Let's Chat About Burnout - Avoiding? Overcoming?
"You will burn out by the time you are 25." - The first time I heard this, I was about 17 years old. Studying hard in high school, working twice a week, volunteering twice a week and so much more. Yet, I was only 17. However, my case wasn't that magical. In our generation, we are raised to believe that nothing is ever enough.
We think we have to know what we want to do when we are about 15 and know exactly when we are 18 and going to college. There are TV recordings of me talking about wanting to be a programmer and a robotics engineer. Well, we can see how that turned out.
We are made to believe that the dream job, is that of people who work 80-100 hours a week. Because that is the only way you actually love what you do. The culture of the "GRIND", driving us all mad even before we can truly begin growing up.
My response at 17, was laughing it off, and saying: I love what I do, there is no way I will burn out, because of that! Well, future Eszti, has a very different perception of this reality. Loving my work, means I realize a need for getting ahead of burning out. It is my duty to protect my passions, and love for my work, by making sure I don't obsess over work. My work does not equal my life.
Yet as a lot of college students will agree with me, this is much easier said than done. I have seen most of my friends get very close to burning out. It's hard to stop the "grind" when it seems that no one around you is stopping. We have normalized this idea that several all-nighters a week are needed to succeed in college and life. We have normalized this idea that not getting an internship means we are worthless. That not being a part of 42738042 organizations, clubs, design teams and so on equal us not working hard enough.
And, I would lie if I said I was any better. I know how wrong this is, yet I will still do them...
But. I am working on getting better at it!
The irony so far? I have become much more productive and have been able to do a great variety of things since trying to get ahead of burning out and going against my ideologized world of the grind.
So here are some of the things that have and haven't worked for me so far on my quest of avoiding and overcoming burnout:
The big no - Meditation
I know, I know. People swear by this method, how it has helped them manage both their mindest and mental well being in general. And I promise I have tried. I have tried for years again and again. It just truly doesn't work for me. Meditation only makes my stress and anxiety climb ever so higher. I understand how it can help people concentrate on one thing, but frankly, I just get bored of it in a matter of minutes. However, if you think it might work for you. Here are some great resources to get started:
The big yes - Gaming
I know, this list as is random as it gets. However, I truly love to game. This does not mean that I am a pro gamer, or frankly that I am any good at gaming. However, I do really enjoy some quick matches in between classes, or after I finish my lunch and need a little break. Gaming definitely helps keep my mind focused on something that is not work. Personally, I do not recommend playing in competitive modes of games, or when where ranks are kept, as that to me does ruin the enjoyment of the game itself. It lets me not stress and just have some fun. This is also because my goal is to not be the best, but just to have some time off and enjoy myself. My current and basically only games I play are Overwatch and The Sims 4. Again, quite a random combination, yet they both work for me as a different type of time off.
The sometimes - Painting & Crafts
I do love to paint and craft some things. However, this time I don't mean the type of crafting that I would usually do at the lab. Creating with a laser cutter and CNCs is a very different time than just sitting down and painting a little picture, or decorating a little craft project. This doesn't always work for me. Partially because setting these up is a bigger task than just opening up a game and playing for 15 minutes. However, when I am looking to take more time off, I do love to just paint something. Again, I am no artist, and my goal is;t to create a masterpiece. It is something I do for myself, to get away from everything else.
The very new - Journaling
Yes, another mainstream way of coping with life. I can't say just yet how successful this will be. But I have given in and started a few weeks ago. Currently, my main issue is to remind myself to do it. As I do forget quite often, and I haven't seen a crazy improvement or change just as of yet. I am starting small, with little prompts to answer. I know that giving myself empty pages to fill would feel more like a job, or a task. So currently, it's small, few-word answers to questions or things to think about. It does force me to think about happy and positive things in my days. Which I do think could be beneficial as a regular thought to occur.
The must - Short Timeline Planning
Don't even get me started on how planning has saved me. I don't mean long-term planning, because I have always been a planner. But planning every task I had to do in the next 3 months was s nightmare. My desk was constantly filled with post-it notes of everything I had to get done. It was truly a nightmare of post-its.
Now, I began planning only a week at a time. I write up every task in my planner when it comes up. But! I do not even think fo them until they are within a reasonable time frame. For example, I take note of when all my exams will be. But I do not think of them until they are not about a week, week and a half away. I have a strict rule of not memorizing the weeks anymore, and not checking pages ahead in my planner except to take notes of future things. This helps me not stress or focus on things that are not a task or problem yet. It allows me to focus on current tasks, which has helped me tremendously. If you remember anything from this post, it's to never, and I repeat NEVER FLIP AHEAD IN YOUR PLANNER.
The never again - Leaving Notifications On
This one is very straightforward. I know you want to have that class group chat or discord channel of a class or to check your emails constantly. Please, and I am begging you, don't do this. You will frankly, go mad. The only way to stop working when you need to stop is by leaving all of that behind. And seeing people discussing projects, assignments, or exams you haven't done or have already down will drive you insane, and make you about 1000x more stressed than you need to be.
The always - Working out
Last but not least. Working out. By this, I don't mean going to the gym every day. I don't mean becoming a pro weightlifter (except if that's what you want to do). I just mean moving your body. Especially since the pandemic started we have been living our lives from inside our rooms. It's been hard to get this part done. But even if it's just going for a 10 minute or walk. Or just walking a few rounds in your apartment, this can change the game. Try to move your body, in any way that fits you and your needs. Stretch, do yoga, do HIIT workouts, go to the gym, go on hikes with friends. No matter how or why you like it, just do it. Working out is the main thing that has kept me from going totally insane in the past year, so just trust me on this one.
So there you have it. My list of things that have or haven't worked in trying to avoid and overcome moments of burning out. I definitely can't say that I am a pro at working this out. I even struggle sometimes with the ones I have listed above. Just remember to be patient and forgiving with yourself. You need to take time for yourself. No, the world will not crumble if you prioritize taking a break over an assignment. In fact, it will help you greatly in the long run. Hang in there!