Juggling classes, jobs and extracurricular activities can lead to big-time burnout in college, but knowing its signs can help savvy students avoid it, one psychologist says.
“Burnout is described as feeling apathy and lack of interest toward activities that were previously enjoyable, some amount of work avoidance and less excitement over one’s day-to-day tasks,” said clinical psychologist Karen Lawson. She’s an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Lawson said it’s important to watch for signs of burnout, because they can overlap with symptoms of depression. Additional symptoms of depression include sadness, fatigue, social withdrawal, irritability, changes in sleep or appetite, difficulty concentrating, or thoughts of self-harm.
“The best way to differentiate is whether the feeling of disinterest occurs for an extended period of time and if finding bright spots and things to look forward to don’t work,” she said.
To avoid burnout, Lawson recommends college students take more breaks; divide school work into smaller amounts; and make time for enjoyable things like eating with a friend or exercising.
“Burnout is normal and common and understanding that can help students not feel so isolated and feel like something is wrong with them,” she said. “Young people are under a huge amount of stress and pressure to achieve, but they have to work on developing skills and tools that can help improve on those feelings.”
If students feel burned out and don’t feel better within two to three weeks despite taking steps to ease the problem, they should see a mental health specialist, Lawson advised.
Florida National University offers advice on preventing student burnout.
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