“Back to WAC”: Fighting burnout amid the last week of the spring semester

By Kaitlin Dunn

Elm Staff Writer

As the semester comes to an end, many Washington College students are facing a seemingly endless mountain of coursework, final exams, and other responsibilities. 

After months of virtual course meetings with minimal breaks, students are beginning to experience burnout amid the responsibilities of the semester, including preparing for final exams. 

Defined by the World Health Organization as a “syndrome,” “burnout” stems from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Here are some tips that can help you in the face of academic burnout as the semester ends. 

Be honest about your emotions

In order to address burnout, you first must acknowledge the signs of it, and consider how you are feeling. 

According to Healthline contributor Dr. Juli Fruga, common signs of burnout include exhaustion, irritability, lack of motivation, slipping job performance, and cognitive issues, to name a few. 

By being honest and addressing your symptoms of burnout, you can take the steps to either counteract it before it gets too bad or heal from it.

“One way to catch the early signs [of burnout] is to make a daily practice of asking yourself multiple times during your workday how you are feeling,” psychiatrist Dr. Jessi Gold at Washington University School of Medicine at St. Louis, said. 

Speak to someone

Sometimes, speaking to someone allows us to vent through our current issues. 

The Counseling Services department at the College campus is available to help students to cope with burnout. 

“Impediments to academic success may be related to more than one factor in a students’ life, [as] most of us have had multiple stressors during the past year of COVID-19,” Director of Counseling Services Miranda Altman said. “Talking with a counselor is a way of identifying barriers and creating a plan to move forward.”  

If you feel uncomfortable talking one-on-one, talk to friends, family, or another person you trust.  

“During stressful times, it’s important to reach out for help,” Dr. Fruga said. “If asking for assistance feels difficult, consider developing a self-care ‘check-in’ with close friends and family members so that you can take care of each other during trying times.” 

Take time for yourself

Though this may be difficult during final exams, it is important to take time for yourself in order to mitigate some of the effects and symptoms of burnout.

According to a recent report published under the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, taking breaks from your work allows you to break up some of the work and grants your mind some much-needed rest. 

According to the report, “if you study for [two] hours, take a 15-minute or so break,” and enjoy getting out of your room for a while, or “go for a walk”; however, “if you prefer to study for [four] hours, take an hour off and eat something healthy. In either case, if you find that your break time is not enough, take an extra [five] or 10 minutes per break.” 

In the face of academic burnout, these tips may help you to get through the last stretch of the semester mentally intact.

“Burnout can be avoided by making self-care part of your daily routine,” Dr. Fruga said. “Even if you’re working long hours, studying for exams, or taking care of young children, remember to sprinkle some joy into each day.” 

Featured Photo caption: As the spring semester winds down, many WC students continue to experience common signs of burnout — here’s how to combat these signs and come out on top. Photo by Izze Rios.

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