easy to gravitate towards passive forms of rest such as, watching tv or scrolling through social media but to recover – you need to aim for active recovery. This means getting regular and quality sleep, taking time away from your phone or computer, and engaging in activities help you relax. It could be as simple as taking a distraction-free walk, spending a few minutes meditating, or having a quality conversation with a friend. Do something that involves being present in the moment, away from your studies or those things that are causing you distress. A brief break is likely to be more productive than dragging yourself through work you can’t concentrate on or want to escape from. You can read more about the benefits of getting downtime here.
Introduce some novelty
Online lectures, with limited collaboration between peers, are understandably not the most exciting experience. It might feel like the parts of our education that are exciting are on ‘pause’ until further notice. But we can restore our interest in our studies by learning to introduce novelty into this ‘new’ normal. First, it might be worth going back to why you chose to study this subject in the first place. What were you looking forward to initially, and how can you renew that sense of excitement?
Second, approach your studies in new ways. You can try a new note-taking method, revision technique or explore the topics you do enjoy in your free time. It’s easier said than done, but having a go at treating your studies like a personal project or challenge can make this time feel more like an ongoing journey, instead of a passive and never-ending period that you must complete.
Restore your self-accomplishment
If you’re exhausted and detached from your studies, it’s natural to feel like an incapable student. Before getting organised, it might be worth reflecting on past accomplishments. When did you feel like a better student than you are now? What do you think can help you feel more like that again? Are there any previously submitted pieces of work that you are proud of or scored highly? Try to reconnect with the version of you that felt the most engaged and proud of their work. Then, taking some time to organise your time and studies can lighten your load, and allow you to break studying into manageable chunks. You can introduce some novelty here by trying out a new planning method or using trackers that create a tangible sense of accomplishment.
At the end of the day, just remember that your life is so much more than your studies. Though they might feel like everything, and to get them wrong will cause your world to come crashing down, neither of these things are really true. So take stock, get some perspective, give your studies only a healthy amount of concern, and keep moving forward!