• Katie Heyes

Dealing with Academic Burnout - How I got through it

Soooo, long time no see! It really has been quite the hiatus! Despite making a lot of plans and projects for the Christmas season, the past few hectic months have meant that blogging had to be postponed. However, after getting back to Uni and settling back into a regular routine, I can now get back to prioritising blogging. Let me tell you it feels good to be back! I’ve got so much to catch you up on!

Where to start? Well, the main reason for my blogging absence has been Uni deadlines. Despite the holy jolly season of Christmas drawing nearer sadly so too were assessment deadlines. Not going to lie, they were tough to get through! Whilst blogging is certainly one of my favourite hobbies, it’s also important to prioritise academics, which sadly left very little room for writing posts. However, now that first term is done and dusted, upon retrospect I see that I was working too hard and burnt myself out towards the end.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to force yourself into squeezing as much work out of yourself as you possibly can to have a productive day, but actually this can be quite counter-productive. I thought I'd share my experience with you, offering advice on how to get through a heavy workload without reaching a point of physical and mental exhaustion

1. Tendency to Cram rather than Study: It was only after starting Uni that I realised just how unhealthy this intense cycle of working was. Towards the end of term, overworking became a habitual thing, some days spending 6 or 7 hours at a time in the library with no break. Now seeing that amount on a page, you may be thinking 6 hours! Wow! That’s dedication! But no matter what anyone says, that amount of solid, concentrated work in one day isn't healthy. Although I'm proud that I put my 100% effort into revision, I know that I didn't attempt it in the healthiest way.

2. Effects on Physical Health: One of the worst habits I fell into was the amount of coffees I drank on daily basis. Just to give me that little boost for the day…though when I say little, it was more like 3…maybe 4… okay 5. Obviously this amount of caffeine intake isn’t healthy (we can’t all be Lorelai Gilmore after all) but the worst thing was that at the time, I was under the assumption that this this was completely normal. Uni is just tiring, right? Missing meals also became common. For my college in Uni we’re fully catered so shouldn’t have any excuse should I? But come dinner time I’d already be in the library and would feel guilty interrupting revision just to quickly grab some food. All these little things which at the time seemed fine but looking back now it's clear how damaging this was to my everyday functioning.

3. Anxiety: Sadly, the workload led to some panic attacks. I’m quite a sensitive person anyway and find it difficult to confide in people. So at the time, I found it better to remain in denial about my feelings rather than waste time trying to work through them. I’d have a lot more down days than normal; some days I'd feel utterly defeated and with no motivation to carry on. However, thankfully, I have wonderful people in my life who helped me get through these tough times! (You all know who you are if you’re reading this!)

So in retrospect it's clear that the amount of time stressed over work wasn’t healthy, it came to a point where it felt all-consuming. However, despite how much of struggle it was at the time, I did find some coping mechanisms which helped me get through these challenging moments that I thought I'd share with you.

1. Make a timetable: Finding the right balance between work and free time is crucial in order to stay motivated! Now let’s be honest, no-one likes looking at a dull timetable, how are you meant to feel productive with a boring plan? So why not make bring some colourl to it! Get some highlighters and coloured pencils to give it that vibrant feel. But don’t just limit this to revision sessions and lectures (things you may not initially be feeling up for!) Fill in the fun times like catch-ups with friends and shopping trips as a little motivator for the week! Making your timetable fun as well as productive will also help to stay focused yet also inspired to continue. I find colour coding to be the most effective method to decrease stress levels as a visual indicator of how much work I’ve done and need to do. In fact, my Uni planner has a checklist which definitely adds to that sense of fulfilment at the end of a long day. Even if you’re planner doesn’t have one, why not make your own? Seeing your goals laid out in front of you rather than all mumbled together in your head has not only reduced stress levels but has helped me feel organised. By checking them off you’ll experience relief through that proud sense of accomplishment.

2. Try a sport: What’s this? Katie recommending doing a sport? Now for those of you who are like me don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous at all! Trust me I’m one of the least sporty people you’ll ever meet, but even I can squeeze in a little hour per week to switch off and focus on something else. Recently, I’ve taken up rowing and I had no idea just how relaxing and in some ways beautiful it can be. Whilst you may be aching all over at the end of an outing, it’s all worth it for the sense of fulfilment you get at the end. Upon finishing I remember feeling so refreshed and motivated for the day which really has improved my overall well-being and work ethic. Even if it’s just a 10-minute jog around college or just a little walk around college, little breaks from work can make the world of difference to your mental as well as physical wellbeing.

3. Reach out to a friend or family member: One of the ways to get me through a stressful week is having things to look forward to. The best thing about having a college system in Uni is the closeness everyone has with one another and this is mainly due to many fun little events being organised, sometimes on a weekly basis. Bops, karaoke nights, formals… these are all great ways to relax, socialise with friends and enjoy the Uni experience. In some ways, it feels as if fresher’s week never ended. But even if your Uni doesn’t have a college system, why not drop your friend a little message and ask if they want to meet up or maybe even work together. With my friendship groups in Uni, I’ve enjoyed many fun little film nights, restaurant outings and yes even revision sessions. No matter how intense the workload gets, it’s important to still confide in people you trust when you’re feeling down. Personally, this is something I still struggle with, but I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everybody for the lovely times we’ve shared together so far this year and for helping me through the tough times! Again you know who you are and I’ve enjoyed every second of our get-togethers. In retrospect, I can see this definitely helped me get through Uni work as the little outings and meet-ups would instantly cheer me up during my low points. You really do underestimate how one quick “hello” or “how are you” can instantly brighten up someone’s day.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and can get something out of it. Take it one step at a time! I promise you, you’ll get through it! So you're probably wondering what I'll be doing with my blogging schedule, and truth be told I’m awful at sticking to one! My goal is to post weekly or at the very least fortnightly every Wednesday but even if I can’t get a blog post out as soon as I want to, my DM’s are always open on my Instagram liked below, offering self-care advice on a more regular basis! Thank you so much for reading this post and I'll see you again shortly with another one!

- Katie x


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