Managing Stress and Avoiding Burnout in College
Last updated August 17, 2023
The journey from high school to college can be both thrilling and daunting, and it is important to remember to take care of yourself along the way. At times, this may look like saying "no" to others, and prioritizing your needs and goals. Here are some tips for balancing school and personal life to avoid burnout and manage stress.
Managing yourself and your expectations
Prioritize your time
One of the most important things you can do to manage stress and avoid burnout is to prioritize your time. This means making a list of tasks and responsibilities, and then deciding which ones are most important. Remember, it’s okay to say no to things that don’t align with your goals or values. Set realistic expectations for yourself and don’t overcommit.
Check in with yourself
Make time to check in with yourself regularly, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a few minutes to evaluate your stress levels and identify any sources of stress. This can help you prioritize your time and manage your obligations more effectively.
Let something go
It’s okay to not achieve the best or to let something go. Perfectionism can be harmful and unrealistic. Remember to celebrate your accomplishments, even if they are small, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Build capacity for pressure
It’s important to build your capacity for pressure - meaning your ability to process and handle additional pressures in life. This could look like engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family. Taking breaks and disconnecting from work can help you recharge and prevent burnout.
Try the following:
- Take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, go for a walk, or simply take a few deep breaths. This can help you reset and refocus.
- Engage in activities outside of school or work that bring you joy and help you relax. This could be anything from reading a book to playing a sport or hobby.
- Mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and reduce stress. Take a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing or guided meditation. Check out the free app Insight Timer, which offers a huge collection of guided meditations.
- Take a break from technology by turning off your phone, computer, or other devices. This can help you disconnect from stressors and reduce distractions.
- Spending time with friends and family can help you relax and recharge. Make time for social activities that feel restorative.
Making time for others and managing their expectations
It’s important to set boundaries with family, friends, and other obligations. If you have younger siblings or family members who rely on you for support, communicate your needs and limitations. Having parents who expect you to help can be a source of stress and pressure, especially if you feel like you don't have the time or energy to take on additional responsibilities. It’s okay to say no or ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember that you are only one person and it’s important to take care of yourself first, try to find a balance between helping out and taking care of your own needs.
Manage family expectations
Pressure from parents and teachers can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to academic performance. Remember that you are in control of your own life and goals. It’s okay to have a different path or timeline than what others expect. Communicate your goals and aspirations with your parents and teachers and seek support when needed.
Acknowledge feelings of guilt
It’s natural to feel guilty when setting boundaries or saying no to obligations. However, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish. Communicate your needs with others and find a support system to help you through any guilt or negative feelings.
Ways to manage feeling overwhelmed, and burnout
- Prioritize and organize: Make a to-do list and prioritize your tasks based on importance and deadlines. This can help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Break tasks into smaller steps: If a task seems daunting, break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This can help you make progress and feel more in control.
- Ask for help: Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're feeling overwhelmed. Talk to a teacher, counselor, or trusted friend or family member for support and guidance.
- Take care of your physical health: Take care of your body by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. This can help you feel more energized and better equipped to handle stress.
- Practice self-care: Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge, such as reading, listening to music, or taking a bath. This can help you feel more balanced and rejuvenated.
- Stay positive and focus on progress: Instead of focusing on what you haven't accomplished, celebrate the progress you've made so far. This can help you stay motivated and build momentum.
Remember, school burnout is common and it's okay to take a break and prioritize your own needs. By prioritizing, organizing, breaking tasks into smaller steps, asking for help, and taking time for vital rest, relaxation, and recovery you can effectively manage school burnout and feeling overwhelmed.