Once upon a time, there was a giraffe named Franklin.
Franklin had a bit of a shorter neck than his friends. He often felt sad because he couldn’t reach the branches his friends could, and he thought he wouldn’t get to be as strong as they were.
Then, one day, he realized he could reach branches lower than his taller friends. Franklin found his special skill. Franklin was ahead of the game and always got the branch he wanted. Even when he had been doing the same thing for years and years he was still excited every time he found a nice, luscious, low branch.
I am not like Franklin. I feel my flame fizzling, and I’m burning out.
I took a full course load during the summer of 2022 and have had full course loads this fall and winter. Essentially, this means I’ve been a full-time student — with hardly any rest time — for the last 11 months.
I’ve always come in last in academics between myself and my life-long friends, but now that we are all in our own worlds at different colleges and universities I don’t feel like I need to catch up to them. It’s more that I feel like I need to prove to myself that I am capable and smart.
But I am not feeling capable and smart. I had midterms for four consecutive days before reading week, and as hard as I tried to study and do well, I found myself crying while lying on the floor every night. Now that the midterm grades have been released, I am once again lying on the floor crying.
I know that midterms are still up and running with only four weeks left of classes until the end of term, and plenty of you must be as burnt out as I am.
The World Psychiatry defines burnout as a psychological syndrome where people experience prolonged stressors at work, with people suffering from burnout often feeling exhausted, cynical and detached from their work.
While the journal labels burnout as an “occupational hazard,” I think it’s fair to say that as university students, we are in the midst of an intense workplace where stress is often high and long-lasting.
I’ll do my best to give some helpful information to anyone feeling the crushing weight of burnout. Although, I think the majority of us suffer burnout because we are competitive and people-pleasing, and so what I suggest may sound like impossible advice.
The first and most important thing is to learn to set boundaries and say “no.” Being able to say no is a difficult skill but one that is valuable in every circumstance. I associate being able to say no with setting healthy boundaries and self-advocacy.
I think that a lot of us get overwhelmed when we constantly agree to add more projects, activities, classes and jobs to our already full plates. When things get overwhelming, let yourself step away and take something off of your plate. Be okay with saying no. Nothing is more important than your mental health.
Another large component that goes hand-in-hand with setting boundaries is taking care of yourself. Make time for relaxation. Prioritize time with friends. More than that, go work out. Utilize the gym membership included in our tuition fees. Work out with a friend or two. Sometimes moving your body can make your whole day better.
Lastly, remember that there are people that will support you, listen to you and try to help you. Sometimes we need to learn to take control of our own lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help.
I wish we could all be like Franklin, but it’s okay that we’re not. Do your best and know that you are far from the only person feeling burnt out.