Dealing with burnout
Entering the last week of the semester, I have noticed that many students, including myself, look more tense and smile much less than in the beginning of the semester. Well, there is no need to wonder – the reason is obvious, by looking at the peach color marks for course assignments and exams on school Moodle calendar, and more assignment and exam announcements on Oiva, not to mention many other tasks we wanted to accomplish before the holiday starts. I was overwhelmed with stress a couple of weeks ago after I listed the deadlines for all assignments, group works and exams. So I tried to find information about dealing with stress on the Internet.
An article I found from Harvard medical school explained that feeling stress is a normal human reaction toward situations that are threatening, challenging, difficult or/and unpleasant. And feeling stress triggers our mind and body to react to the threat by fighting against it or fleeing from it. But our body cannot take the stress for too long. According to the article, a person under stress too long can suffer from high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, addiction and other health problems. (Harvard Medical School 2011, retrieved 15.12.2013.) I recalled that I have been very busy since June, first doing full-time summer job then immersing myself in group works in every course and in seemingly excessive assignments. I have been feeling stress not for days, but for months. I was wondering if I am getting burnout, so I searched further about signs of burnout.
I found another article from Forbes magazine site about signs of burning out. In the article, a doctor said burnout is from “experiencing chronic stress” (Gerry 1.4.2013, retrieved 15.12.2013). The author listed 10 signs when a person is burning out:
– “Lack of motivation”
– “Frustration, cynicism and other negative emotions”
– “Cognitive problems” (e.g. hard to pay attention, to concentrate and easy to forget things)
– “Slipping job performance”
– “Relationship problems at home and work”
– “Not taking care of yourself”
– “Being preoccupied with work when you are not at work”
– “Generally decreased satisfaction”
– “Health problems”
I found those signs in myself: exhaustion, frustration, cynicism, forgetful, not taking care of myself, being preoccupied with study all the time, having backache from sitting too long and no time for exercise, etc. Though I should go to see a doctor for proper diagnosis, I think I am not far from being burnout.
Realizing stress or getting burnout is the first step of dealing with it. I am more interested in how to deal with stress and not getting burnout and to share the finding with people, than dwelling in the problem. There are plenty of information online teaching people how to identify and deal with stress and burnout. After reading the articles, I found the tips given in the articles can be categorized in: Taking Care Of Oneself, Facing The Problem, Taking A More Relaxed and Healthier Lifestyle, Getting Support From Family And Friends, and Seeking Professional Help. (Harvard Medical School 2011; Gerry 1.4.2013; Haurant 29.7.2011, retrieved 15.12.2013.)
– Taking Care Oneself means that we should pay attention to our feelings and body and signals of stress.
– Facing The Problem is to take action to mitigate and remove stress by doing muscle relaxation, deep breathing, identifying sources of stress, organizing and prioritizing tasks, clarifying area of responsibility, discussing and collaborating a more feasible solution with stakeholders (e.g. teacher, group members).
– Taking A More Relaxed and Healthier Lifestyle means exercising regularly, taking a hobby, sleeping enough and separating study and free time, and not sitting in front of computer all day.
– Getting Support From Family And Friends reminds us to spend quality time with people and to share our thoughts and feelings with those who care about us – so we can support and help each other, not having to keep all the worry to ourselves.
– Last but not the least, Seeking Professional Help shouldn’t be forgotten, it is on every list I have found. We have student health care and we should remember to use it. Information about student health care and insurance can be found at http://www.oamk.fi/english/exchange_opportunities/student_exchange/health_care/
As many deadlines are at the corner, I cannot really relax yet. But I have organized and prioritized tasks in checklist and modified my objectives to less demanding ones. And I have been trying to get enough sleep every day, to eat more vegetables, and to find time for a break and for spending with close friends. I am managing it and I hope you will find the information helpful for dealing with stress too.
Written by Chen Dalun, BIT-student
Gerry, L. 1.4.2013. 10 signs you’re burning out – and what to do about it. Date of retrieval 15.12.2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-youre-burning-out-and-what-to-do-about-it/
Harvard Medical School. 2011. Understanding the stress response. Date of retrieval 15.12.2013 http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/March/understanding-the-stress-response
Haurant, S. 29.7.2011. How to beat burnout at work. Date of retrieval 15.12.2013 http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/jul/29/how-to-beat-burnout