HealthSkills

It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday and we’re pulling an all-nighter and studying for our test on Tuesday and preparing for that big event and planning our next organization meeting and fixing our resume for Monday’s interview and… we’re forgetting to take a breath because we’re on our fourth cup of coffee in the last two hours. Sound familiar? It’s a lot to handle during adolescence and adulthood, when life is already throwing so many new changes and obstacles our way.

It’s a mad rush to pad our resumes, make the cut for dean’s list, or secure the best job, and while ambition is so important in these years, rest is, too. Not the kind of rest that involves lying on the couch in front of the TV, one hand in a chip bag and one hand surfing Facebook on our phone. I’m talking about the kind of rest that allows us to rejuvenate and care for ourselves.

In college, I only gave myself the potato chip kind of rest, on the very rare occasions that I actually even “rested.” I worked my butt off and tried, to no end, to be perfect and the best at a lot of things that looked amazing on my resume but didn’t even make me that happy. In fact, they brought me anxiety. Not stress; stress is normal and can be healthy. Anxiety is not, and neither is perfection. I was lost, and I refused to slow down to ask myself where this lost feeling was coming from, and if it was even real.

That strategy didn’t work. Halfway through my senior year, I became burnt out and depressed to the point that I wanted to throw everything away and hide under the covers for the entire semester. Coming from a school known for its overcommitted students, I was not the only person I knew who felt this way. I was tired of trying to please everyone but myself. I finally began asking myself what was up, which led me down a life-changing path where I made the changes that now allow me to enjoy the things I commit myself to.

You see, ignoring feelings of intense pressure or anxiety, and pushing ourselves to unrealistic limits can lead us to burn out. In order to avoid it, we can do a few things:

1. We must stop and listen.

This means that, when we feel an emotion we don’t like, we don’t push it away and run from it. No amount of ignoring will keep us from feeling what we feel. When we learn to respect our emotions and ask what is causing them, we can really get somewhere. It is this kind of questioning that slowly brings us closer to ourselves and allows us to make important discoveries and necessary changes in our priorities and relationships.

2. We must be ok with what we are feeling.

We have to stop judging ourselves. One of the greatest contributors to adolescent and young adult stress and confusion is the need to be perfect. The thing that can be so difficult to realize is that when we fail, when we’re angry, when we react poorly, and when we screw up, we’re being humans, and we need to try to be ok with that. Otherwise, we will be unable to let go of our fear of failure, preventing us from genuinely, passionately devoting ourselves to what we love.

3. We need to take naps.

Why do they only happen in pre-K? We all need them. A short 15 minute power nap can really do wonders for our bodies, which sometimes need a chance to unwind, regroup, and chill. And getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, if we can swing it, is key.

4. We need to discover what it is that we love, and make time to do it.

This can be a process, so don’t freak out if you don’t have a clue what it is. Taking a few minutes, even just once a week, to try out something new or deepen an existing hobby is a good first step. It may be trial and error, but soon we realize we can actually make time for these little moments.

5. We need to learn to say “no.”

I know that this one is tougher than it sounds. We’re taught to work and work and work, more than anyone else in the office, even if it means 10 hour days with no lunch break or accepting yet another position as president of yet another campus club. When we spread ourselves thin, we don’t allow ourselves to give our best to any one thing, and that isn’t fair to ourselves. Saying “no” when we aren’t able to take on a commitment is not bad, insulting or mean. It is responsible and smart.

Burnout is so very common among young adults, and it’s important to recognize when it may be happening to us. It can be scary and foreign to admit to it and attempt to change things, but addressing it can bring us a sense of peace, along with the energy and motivation to be our very best.

Do you have any tips for staying motivated and avoiding burnout? Let us know below or tweet to us!

Image: Mike Hoff

EducationHealthSkills

Is the excitement of heading back to school wearing off? While there are changes happening everywhere around you (just look outside at those leaves turning orange), you might feel like you are in need of your own change when you feel your energy levels crashing. Exams, projects, presentations, and homework might be piling up, and since school just started, there’s no break or end in sight. In order to stay on top of all your work without completely burning out, pick and choose which of these 8 ways might help prevent back-to-school burnout and keep your enthusiasm at its peak…

1. Take breaks. Preventing burnout doesn’t have to happen on a grand scale, but instead you can incorporate little changes into your everyday life. Schedule mini-breaks into your routine, giving yourself 15 minutes to do whatever you want. After 1 hour of studying or essay writing, give yourself 10 minutes to listen to music, practice your new hobby (see #3), or have an impromptu dance party. Do anything that makes you feel great and takes your mind off of work for those precious 10-15 minutes.

2. Plan a fun weekend activity. Get a group of your friends together for a fun weekend activity. When you have something to look forward to during the week, there’s a good chance you will keep your energy levels up so you can get through your work and enjoy your Saturday plans. Instead of doing your regular weekend activities, organize something new and out of the ordinary. Plan activities that are inspired by the season, such as picking apples at your local orchard, seeking out early haunted houses, or hosting a pie-making party.

3. Learn a new hobby. This might sound ridiculous, since you probably have zero time to add anything to your plate. However, even the smallest changes could change-up your entire routine and give you a fresh perspective. For example, learning a new hobby such as knitting or painting are calming hobbies that work around your schedule. You have complete control and practicing your hobby for just 15-30 minutes a day can be a total game changer.

4. Review your routine. Every now and then, it is important to step back and evaluate where you are in your life. In this case, step back and review your routine for the past week. Are there changes you can make that would give you more energy, such as going to sleep 10 minutes earlier? Perhaps sitting in a different seat in class would positively affect your interactions with your teacher and classmates? Pack a snack for when your blood sugar level drops and you need a quick boost. Changing your routine doesn’t have to be a lot of work – little changes can make a big difference.

5. Remember your goals. Did you set goals for the beginning of the new school year? Maybe you set a goal of meeting with your teacher once a week for an entire semester, or you wanted to focus on learning how to do Derivative and Integration formulas like a pro. If you didn’t set goals for yourself, this would be a good time to think about what you want out of the school year. When you start thinking about your goals and what it is you truly want to accomplish, you may become re-motivated and avoid feelings of burnout.

6. Sleep. It might be as simple as catching some zzz’s in order to get back to your energetic self. With the loads of work, extra-curriculars, and team practices, your body might be telling you to slow down and rest. Whether you need to take a long afternoon nap or just work on trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, be conscious of what your body is telling you.

7. Take a stroll. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and walk it out. When you feel yourself getting exhausted from work, chores, or school, stop drop and stroll. Surrounding yourself with nature and breathing in fresh air will clear your mind and give you a new perspective on what is happening in your life.

8. Talk it out. Oftentimes we tend to keep our feelings to ourselves. Talking out how to feel is healthy, and one way to prevent burning out is to talk to your friends, family, and teachers about how you feel. You might learn that your friends are feeling the exact same way. It feels great to know that you are not alone, especially when you are feeling vulnerable and exhausted. Your school year is just getting started, don’t burnout now.

How do you prevent back-to-school burnout?