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It’s deadline season: Here’s a York student’s guide to sidestepping burnout at university

A little heads-up for you all: It’s all about the ‘work-life balance’


Let’s face it . . . university life is tough. As students, we’re expected to effortlessly balance academia, societies, sports clubs and other extracurriculars, domestic duties, and (for some of us) mental health struggles, or a part time job.

Understandably, this can be challenging. Any wobble in this balance, and our life feels . . . off balance. And it’s not just our schedules that are thrown out of balance, it’s our bodies and minds too. It’s in situations like this that many students can experience burnout.

If you’re not familiar, burnout refers to a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can be caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It’s what happens when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. It’s a feeling many students will know all too well.

Which is why I’ve put together a self care guide specifically tailored towards the modern student. Has the hustle and bustle of university life got you feeling burnt out? Here’s a definitive guide on how to sidestep burnout at university, from someone whose been there.

Dedicate time for yourself outside of your studies

This sounds so obvious and so cliched, but it really is important. Joining a society, sports club, or participating in another extracurricular activity will not only enrich your life and enhance your CV, but it will also reduce the risk of burnout at university, because you’re setting time aside specifically for you. Three birds with one stone.

Here at the University of York, we’re incredibly lucky to have a choice of over 200 student-run societies and more than 65 sports clubs to participate in. You can indulge in your lifelong passions, or take up a brand new hobby, trust me when I say there will be something for absolutely everyone.

Personally, I’m a member of York’s dance society, and I’ve found that rehearsing for dance performances and showcases gives me something to look forward to after busy days spent in lecture halls, seminar rooms, or hunched over my laptop in the library typing up essays. Finding a medium through which you can express yourself, whether that be dance, writing, music, art, or sports, will reduce your risk of burnout, as you are dedicating time to yourself, and becoming increasingly aware of your own wellbeing and headspace.

Don’t feel guilty for taking breaks

Personally, I’m a member of York’s dance society, and I’ve found that rehearsing for dance performances and showcases gives me something to look forward to after busy days spent in lecture halls, seminar rooms, or hunched over my laptop in the library typing up essays. Finding a medium through which you can express yourself, whether that be dance, writing, music, art, or sports, will reduce your risk of burnout, as you are dedicating time to yourself, and becoming increasingly aware of your own wellbeing and headspace.

Don’t feel guilty for taking breaks

If you’re scheduling regular breaks from your studies into your day-to-day life, that’s great, but feeling guilty about taking these breaks negates the purpose of these breaks in the first place. It’s much easier said than done (especially if you’re a bit of a workaholic, like me, and studying just makes you feel good), but you’ll feel a weight off your shoulders when you truly understand deep down that breaks are essential for productivity. Sounds paradoxical, I know, but your body requires time to simply rest and rejuvenate, and recharge its energy ready for the next study session.

Practise and prioritise self-care

Contrary to popular belief (and what Instagram and TikTok seem to think), self care isn’t just about fancy bubble baths and face-masks. Self care can (and should) be about whatever works for you. Self care is about incorporating relaxing, calming rituals into your day-to-day life that allow you to slow down and practise mindfulness of your surroundings.

For example, during one of my department’s weekly wellbeing workshops, I made my very own positivity jar from an old jam jar. I decorated it with pens and glitter, and wrote positive affirmations on small slips of paper, which were then folded up and placed inside the jar. Whenever I’m feeling low, I open up the jar and pick out a positive message for myself.

Ensure that you’re nourished and well rested

Again, this sounds super simple and super obvious. But when we’re feeling burnt out, often a lack of sufficient rest and nourishment has contributed to our exhaustion. It can be challenging when you’re already tired, but ensure that you set enough time aside to prepare nutritious, healthy meals for yourself, and try not to skip meals. Your body needs good food to fuel it, and give it the energy it needs to power through university life. Also, try to ensure that you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night (this is easier said than done, but “sleep debt” can really add up, and it’s hard to “pay it back” once you’ve accumulated it).

When feeling overwhelmed, rest is a form of productivity in itself

This is literally one of my mottos (and it should be one of yours, too!). In all seriousness, though, your body needs rest in order to perform at its best.

If you’re struggling, reach out for support (you’re not alone!)

At the University of York, we’re lucky enough to have so many sources of wellbeing support on hand to offer you a listening ear. For example, your academic supervisor and college team are always available to assist you with any issues or concerns that may arise during your time at university, and you can usually drop into their offices or drop them an email if you’d like to chat (supervisor meetings usually require booking in advance).

There are other sources of wellbeing support available too, offering both in-person or online options, depending on how you prefer to access support. The Open Door Team are based on Campus West, and offer appointments with qualified mental health practitioners. If you notice that something feels amiss with your sense of wellbeing, or you just haven’t been feeling like yourself lately and it’s getting you down, you simply fill out the Open Door form and a practitioner will get back to you.

Alternatively, TalkCampus is a website specifically for university students that offers virtual peer-to-peer support

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