Preventing Burnout While Learning from Home
With the Pandemic forcing everyone to adapt to the new normal, students today find themselves learning from their computers in the comfort and safety of their homes. Though this sounds like a dream come true for some, like people with special needs or introverts like yours truly, learning from home can also pose a series of issues, namely threatening one’s mental health.
It seems counterintuitive to think that students are exhausted when they are learning from home instead of in school, but it’s a legitimate concern that learning where you used to rest will compromise the quality of rest you receive. Because school and home now share the same space, the lines between studying and resting have become blurred. This can make it difficult for people to differentiate between study time and rest time which leads to poor quality rest. When it’s so tempting to study on your laptop while lying down in bed, you’re setting yourself up for sleepless nights because going to bed no longer means sleep. Not to mention, you’ll also be messing up your schedule. Why watch that lecture now when you can do it later past midnight? Never mind that you should be asleep by 12am. You can always just nap between your lectures the next day anyway, right?
Wrong. Although these concerns seem trivial, they actually contribute to fatigue and lead to burn out over time. While being at home all day might allow you to get more sleep, when you keep moving your rest time around to accommodate your fluctuating study schedule because of your newfound independence, learning from home will render you more exhausted than if you were going to school every day to study.
Can you burn out while learning from home?
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress” (Smith, Segal, & Robinson). Although burnout is often observed in the workplace, it can happen to anyone anywhere. Yes, even a student learning in the comforts of his/her own home can experience burnout.
With the pandemic destabilizing many lives, the threat of mental exhaustion and stress has become more imminent. With people forced to retreat to their homes, they are unwittingly bringing with them the problems that used to take place in an office or in school. According to a survey on workers’ mental health during the pandemic, 41% of workers report feeling burned out while 45% report feeling emotionally drained. The study also found that Gen Z’s are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to feel burned out (“Navigating Covid-19 Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health”).
These findings are important to consider especially in the learn from home context. While burnout has long been researched in the work setting, it’s become an increasingly prominent concern with students especially adolescents in college and high school given their packed schedules and their growing complex student lives.
John Guthrie / CC BY-SA
Cross examining various research on school-related burnout has found that burnout amongst adolescents is rampant across countries and cultures. Furthermore, school-related burnout is known to increase risk of suffering from mental health problems like anxiety or depression and to make students more likely to drop out from school or perform worse in terms of academic engagement and achievement (Walburg 30).
Shanghai killer whale / CC BY-SA
Feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get and failing to meet those deadlines? You should look further into your student life experience. Here are symptoms of student burn-out you should watch out for:
Feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get, resulting in fatigue and insomnia
Lacking motivation to attend classes or start assignments
Lashing out at others and increased irritability due to frustration
Lacking inspiration and creativity to bring to projects and class discussions
Loss of confidence in academic abilities
Incapability to meet important deadlines
Increased pain and tension in your body, which can be manifested as headaches, sore muscle aches, or jaw tension
Higher frequency of illness due to stress and exhaustion
Increase in bad habits such as overeating, staying up too late, nail biting, or any other habit you tend to acquire when you are stressed or not taking care of yourself
Inability to concentrate on school work or lectures
Feeling bored or uninterested in aspects of school or areas of leisure that you used to enjoy
Feelings of anxiety or depression
From “What is Academic Burnout?”
Preventing Burnout While Learning From Home
Burnout while learning from home is a real concern. It can lead to mental health problems and also subpar peformance in school. To avoid burning out, you should have clear boundaries and set a strict schedule for studying and resting, designate a study spot within your home, engage in activities that bring you joy, and turn to your support system.
Have Clear Boundaries
To avoid burnout, it helps to make sure you set clear boundaries between study and rest. Rest doesn’t pertain solely to sleep either, it can be anything you do to unwind and relax like watching a movie, reading a book, or working out.
Setting boundaries helps program your body into study and rest mode. This clear delineation allows you to become more productive when studying while also making your rest time more effective in charging you up.
In setting boundaries, you need to focus on two aspects, first is time, and second is place.
Set A Strict Schedule for Studying and Resting
It’s important to set a study schedule that you strictly follow so that you will be forced to maximize the time you have devoted to just doing school work. Instead of inserting other activities between school work, knowing you can have time later to purely doing things you enjoy can help encourage yourself to get things done now instead of delaying it. It also makes your rest time later more enjoyable because you’ve accomplished your studying and will no longer have to worry about it.
But don’t confuse this with not taking breaks. This means that you should plan breaks and be more mindful of the time they devote studying so that your study breaks do not eat up too much time and lead to them having to extend your hours of study. As a matter of fact, it’s very important to take mini-breaks every once in a while. A growing popular study technique, The Pomodoro Technique, actually prescribes 25-minute study sprints with 5-minute breaks afterwards. The goal of this strategy is to keep your mind focused on a certain task for short bouts of time and allowing yourself adequate rest afterwards to avoid exhaustion (Scroggs).
But more important than taking study breaks throughout the day to keep yourself fresh, one must alot quality rest time to allow oneself ample time to unwind and relax at the end of each day. Although there will be moments when you study overtime because you need to prepare for an exam or meet a deadline, as much as possible, it is best for students to stick to a fixed rest schedule in order to avoid having school-related stress overwhelm them and leading to burnout. By prioritizing rest, you not only honor yourself by giving yourself a much needed rest, you’ll also be rewarding yourself for a long day of studying hard which helps recharge and become more productive the next day.
Image by inkflo from Pixabay
Designate a Study Spot Within Your Home
Before the pandemic, it’s very common to find students and workers with their books and laptops in coffee shops. The concept behind this is having a place, free of distractions, where one can go to whenever you need to get things done (Epps).
However, with students stuck at home nowadays, it’s more challenging to find a study spot free of distractions. This is especially true if you live in a condominium or an apartment where space is more limited.
Given this challenge, you must take it upon yourself to designate a spot or two in your home where you can be “in the zone” and get studying done without giving in to distractions like watching Netflix or doing the chores.
When finding a study spot within your home, you should make sure that the spot is free from distractions. Try swapping music with ambient noise or classical music to avoid getting distracted; you should also make sure that you can get comfortable enough to stay in the same spot for hours at a time without being so comfortable that you’d doze off (“10 Tips for Creating Your Ideal Study Space”). Lastly, your study spot must have great lighting, preferably natural lighting, because sunlight is known to decrease eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision, not to mention, feeling more energized and having a boost in productivity (View, Inc).
Need help setting up your online learning space? Here's a guide on how to be online ready.
Image by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay
Engage in Activities That Bring You Joy
School in itself is stressful. Having to do only school work day by day can magnify the stress you feel and have it take over your life. That’s why it’s important that aside from rest, you devote yourself to activities that bring you joy. Engaging in hobbies outside of school has always been encouraged not only to make students more well-rounded but also to make them more satisfied with their lives. Especially for adolescents who are discovering who they are, having avenues to explore and express themselves is a must! Are you bored studying at home? Check out these things you can easily learn from home today!
Turn to Your Support System
At a time when you can’t be physically around friends and peers who help support you in school, it’s important that you actively communicate and stay in touch via online chat groups or support forums. Having a sense of community while studying remotely is important to foster a sense of camaraderie and make you feel less lonely. Studying is challenging in itself; having people to help you, especially when they are in the same boat as you, is always better than struggling on your own.
“"Today was a Difficult Day," said Pooh.
There was a pause.
"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Piglet.
"No," said Pooh after a bit. "No, I don't think I do."
"That's okay," said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
"What are you doing?" asked Pooh.
"Nothing, really," said Piglet. "Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don't feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
"But goodness," continued Piglet, "Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you've got someone there for you. And I'll always be here for you, Pooh."
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right."
By A.A. Milne (Goeing)
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“How to Make Your Environment the Best Study Space: Ameritech College.>” Ameritech College of Healthcare, 8 July 2020, www.ameritech.edu/blog/tips-make-environment-best-study-space/.
Scroggs, Laura. “The Pomodoro Technique – Why It Works & How To Do It.” Todoist, todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique.
SHRM. Navigating Covid-19 Impact on Mental Health. September 2020, https://shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/SHRM%20CV19%20Mental%20Health%20Research%20Presentation%20v1.pdf?_ga=2.10192565.168771826.1589296672-20404228.1588356218. Powerpoint Presentation.
Smith, Melinda M.A., Jeanne Segal Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson. “Burnout Prevention and Treatment.” HelpGuide.org, www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm.
View, Inc. “Study: Natural Light Is the Best Medicine for the Office.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 27 June 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-natural-light-is-the-best-medicine-for-the-office-300590905.html.
Walburg, Vera. “Burnout among High School Students: A Literature Review.” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 42, 2014, pp. 28–33., doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.03.020.