Pandemic Burnout for College Students: How You Can Recover
September 6, 2021
Pandemic or not, as college students, we find ourselves competing against everyone. We need entry-level jobs. If we don’t know anyone in our field, we won’t be hired. So, we want to do anything to stand out amongst the crowd. Even during this ongoing pandemic, we hold ourselves to the highest standards. For some, it seems impossible to fully avoid burnout.
Because of the pandemic’s invisible toll on us, it’s harder to investigate what’s missing from our lives. Therefore, it’s harder to recreate it in our socially-distanced reality. Besides that fact, the recreation of our lives before the pandemic is an overwhelming task in itself. What we are experiencing is boredom, burnout, and loneliness. We feel distanced from everyone – even people we see every day.
The importance of self care
Tina Franklin, a neuroscientist at Georgia Tech, says the pandemic is “exposing people to microdoses of unpredictable stress all the time.” Many report experiencing a sense of heaviness, mental fog, and overall exhaustion. For college students, this overall exhaustion is at a greater extreme due to juggling part-time work and full-time schooling. In fact, about 40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week.
“What’s very clear in the literature,” according to Franklin, “is that environmental enrichment—being outside of your home, bumping into people, commuting, all of these changes that we are collectively being deprived of—is very associated with synaptic plasticity” (the brain’s ability to generate new connections and learn new things).
Beyond the exhausted solutions of “Take a break” and “Exercise and drink water”, how can we reach prolonged recovery (without taking a break from school or quitting your job)?
For the self
Invest in people you are in touch with. Going towards others and spending time properly getting to know them will strengthen your energy and morale. As for people you’ve lost touch with, reach out and plan a video chat to catch up.
Activate different areas of your mind. Introducing variety into your day is a grounding technique. Learn something new that has nothing to do with your job.
Identify each stressor. Step out of the pandemic blur of stress and pinpoint exactly what has you feeling blocked. Ask people you’re close with what they think is stressing you out the most.
If you find yourself in a leadership position
Appreciate your subordinates. And let them know. Congratulate their work and offer sincere feedback. A seen employee is a happy employee.
Be clear and reasonable. The pandemic has everyone overwhelmed with work. Ensure the workload is reasonable and deadlines aren’t too optimistic. Knowing your employees’ limits is a great step in figuring out what is too much.
Reinvigorate the community. Get people together – beyond Zoom. As people are getting vaccinated, schedule a co-worker get-together outdoors. This will help remind everyone that the relationships in your organization are tangible.
At the end of the day, we are all affected by pandemic burnout. Going towards each other and reminding ourselves that we are not alone is how we will move forward. Rekindling our personal, academic and professional motivation is on the horizon.
India Fuchs is an editorial intern at The Ideamix. She is a junior at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY with a concentration in film and architecture. India is interested in sustainable architecture and dance.