Balancing work and studies can often feel like an extreme sport. Juggling career advancement with a healthy personal life requires thought, consideration, and a great deal of hard work. In recent years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that the ‘occupational phenomenon’ of burnout has become increasingly concerning.
Authors of the 1989 self-help book, Career Burnout: Causes and Cures, Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson define burnout as “A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.”
If you’re experiencing the following three symptoms, you may be going through burnout:
- Exhaustion and energy depletion
- Increased mental distance from your job or feelings of negativity and cynicism towards your job
- Reduced ability to meet your professional goals and tasks
Source:International Classification of Diseases, 11th revision (ICD-11)
We know that to be a healthy and well-rounded student, worker, and citizen, you have to look at yourself holistically – focusing on both the body and the mind.
Here are our top tips for prioritising your wellbeing while studying and working:
1. Communication Is Key
Try to keep trusted colleagues in the loop about your ongoing emotions and stressors. Stress management expert and US-based clinical psychologist, Dr Eva Stubits, explains how venting may help get negative emotions out of your system. “[Venting] helps take the feelings out from inside of yourself, it helps you to process them,” she explains. “It’s kind of like the pressure cooker analogy: If you don’t open a lid periodically, the steam can build up and cause you to feel even more stressed. If you let it out, it can help you process whatever it is you’re worried about.”
2. Sweat It Out
There’s an overwhelming amount of research that supports the fact that exercise does a world of good for both your body and your mind. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in your body. These exact hormones also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp. Short bursts of exercise can help regulate your sleep patterns, boost your immune system, and also build up mental stamina. When faced with challenging situations, exercise builds up our resilience, helping us cope with stress in a healthy way, rather than resorting to self-destructive habits.
3. Prioritise Your 40 Winks (all 8 hours worth of them!)
Did you know that your brain washes itself while you sleep? Researchers at Boston University have found that during sleep cerebrospinal fluid from your brain and spinal cord wash in and out to get rid of metabolic “trash” and brain waste – a cocktail of potentially toxic proteins that can build up and impair the flow of information between your neurons. This means that regular all-nighters and late nights could potentially impact your long-term memory and cognitive functioning. Sleep also helps fortify your immune system and can aid in regulating your mental health if you struggle with anxiety or depression.
4. Build Healthy Habits
Every job will have its stressors, but what’s essential is finding a way to channel those negative emotions into something healthy and positive. If you can learn to manage your stress effectively in the day-to-day, you can avoid future episodes of burnout in the long-run. Five to ten minutes of meditation and deep breathing during your lunch break can help you to re-centre yourself when everything around you feels chaotic. Other healthy lifestyle habits to consider adopting are journaling, gardening, reading, spending time with loved ones or animals, volunteering, or simply allowing yourself to let it all out.
5. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
Close your laptop at 5pm, turn your phone off at night, and remind yourself that you are more than just a cog in the machine. An older version of the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-10, recognised burnout as “problems related to life-management difficulty”. There is a fair amount of truth in this idea. Strict boundaries are key to a good work/life balance. Prioritise your time after hours and your weekends to rest sufficiently so that you can be ready for the day or week ahead. You can only give your best when you are the best version of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
10 October is World Mental Health Day – a day just for you. Take the opportunity to practise self-care, get a referral from your GP to speak to a psychologist, or simply call a friend to vent. Take your health in your own hands and become the best version of yourself.