Yep, there’s that word again: burnout. It’s been tossed around in conversations, sprinkled throughout social media, and casually mentioned across college campuses nationwide. It’s not uncommon to hear that yet another college student or faculty member is experiencing the dreaded burnout during the semester, and NAU is definitely not an exception.
Sure, you’ve heard of it, but what exactly is it? It’s more than just feelings of stress around finals. We all have days when everything is more difficult than usual; in fact, stress often motivates us to be productive. Burnout is different because it’s relentless. According to Rhonda Gillylan, a Student Services Advisor, “burnout is emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is caused by ongoing stress.” Symptoms include overwhelming feelings like stress, anxiety, sadness, and exhaustion, loss of motivation, lack of energy, and complete boredom. Burnout also causes cognitive difficulties, like slower motor skills and thought processes, physical health problems, difficulty managing relationships, and impaired academic performance that leads to lower grades.
If you find yourself recognizing some or most of these symptoms in yourself, fear not. We have some tips to help you treat burnout. And if you're not feeling burned out, you can use the same tips to help prevent these symptoms from developing in the first place.
1. Get on a Schedule and Practice Being Proactive
When our brains spiral into “what if” questions, our potential to experience symptoms of stress and burnout is greater. It’s important to come up with a plan of action in order to prevent those anxious feelings about hypothetical situations that could range from how poorly you reacted to a friend’s comment to how badly you might fail a test that’s in the near future. One of the easiest ways to prevent anxiety from taking over is to practice being proactive and create a schedule for yourself. It can be helpful to develop a routine that feels manageable and helps keep us on track. There are many ways to start your own personalized routine, so here are some pinterest results for college routines, college schedules, and bullet journals for beginners.
2. Get Some Exercise
Countless studies have shown that being more active leads to a happier brain and body, and it increases cognitive performance. In other words, exercise helps you feel healthier, happier, and will put you in a better position to succeed academically. For some, it can be difficult to know how to start being more active, and going to the gym is less appealing and more daunting. Lucky for you, Flagstaff has a variety of hiking trails of varying skill levels; when the weather is too poor to be outside, there are also some fun indoor options to check out. Hiking trails include Aspen Loop, Devil's Bridge, Doe Mountain, Lockett Meadow, Margs Draw, and Fay Canyon. Indoor options include Flagstaff Climbing Center (Monday-Friday 10-10, Saturday-Sunday 12-8) and Flagstaff Aquaplex (6-9 Monday-Saturday, 10-6 Sunday). Visit this link for more opportunities to be active in Flagstaff.
3.Get Some Sleep
Sleep is one of the easiest and most important ways to improve your health, both physically and emotionally. It helps you eat better, can improve concentration, increase productivity, and strengthen your immune system. One of the easiest ways to help improve your sleep habits is to unplug. Taking a break from technology can lead to significant improvements in a short span of time. The blue light that is embedded into most screens, such as televisions, phones, and computers, tricks our brains into subconsciously keeping itself awake. This can drastically affect our sleep schedules, mental health, and overall stress levels. Unplugging before bed is especially important because it allows our brain to rest and shift into sleep easily.
4. Get Social
One of the most important things that you can do is surround yourself with people who support you and hold you accountable. These people could be roommates, friends, family, coworkers, and more. What’s more, Flagstaff prides itself on being a vibrant community. There’s always something happening, and a new friend might be just around the corner. To see what’s happening around town, you can check plenty of billboards scattered around the city or go to this link. Additionally, Downtown Flagstaff is home to many coffee shops and lounge spaces that are perfect for relaxation, concentration, or socialization. Three local favorites include Firecreek Coffee (Sunday-Tuesday 7-7, Wednesday-Saturday 7-9), Steep (Sunday-Thursday 8-10, Friday-Saturday 8-11), and Macy’s Coffee House (6-6 every day).
5. Get Creative
Sometimes starting off the day with an inspirational activity (e.g., journaling, meditation, reading something fun, or another creative outlet) can be a great way to boost your energy. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous—in fact, the smaller the activity you choose to do, the better! When your first activity in the morning is a small and engaging action, it jump starts your brain and allows it to prepare for the more complicated, strenuous tasks you have planned. It also puts you in a great mood and sets you up for a mindset that can tackle anything. Flagstaff is riddled with shops that sell creative journals and supplies. You could step foot in the local Bookman’s, the Crystal Magic shop, or even the NAU bookstore to find a simple coloring book or guidance toward staying engaged. Additionally, around the corner from you, there’s always a local artist painting walls or selling their own art. A walk down an alley could spark inspiration for your own creative outlets.
6. Get Some Help
People often need help overcoming burnout. NAU’s on-campus health services offer a variety of different counseling experiences, including individual counseling, couples counseling, group therapy sessions, and appointments focused on specific topics. To learn more, visit this link. There are also other options in the Flagstaff area that can be found through various accessible online resources.
7. Get Realistic
Above all else, don’t be hard on yourself. Every NAU student has experienced burnout in some form or another. You’ve got a community at your fingertips. With a little hard work, determination, patience, and more than enough coffee shops for one town, there is still hope. Always remember: the true measure of success is being able to step back and evaluate what can be better. You got this!