Battling Burnout

Tips for Finishing Strong in Spring Quarter

By Blair Davis, Psy.D.

The school year is almost over. This time of year can bring burnout, especially for those students who are about to graduate. Although it can be tough to revitalize so close to the end of spring quarter, there are ways to turn things around. Following are some tips that can help you get through and even feel more motivated for finishing up the year.

Prioritize: If you have low motivation and energy for your schoolwork, it’s important to figure out what’s the most important stuff to work on and what can wait (or even be forgotten entirely!). It can help to make a grid of four squares in which the top left square contains tasks that are due soon and are important (e.g., a paper that counts for half your grade and is due in a few days). These are the most important things to focus on now. The top right square is for important things that are not due yet but need to get done (e.g., a paper that is half your grade and due in 2 weeks). The bottom left is for less important tasks that are due soon (e.g., a quiz tomorrow that is only worth 10%), and the bottom right square is for unimportant items that aren’t due any time soon—maybe these are the tasks you can forget about!

Take Breaks: Don’t just study for hours on end. Make time for short breaks to help clear your head and build energy. For example, try working for one hour, then taking a 5-minute walk or stretch break. Or, spend 90 minutes reading one chapter, then allow yourself 10 minutes to grab a snack.

Separate Work Time from “Fun” Time: Make a schedule and try to stick to it so that you have time set aside for work and time for relaxing and socializing. When you’re working, just focus on work—turn off your phone, close or block Facebook, resist distractions. Then, when it’s play time, allow yourself to totally relax and get away from work.

Change It Up: If you always study in one place, try working in a new spot, just to keep things interesting. If you usually take the same route to class, try a different path. Make a lunch or coffee date with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Variety can help combat boredom and burnout.

Don’t Ignore Self-Care: When students are busy, they often let important stuff like sleeping, exercising and eating well slide. Sure, it’s tough to balance it all, but if you are sleep-deprived, living on coffee and sugar and not getting any physical activity, your energy levels and mood will probably be pretty low. Studies have shown that students who take time for exercise as well as studying do better on exams than those who just spend all their time studying. Find a balance that works for you, but make sure to take care of yourself.

Motivate Yourself: It can be hard to feel motivated when you’re burned out, but there are some things that may help. First, try to keep things in perspective. Remind yourself of the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing—maybe it’s to learn, maybe to get a good job, maybe to feel accomplished. Whatever the reason, try not to lose sight of it. Give yourself positive and encouraging messages. Consider rewarding yourself when you finish a task; for example, allow yourself to watch an episode of your favorite show every time you finish a set of math problems.

Dr. Blair Davis is a staff psychologist who specializes in Alcohol and Other Drug concerns. She is located at Stevenson College.