Burnout, Overwhelming Stress, and how to Overcome them

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By Harriet Lowbridge | Head of Advice 

University is one of the most stressful times of many people’s lives. It is not going to be something that everyone can breeze through without any hardships. Many of us will experience times of poor mental health. Though it is not something any of us should feel bad about.  As of June 2021, UCAS announced that in the past decade there has been an increase of 450% more students applying that have declared a mental health condition.

The key thing that university students can take from this is that you are not alone. Burnout can occur when we take too much onto our plates and cannot manage the number of tasks we have, in a healthy manner. Sometimes it can happen when you have too much information to process at once. The pressure of exams, coursework, financial struggles, working while you are studying, family or relationship problems, and many other factors can all contribute to burnout.

Overwhelming stress and burnout are, however, not permanent despite how uncontrollable and overbearing they may feel. The first step in approaching the matter is to recognise the factors affecting your life. Have your daily routines become more of a chore to accomplish? Such as brushing your teeth and hair, or showering? Have your housework chores become more unmanageable? Are you struggling to keep on top of your dirty dishes or washing? Are you missing lectures or skipping out on study periods? Do you feel a little bit sick at the thought of leaving your house? 

This, however, is not an exhaustive list of factors. They are a small list of common physical indications that something might be changing in your mental health. It is vital to become aware of your mental state to ensure that you stay healthy. You could keep a private tracker of how often you are accomplishing your daily tasks and chores. You can ask friends, family, or flatmates to gently remind you if you are getting behind on anything.  

Once you are aware that you are burnt out or overwhelmed, you should identify what has caused this. Are you taking on too many tasks at once? Such as society commitments or too many hours at your job, or are you in need of time off from your degree? If the option is available to you, are you able to lessen the load that you carry? You could reduce your hours, or quit your job for the time being? Could you step down from societies? Though, understandably these options are not available for everyone. Once you are aware of where your burn out is coming from, however, you can begin to lighten your load. At the very least you can understand where you need to readjust things to support your mental health.  

The next step depends on you, if you think your burn out is something you can tackle on your own through minor adjustments in your life. Then you can begin to reorganise your life around. For some people, your next step might be to seek out professional care, therapy, or other medical support.  For some people, setting timers between tasks can present as a helpful way to transition between lying in bed and getting in the shower, or between study periods. Others utilise exercise to help boost their motivation to push through the overwhelm. Some people need time off to recover, some people need to reorganise their schedules to fit downtime into their lives.  

This, however, might not be an instant fix. It will take some trial and error of different methods to find what helps you through your burn out. This is something that we all experience this, your struggles are not lessened to any degree because of this. You should remember that you are not alone. Reaching out to talk to someone trusted can sometimes be just as helpful as removing areas of stress from your life.  

This information is provided as a useful guide to understanding burnout and is not a replacement for any professional help you may need. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with your mental health then you should seek out professional help, whether that is through the NHS, through Cardiff University’s services, or through private services if you are able to utilise them.  

If you are in immediate need of help Mind UK has compiled a comprehensive list of chat lines and services if you need someone to talk to. 

Harriet Lowbridge Advice 

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