By Emma Campbell
Elm Staff Writer
My roommate and I love making lists. I keep them on my phone; she scrawls them in a little yellow notebook covered in colorful post-it notes and sticky flags. On my lists I include mundane tasks such as “take shower,” “take vitamins,” “make the bed.” Hers is less specific, but still important to her.
For us, lists are a way to combat the exhaustion that often clouds the life of a hurried college student. They are a way to avoid “burnout,” the plague of Millennials and Gen Z’s with too much on their plates.
The term “burnout” is a relatively new psychological term, first introduced to the world by Herbert Freudenberger in his book published in 1974, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” In other words, if you find yourself exhausted, lacking in motivation, and feeling incapable in the most menial of tasks, you may be experiencing burnout.
The term “burnout” is a relatively new psychological term, first introduced to the world by Herbert Freudenberger in his book published in 1974, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
WC sophomore Liz Hay, who is enrolled in five classes and several student organizations including Greek Life, Model UN, and the Student Government Association, opened up about her experiences with burnout.
“I think there is so much pressure to be working on various things all the time at college and it can be really hard to take a step back,” Hay said. “Technology especially increases my sense of burnout because always having my phone and getting notifications of emails, canvas, and work messages means I never really get a break.”
Robert L. Bogue, co-author of the book Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery, spoke to The New York Times about the importance of self-care when it comes to coping with burnout.
“Self-care is dependent on the individual,” Bogue said. “It is based on what helps them to feel more like they’re in their natural state, which is the thing, place or feeling that would happen if there were no pressure on them — the thing they would want to do.”
The World Health Organization characterizes burnout in three dimensions. They are, as articulated on their website: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
While WHO may categorize burnout as a “workplace syndrome,” it also affects college students, particularly those who are currently enrolled in today’s institutions. In today’s competitive job market, students feel increased pressure to perform well academically.
Lists, like those generated by me and my roommate, are self-prescribed coping mechanisms. They are a tool used to sort through and prioritize tasks, and a way to evoke feelings of relief when one is completed and crossed off. There are other ways to cope with burnout.
Psychology Today suggests getting more sleep — easier said than done, but still something to consider — exercising regularly, practicing yoga or mindful meditation, and making time for activities that promote self-care.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of college life, remind yourself that these feelings are valid. If anything, they only prove that you care about the way in which the world perceives you. This is not a bad thing. But at the end of the day, remember that no matter how quickly those around you seem to be moving, it’s okay to slow down and take a breather. Submitting a paper a day late is not the end of the world, but not making your mental health a priority could be.