Ok, I’ll admit, I seem like the worst person to give advice on this as around exam times I regularly burnout. But because I’m not as cold-hearted as I pretend to be, I don’t actually want to see anyone else fall into the same traps I do (regularly). First, here are a few of the bad habits burnout brings for me:
Heightened emotions – so much crying. Revising Latin from a textbook, I once cried because they’d introduced a new noun without giving the definition a chapter early. If you find yourself crying because of no reason (eg. you left your teabag in too long, your tutor has taken longer than 10 seconds to reply to your e-mail etc.), it’s probably burnout.
Apathy – on the other end of the scale, if you simply cannot find the motivation to sit down and study, if accompanied by other symptoms, it’s most likely burnout. Often a few days before exams I’ll find it almost impossible to keep revising with thoughts like ‘What is the point? I’ll fail anyway - why am I pushing myself so hard?’ floating around.
Disturbed sleep – I have sleep issues anyway but exam time only exacerbates the problem. Often I’ll find myself worrying about things to the point of feeling physically sick which isn’t exactly conducive for a good night’s rest. This leads to tiredness, lower quality of work and only further promotes things like heightened emotions.
Changes in diet – this can go two ways. You can find yourself barely eating anything at all due to all the work you’re doing or find yourself scoffing biscuits, chocolate, crisps and pizza in stress eating. Sometimes you may not even necessarily eat more unhealthy foods, but simply up the quantity tenfold. I usually swing between the two, barely eating anything during the day, then pigging out at around 2am on anything and everything I can find (a whole box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray for example).
Physical illness – all of the above does not a healthy student make. Lack of sleep especially lowers your immune system’s defences and makes you more susceptible to catching something, especially in a university or school environment. I usually end up with some kind of cold or chest infection around exams purely because I’ve run my body to the ground. Yes, I become that person who’s sniffling and coughing through exams (I’m sorry!).
But what can you do to prevent this?
Plan realistically – If you’ve left all of your revision until quite late, you may have to accept that you cannot feasibly revise it all to the standard you’d like. For example, for a language exam you may want to complete every exercise in the textbook in full but if there’s 130 exercises with an average of 20 questions in each, you may have to accept that it ain’t going to happen. Instead, try halving the amount – instead of answering all 20, pick the 10 most challenging to you and do them. You’ll half the time but still revise in a challenging way.
Find other sources available to you – By this I mean if you’ve read the books for your English Literature exam over and over, think of a different way to revise. Maybe a CrashCourse video while you have a cup of tea, or quizzes available online at places like Bitesize and Sparknotes? All of these are low-stress activities that are still engaging you without driving you down.
Break it up – The Pomodoro Technique of working for a set amount of time then forcing yourself to take a short break is fantastic, but sometimes 10 minutes simply isn’t enough. You may need a full day off revising. This is incredibly hard, especially for studyblrs, because I know I generally spend any time I’m not actively doing work panicking about the work I feel I should be doing. Unfortunately, you just have to force yourself. Your work quality will improve and your body will thank you for it. Maybe spend your day off trying to be extra healthy – go for a run, do some yoga, only drink herbal tea and lots of water, go to bed early even if you have trouble sleeping – you’ll still be forcing your body to rest.
SLEEP – This can be a bugger sometimes, not always through any fault of your own. Try ASMR or meditation videos, a Sleep Time tea and a nice shower before you go to bed. However sometimes other things are outside our control – other people in my block finished their exams much earlier than I did and obviously went out to celebrate. Good for them! However when they’re still screaming and slamming doors in your thin walled hall at 4am the day of your exam, it can get irksome. Earplugs or headphones, my friend. Or failing that, if you have friends in other halls, as a drastic measure ask if you can sleep in their room tonight. Probably won’t be as comfortable, but at least you’ll get some rest.
Hate to state the obvious, but look after yourself – University is hard for staying healthy, especially around exam time. You’re late in the library and the only things available are the sweets vending machines or the late night pizza delivery place, how on earth do you stay healthy then? Answer - prepare ahead. While I’m guilty of binge stress eating when it’s exam time, I generally try to stock up on healthy things so whilst I’m eating, at least I’m getting my 5 a day. If you have a fridge in your hall room, a pantry in your hall block or you live in self-catered accommodation, some great snacks are hummus, carrot sticks, feta cheese, cucumber, pitta breads, nutri-bars and nuts, besides the obvious fruit. When you start to feel mentally exhausted, go for a walk around campus – mine has a lake that’s good for an afternoon walk. Or force yourself to exercise at a set time – I’m part of my uni’s yoga soc, so I try to schedule in lessons as a way of forcing myself to take a break, relax and still exercise.
At the end of the day, you are more than your grades – You can’t do more than your best. Talk it over with your friends and/or family, they care about you and will listen and hug you until you feel better. My mum and my best friends have seen me burnout all the way through AS and A Levels and now they’ve seen me burnout at uni, and I can still say out of all of these techniques, ringing my mum and listening to her rant about the historical inaccuracies of the latest episode of The Musketeers and joining in with her, or discussing my friend’s new girlfriend with her, these are the most helpful. They calm you down, take your mind off work for half an hour and remind you how loved and supported you are.
Hope these were at the very least a little bit helpful!
Hands down THE best article on procrastination I have ever found
I have struggled with procrastination pretty much all my life - such is the fate of the lazy and ambitious - but never, ever has an article spoken to me like this. He gets it. He’s one of us. And he’s seen through it. Tim, I don’t know you, but you seem awesome and
In college, the sudden unbridled personal freedom was a disaster for me—I did nothing, ever, for any reason. The one exception was that I had to hand in papers from time to time. I would do those the night before, until I realized I could just do them through the night, and I did that until I realized I could actually start them in the early morning on the day they were due. This behavior reached caricature levels when I was unable to start writing my 90-page senior thesis until 72 hours before it was due, an experience that ended with me in the campus doctor’s office learning that lack of blood sugar was the reason my hands had gone numb and curled up against my will. (I did get the thesis in—no, it was not good.) To understand why procrastinators procrastinate so much, let’s start by understanding a non-procrastinator’s brain:
Pretty normal, right? Now, let’s look at a procrastinator’s brain:
Notice anything different?It seems the Rational Decision-Maker in the procrastinator’s brain is coexisting with a pet—the Instant Gratification Monkey.This would be fine—cute, even—if the Rational Decision-Maker knew the first thing about how to own a monkey. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a part of his training and he’s left completely helpless as the monkey makes it impossible for him to do his job.
The fact is, the Instant Gratification Monkey is the last creature who should be in charge of decisions—he thinks only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether, and he concerns himself entirely with maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment. He doesn’t understand the Rational Decision-Maker any better than the Rational Decision-Maker understands him—why would we continue doing this jog, he thinks, when we could stop, which would feel better. Why would we practice that instrument when it’s not fun? Why would we ever use a computer for work when the internet is sitting right there waiting to be played with? He thinks humans are insane.
In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out—if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight—he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.
It’s a mess.
And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground. The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.
And the poor Rational Decision-Maker just mopes, trying to figure out how he let the human he’s supposed to be in charge of end up here again.
I know, right? It’s like he read your mind. I definitely recommend reading the whole article if you want to get out of the Dark Playground.
How am I supposed to have school for 9h, do my Homework for 3-4h every fucking day + Write a longass Essay , socialize, work, help my mum in the House, Stay in Shape, shave my legs, get +8 Hours of sleep and Stay fucking mentally stable? Like, no. Fuck you.
One of the worst things about suffering from a chronic illness to me is having to cancel plans with loved ones. Again. With like, an hour’s notice. It makes me feel absolutely horrible and so guilty and I absolutely hate it. People that want to claim that you “hide behind your illness” to get out of things you don’t want to do (😑) tend to not realize that your illness also forces you to get out of things you DO want to do. Things that you love and that would give you energy if only you had the energy to do them. (How’s that for cruel irony?)
Chronic illness isn’t some quaint little excuse that you can use to get out of a boring meeting or a stressful trip to the grocery store on a busy Friday afternoon; it affects and runs though everything in a negative manner. EVERYTHING. No aspect of your life is unaffected. It touches family relationships, romantic relationships, work, doctor appointments, personal hygiene, mental health, sex life, confidence, identity….everything.