Students are often nervous about the prospect of covering a substantial amount of material in just a few years. Even the most resilient of students can encounter challenges throughout their educational journey. Hence it is important that universities equip their pupils with the psychological tools required to help students manage their time and workload efficiently without burning out. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Day, St. George’s University (SGU), School of Medicine, Grenada, in the Caribbean explains what burnout means and shares simple interventions that students can implement to prevent feeling burnt out.
Symptoms of burnout and intervention
Burnout stems from persisting academic or workplace stress and is often conceptualized by feeling exhausted, out of physical energy, emotional energyor apathetic. Having negative emotions or cynicism related to one’s studies and suffering a reduced sense of personal or academic accomplishment can also be felt as a result of burnout.
Left untreated, burnout can cause people to become distracted, depressed, and anxious which can impact their academic performance and relationships.
There are a couple of things that students can do to reduce their chances of burnout. However, these interventions are all based on one important element which is to improve the relationship between the individual and their work or studies.
Take multiple breaks
This is probably something you’ve been told a thousand times, but we’re going to say it louder for the people in the back: You cannot sustain productivity levels without taking proper deliberate breaks away from your desk.
This means a combination of doing things that are relaxing and undemanding, and things you genuinely enjoy. This also means logging off for the night, having some time to unwind and getting some proper sleep.
If you notice yourself experiencing higher levels of fatigue, be wary of taking on more demands. You might experience an initial sense of guilt but it’s important to ride through this so that you don’t contribute further to your own exhaustion.
This might be coming together at the end of the day to cook dinner together or talking remotely over Zoom. Having a sense of common humanity and feeling of “ we’re in this together”, helps to promote collaboration rather than cynicism.
Carving out time for exercise
Whatever this looks like for you, exercise helps to restore energy associated with burnout. Exercise should physically take you away from your books, so be wary of bringing notes into the gym or listening to lectures through your headphones.
Pay attention to ways in which your school offers to support you and ensure that you take full advantage of these services. Using the resources available to you, will help to decrease some of your perceived demands. For example, at SGU, we encourage all our students to work with the mental health experts at our Psychological Services Center where we provide a safe space for them to process their feelings.
Focus on your wins
Managing your expectations of yourself is also incredibly important. Recognize every small area of progress and growth in your studying methods, or in following lectures or small incremental improvements in your exam performance.
Acknowledge and express difficult feelings you have towards whatever stage you are at in your academic journey. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel such a huge range of emotions, and that some days will be less than perfect.
Because burnout erodes empathy and professionalism, it’s important to find ways to return to yourself and remember who you are, and what you hope to achieve in your life. Mindfulness training, compassion training, and other contemplative practices that help you slow down and be in the moment are vital for preventing and addressing burnout.
And one more thing
You are not alone. Burnout hasn’t just happened to you; it can happen to anyone embedded in a system that demands much. Everyone in the system is vulnerable to burnout. David Anthonisz, Director, International Student Recruitment at St. George’s University explains “The Psychological Services Center at SGU is there to support students 24 hours a day and functions autonomously from the university administration and academic decision-making. This means students get complete confidentiality and privacy in their conversations, providing a safe space for students to open up and not feel alone.” Understanding this important idea will help you build your own specific plan for reclaiming your energy and passion for what you are doing.
Founded in 1976 with the goal of drawing the best talent and practices from around the world, St. George’s University (SGU) has become a center for academic excellence worldwide. With students and faculty drawn from more than 150 countries, SGU is truly an international institution, with a global perspective, poised to help educate students in this rapidly changing world. St. George’s University School of Medicine has a four-year Doctor of Medicine degree program or offers five-, six-, and seven-year Medical Degree Pathways with entry points available for students from any education system around the world. SGU has a large network of 75+ affiliated hospitals and health centres in the US and UK and also has a unique opportunity for students to begin their medical career in Grenada, the United Kingdom, or India.