Art by Autumn Harwick
During midterms, motivation levels begin to dwindle and stress levels rise, students said. This makes them feel overwhelmed they said— leading to burnout.
Students said burnout is very common when they feel overworked. Without a conscious effort to keep up a healthy mindset, the burnout blues can take over, leading to symptoms of exhaustion, emptiness and difficulty functioning, according to a Verywell Mind article.
“Burnout is when you’re getting tired, not feeling the motivation and the inner energy that you used to at the beginning of the semester,” said Connie Horton, vice president for Student Affairs. “You just feel like you’re slogging through versus at your peak.”
Applying the strategies the RISE program teaches is a good place to start in avoiding burnout, Horton said.
RISE is Pepperdine’s Resilience-Informed Skills Education Program that helps students build self-care skills to “bounce back from life’s challenges great or small.” Engaging in movement, practicing healthy eating and prioritizing sleep are skills from the physical dimension of resilience, according to the “RISE Roadmap to Resilience.“
“For one in the physical dimension, just be sure that you’re taking care of your body,” Horton said. “Think, if you’re feeling tired, are you getting enough sleep? If you’re not feeling energetic, are you exercising and eating enough?”
In addition to physical well-being, it is important to take care of mental well-being, Horton said. She said students should use skills from the cognitive dimension of resilience such as striving to maintain a growth mindset and combating irrational thoughts.
“A growth mindset says, ‘Something might be new and challenging, but I can work at it and learn,'” according to a Sept. 28 RISE Instagram post.
It is important to have a strategy for tackling difficult assignments, such as breaking them into parts or seeking help from a tutor, Horton said.
The last dimension students should focus on is spiritual well-being, Horton said. She said gratitude is the key to a positive attitude.
“When I start feeling fatigued with a lack of motivation and energy, I say to myself, ‘You know what, it is hard, but it’s a privilege to be in school,'” Horton said. “So, I’m going to seize the moment of this opportunity.”
Horton said to keep a healthy mindset, one must keep perfectionism in check. She said it is important to put things into perspective and not combine one’s self-worth with academic or work accomplishments.
To help with productivity, Horton recommended study strategies from the book, “The Now Habit,” by Neil Fiore. The book provides tips on procrastination, particularly the idea of breaking large assignments or study sessions up into smaller time chunks with frequent short breaks.
“I think to avoid burnout in the first place, try to let go of a perfectionistic mindset,” said Cory Robertson, assistant director of Student Success. “Rather than thinking of the perfect end result, think of the first steps and use these as building blocks.”
Robertson said one commonly used technique for studying in chunks is the Pomodoro Technique. This process breaks up work into 25-minute increments followed by five-minute breaks.
“[The Pomodoro Technique] can be useful if you’re feeling really overwhelmed,” Robertson said. “You can choose to just focus on one thing for a period of time, which helps you stick to the task at hand.”
Robertson said procrastination is a vicious cycle that stems from trying to avoid some sort of unpleasant emotion. Procrastination doubles down on anxiety since it causes guilt and stress — which continues the cycle of negative associations.
“It’s recommended to forgive yourself, which is easier said than done,” Robertson said. “But, rather than focusing on the guilt, you want to let that go and then think of what will make the task a better experience and process.”
Students said they have applied variations of these study habits to ease the burden of their workloads.
“I try my best to spread out my studying and writing so that I can do a manageable amount each day and have time to rest,” sophomore Carter Thomas said.
Besides study practices, students said they found filling breaks with small rewards aids their productivity.
“I like to give myself time to catch up with friends, whether it be through FaceTime or hanging out as often as I can, to allow myself a brain break,” sophomore Ava Moreno said. “Getting to talk brings me joy and releases any accumulated anxiety.”
Sometimes burnout is too difficult to face alone, even after trying to apply healthy habits, Horton said. When the anxiety is too overwhelming, it is important to reach out for help.
“There are so many resources available at Pepperdine,” Horton said, “First, don’t forget your faculty — they chose Pepperdine because they want to work with you individually.”
Additionally, Horton said she encourages students to go to the Student Success Center for tutoring or help with writing. For further support, resilience coaches at the RISE office and licensed therapists at the Counseling Center are experts focused on mental health and combatting anxiety, Horton said.
“Just remember to be more gentle with yourself and say, ‘Maybe I can’t do it all right now, and that’s OK. I just need to take small steps,'” Robertson said.
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