It’s that time of the semester again. Currently, classes have ended for the semester. It’s a relief to finally be done – but there are still exams looming in the not-too-far future, and lab reports are still due.
For me, this semester has been one that has particularly dragged along. My courses have thrown me lots of little (and big, actually) assignments every week to complete – whether it be tests, lab reports and write ups, essays, or quizzes. It’s been a lot of work – and this would also hold true, even if you have a course that is assessed by a few big assignments, each worth a lot of your final grade. Either way, with all this work crammed into a 12 week semester (plus exams!), stress and burnout can happen.
Standard advice: Take time to do things you enjoy
It’s really easy to say, make time for yourself, do things you like, and all the stuff I’m sure you’ve heard before. But somehow, among all the assignments and things to be done, as well as personal responsibilities, like a part time job for example, it seems impossible to practise self care. Sometimes, burning out just happens before you’ve even noticed it.
While I have talked a lot (especially last year) about how much I enjoy my degree, it’s no doubt that it is stressful at times. So while I could say “do things you like”, it’s not so helpful when you feel burnt out and there’s still work to be done.
So what would I say then?
1. Prioritise tasks wisely. My personal hierarchy of things that I like to do in order would be big assignments/tests – little assignments/quizzes – lectures – readings. Spending a lot of time on a little assignment can leave you with not so much time for more important work to be done, which all piles up on the stress. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture (especially making sure your lectures don’t pile up) helps you to feel in control and manage where your time should go, so you don’t have all these stressful feelings leading to burnout.
2. Prioritise your effort wisely. What I mean by this, is basically – don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve had assignments worth 0.5% of my grade this semester. It’s easy to think that you would spend more effort on a bigger % of your grade. But it’s also easy to feel inclined to try your best on every single little thing – and over a semester, it certainly leads to a lot of stress and when you reach the last few weeks, it definitely can be a source of burnout. It can be best to focus on the bigger picture, and realise where more effort is due.
3. Focus on what’s within your control. Sometimes, you might get a bad grade. It happens to everyone. But once things are done, they’re done. You can’t change it. It’s best to take some time to feel your feelings about it. But if you carry that when you’re doing your next assignments, or tests, or your exam, it doesn’t put you in the right mindset to do your best. And carrying those feelings also leads to burning out. It’s best to acknowledge how you feel, and work on what is within your control.
4. I know I said it’s not all that useful to say “do things you enjoy”. But what I will say is “make the time for things you enjoy”. Being strategic with your time, and planning your assignment due dates out, lets you figure out when is best to schedule time to do things you enjoy. It’s one of the best ways to stay grounded and avoid getting burnt out. But unless you actively plan them, there’s always a chance you’ll end up focusing on your work and never getting the chance to step away from it.
While stress and burnout can happen to anyone, and while it’s especially easy to let self-care slip through the cracks while at uni, making sure to focus on keeping yourself in the best state of mind is one of the best things you can do for yourself – to put you in good stead emotionally, as well as to help you feel and achieve your best.
Let me end this blog on a good note – there are so many interesting things you can do at uni. You can study outside of your major given the flexibility of the degree, you can focus on areas that you find useful, and there’s lots of fun to be had with extracurriculars and clubs! While having to work for what you want is a given, and with that, experiencing some stress – staying on top of it, and making time for work and play – helps you make the most out of your time at uni.