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Managing End of Year Burnout

Late mid-semester breaks aren’t always easy. You push yourself for ten weeks, maybe get two weeks off (more likely use those two weeks to study and prepare for the month of assessments and exams when you get back) and then go straight into a month or so of intensive end-of-semester assignments and exams before launching straight into the festive season. 

When I signed up to write this article, I thought that my extensive experience with being burned out might help me, but I didn’t count on being burnt out when I was writing it. I feel like Steve Buscemi with a skateboard, saying how do you do fellow kids

But honestly, that is the best place to start with this article. Take a mental inventory of how you feel right now. Ignore what you think you should feel, what you might have lingering at the back of your mind or what might be coming up ahead. 

I’ll do it with you. Scan through your body and your mind and see what comes up for you. Me – I feel jittery and nervous and constantly feel like there is something I have forgotten about or could be doing better.  

If you know where you are starting, that can help you to figure what you might need to do to help yourself. Do you feel tired, sad, stressed, content, energetic? The University Managing Burnout (and finding balance) portal can be a useful place to start if you are feeling so disengaged that you can’t identify what is happening for you.  

It characterises burnout as, “a state of chronic emotional, physical and mental fatigue, which is often caused by excessive and prolonged periods of stress.” So how do you recover from this?  

I’m gonna start you off with some tips and tricks I use, after having been at university for five years. Some of the best advice I have ever received when feeling overwhelmed with end-of-semester assignments is to imagine what it will feel like when you are done. I can hear you saying shut up, I have to do it first for it be done, but I want you to take a moment and imagine what it feels like, what finishing for the year (or forever) might feel like for you. When I imagine turning in my final submission, I feel like a weight is lifted and I can breathe again. 

Channel that energy, that feeling. Write down what you need to do to achieve it. I’ve written a timeline for the next 5 Wednesdays before my submission is due. This can help with breaking down what might need to be done to achieve that feeling of relief – do you need to get books out from the library, study with a friend once a week, write up a study timetable around your work and other commitments? Navigator has some other hot tips here

Give yourself a reward to look forward to at the end of your exams and assessment season. Imagine how good it will feel to have that treat, no matter whether it is booking in for a self-care appointment, celebrating with friends or watching that series you’ve been dying to catch up on.  

This may seem self-explanatory, but look after yourself. It can be easy to skip sleep, reach for unhealthy food or stay sitting for hours at a time, but ultimately it doesn’t help how you feel. Just like you are scheduling in time to study, don’t forget to schedule in time for sleep, cooking and exercising.  

Make sure you stay in touch with people, whether it is your classmates, family, bestie, significant other or university staff, so that they can help you get over that final hurdle. You can also connect with peers on TalkCampus. TalkCampus offers free, 24/hr access to multilingual mental health and wellbeing support.

But if you are really struggling and need assistance, I also encourage you to get help, whether that be from the university in the form of counselling or extensions (contact your lecturer or Course Coordinator) or reaching out to your doctor. The stress of university should not be taking over your life to the point where you cannot function or have trouble participating in life. 

If your tank is nearly empty, running dry is not going to help you get over the finish line. Taking the time to acknowledge how you feel and then take steps to help yourself and ensure you can finish on a high.  

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