Academic burnout is a prevalent issue in higher education. If you’ve been on a college campus and talked to the students, you’ve almost certainly come across some form of conversation about burnout. Preventing burnout is essential for both students and institutions, as students experiencing burnout are more likely to drop out.
Campuses should provide as many mental health resources as necessary for students to continue with their classwork and better their personal lives so they can pursue their education unrestricted.
As it turns out, burnout is a common human frustration—whether it’s overplaying your favorite game or participating in a sport too much. Academic burnout is particularly nasty, as it can cause students to lose interest in their studies, lowering their grades and creating a negative feedback loop. This is not to be confused with the general negative frustration of studying; not understanding a particular topic, or being frustrated after missing out on a long night with your friends. Academic burnout refers to a more insidious reaction to any form of studying or schoolwork.
Recognizing Burnout Symptoms
Academic burnout has several recognizable symptoms. Emotionally, it results in feelings of anxiety and depression, or general exhaustion that feels like a lack of sleep; even though you’re getting enough. Becoming ill more often is common due to the stress, as is increased tension in your body, often leading to pain. The most outwardly visible symptoms are an increase in bad habits, such as staying up too late, over or under-eating, nail-biting, and other symptoms of high stress.
Institutions can do many things to benefit students suffering from academic burnout. The easiest of these is breaks and long weekends. During Covid 19’s wrath, many colleges reduced or outright removed breaks such as spring or fall breaks, thanksgiving break, and shortened the winter break, sometimes down to only a couple of weeks. These shortened periods of rest prevent many students from getting proper relaxation, dramatically increasing stress and in turn academic burnout. These breaks allow students to recover.
What Faculties Can Do
Faculty should try to get their students to connect with each other. Those suffering from academic burnout often suffer from depression as well, or in connection to the burnout. Giving those suffering a network can relieve stress, improve their mood, or just give them a reason to go to class.
Sometimes, a student is simply in the wrong program or taking on too much responsibility with the classes they chose. Institutions should enable students to change their line of study, instead of feeling stuck doing a program they don’t have any passion or interest in.
Courses should also be evaluated regularly to check workloads and study time, both of which can stress out students.
Social networks of any kind are important for everyone. Clubs, organizations, and minority networks can alleviate feelings of stress and provide a place to belong. Low-income, LGBTQ+, and international students can especially suffer from academic burnout, as it could be compounded with additional feelings of not belonging. All minorities should feel welcome on a college campus, and every institution should strive to ensure their students feel safe.
Mental Health Resources
Mental health counseling, therapy referrals, and other similar programs can significantly benefit campuses. Institutions should learn what their students need and provide these resources as a part of their tuition, as costs can be prohibitive. Specialized resources for minorities should also be considered to give students more specialized care.
Across the country, institutions should strive to keep their students healthy, if not for a moral value, then an economic one. A student who cannot bring themselves back to class does not provide income for a college and leaves the student feeling hopeless.
Campuses should provide adequate care for everyone’s mental health, establish regular holidays and breaks, connect students with each other and their professors, and allow students to change their education path as necessary for what they need.
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