Coping with Burnout and Building Resilience: Taking Time to Recharge Is a Sign of Strength

by The Cowl Editor on October 16, 2020

Editor's Column

by Andrea Traietti ’21 


Academic burnout is something many of us college students are familiar with by now. It seems to build up slowly every semester until it catches up to us all at once, oftentimes right at the height of stress during midterms and finals week.

This semester has been no exception when it comes to burnout—in fact, burnout this year feels like it has hit sooner, with more intensity, and in new ways for so many students. 

The outbreak last month and the pandemic in general add more stressors and put new demands on students, exacerbating the effects of burnout: we have all been juggling busy schedules in a virtual format and spending hours in front of a screen, attending classes and meetings, keeping up-to-date on information in the College’s emails, and getting homework done. 

The timing of reopening right around midterms was somewhat unlucky: coming off of roughly three weeks of online classes, students have had little time to fight off “Zoom fatigue” before jumping straight into midterm assignments, which contribute to feelings of academic burnout even in a regular semester. 

Add in the responsibility of keeping up with an ever-changing, overwhelming news cycle during an election that is taking place mid-pandemic, and all of these factors seem like the perfect storm for burnout.

Therefore, we should not look at burnout, regardless of what causes it, as a sign of weakness. Burnout is likely to happen to all of us at some point. Humans are not infallible, and needing to take a break does not mean we are not resilient. Rather, reflecting on the state of our mental health, recognizing when we feel burnt out, hitting pause, and making choices to improve how we are feeling are all signs of strength.

Trying to power through by ignoring when we feel burnt out is counterproductive; we need to take a step back when we start seeing some of the telltale symptoms of burnout—exhaustion, lack of motivation, and inability to focus. Taking some time to engage in simple acts of self-care, such as going for a walk, baking with friends, carving out some no-screen time, or participating in one of the many events being offered by the College and Board of Programmers (BOP), is even more important now because it can interrupt burnout and help us reset.

Flexibility, adaptability, and patience are the qualities that have enabled us to cope with the pandemic thus far, and we should take care to exercise those same traits with ourselves, as well. If you are feeling burnt out or simply stretched too thin, do not be discouraged—we have all been there before. 

Remember that far from showing weakness or vulnerability, checking in on ourselves and being willing to take a break is actually a sign of strength: ultimately, it builds our resilience, helps us recharge, and gets us to a place where we can jump back into the work we are doing and the things we are passionate about with enthusiasm and a positive outlook.