Am I Lazy or Exhausted? Academic Burnout Rises Among University Students

College students are suffering more and more from academic burnout. Image courtesy of Your Teen Magazine.

College students are suffering more and more from academic burnout. Image courtesy of Your Teen Magazine.

Caroline Joung, Journalist

The crippling sensation that is sweeping the nation, academic burnout is a recent hot topic amongst college students, as students struggle with motivation and drive towards their academic careers.

Picture this: After a long and harrowing journey to make it to your dream college, you’re finally at university. It’s a drastically different experience than high school. You’ve been given freedom over your life to a degree that you’ve never possessed before. You’re expanding your relationships with different people from different backgrounds. It’s all going great.

But as the credits fly by, deadlines pile up, finals pour in, and coffee runs out, you find yourself struggling to maintain that once endless well of energy and stamina to get things done throughout the day. It is a steadily declining process that begins with missing an assignment or two from mental fatigue and ends with not having the mental capacity nor strength to accomplish any task, big or small.

Academic burnout refers to a negative response to academic duties that result in mental exhaustion, depression, and sometimes anger. Dawdling from one’s studies is often ridiculed as laziness and a classic case of procrastination, which is why it is often confused with burnout. The main difference between the two is that laziness comes from a simpler place of not wanting to do anything. There is no driving or reasonable force behind laziness. It is simply skiving off of one’s duties when they are fully capable of accomplishing a task.

Academic burnout greatly differs from laziness, as there is a core motivator behind it; overworking. Burnout is the result of one’s stress being heightened for a prolonged period of time without taking the time to destress. In other words, if you run through life with the same intensity of work, activity, and responsibilities without giving yourself the time to breathe, you will quite literally burn yourself out until there is no motivation left to do even the simplest of things. Students suffering from burnout are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches or insomnia and are more prone to negative emotions such as sudden bursts of anger or sadness.

Burnout levels amongst college students have been on a steady increase over the past decade, and an overlapping global pandemic has not made it any easier to cope with, as 83% of college students refer to school responsibilities as their main reason for feeling burnt out this year alone.

It is now more than ever that universities must acknowledge the symptoms and possible treatments towards the academic burnout that affects so many students. There are simple remedies that can help suffering students get back on the right path. The main thorn to focus on is creating time to relax and breathe throughout the day so that one’s workload becomes less overwhelming with time. This can be accomplished by taking a step back and rearranging your schedule by setting reasonable goals. It is also recommended to participate in outdoor activities and exercise to alleviate stress.

There are many of us that believe we have an unlimited pool of energy and grit to do anything we put our minds up to. We push through, with the firm belief that every assignment we’ve missed can be solved through an all-nighter, and every bump in a project or scruple with a teammate will disappear if we ignore it long enough. However, it’s important for each and every one of us to acknowledge that stress is a cumulative beast that topples over if we leave it to grow long enough. It is through accepting our limits and adjusting accordingly that we avoid burnout and accomplish more in a healthier manner.