College Burnout: Signs You’re Experiencing It and What to Do


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College offers you endless opportunities to achieve more independence and develop your career, but it’s also a new environment with many stressors and challenges. While some stress is healthy and can even be motivation, unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to burnout. 

Academic burnout is a common issue that can affect students at every education level, but college is an especially challenging time since you’re dealing with so many changes all at once. A packed academic schedule, demanding professors and the stress of living on your own for the first time can all contribute to feelings of burnout. 

If you’re experiencing college-related burnout, you may feel stressed, overwhelmed or exhausted. But burnout doesn’t have to ruin your college experience. 

What does college burnout look like?

Burnout is a psychological response to stress accumulated over a period of time. If you’ve been dealing with continued stress over days, weeks or even months, this could potentially lead to burnout. If you’re experiencing college burnout, you might:

  • Feel cynicism and detachment from work responsibilities
  • Have feelings of hopelessness and a sense of inefficacy
  • Feel like you can’t absorb any more information 
  • Lose enthusiasm and passion for work/schoolwork

While signs of burnout are similar to stress, burnout builds up over an extended period of time and tends to last longer. If you’re starting to experience these symptoms, please seek help through our mental health online support group before they escalate into feelings of depression or anxiety. 

How to deal with college burnout

College disrupts the habits, routines and social support systems needed to cope with life’s stressors. Experiencing stress as a college student is to be expected. Stress itself is not inherently unhealthy; short-term stress can be beneficial for college students, enhancing focus, alertness and performance.

On the other hand, chronic or prolonged stress without adequate relief and coping mechanisms can lead to burnout. While creating your own schedule and enjoying new activities is part of college life, it’s also a challenge to learn how to balance all those things in a healthy way. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out, here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Social support — Do I have people I can talk to without judgment when I’m feeling overwhelmed?
  • Time management — Have I budgeted adequate time for self-care, sleep, social connection, etc.?
  • Goals — Are my goals realistic and attainable? Do my priorities align with my values? 
  • Pace — Is my workload sustainable? Am I able to learn and get the most out of my college experience?

A schedule that doesn’t make room for sleep, nourishment, social connection and physical exercise will not be sustainable, regardless of your work ethic. Although students may deprioritize these things to get ahead in school, this approach is counterintuitive. Chronic stress leads to burnout and cognitive decline. Therefore, school-life balance is important not only for maintaining overall well-being but for academic success.

Support for students experiencing burnout

Adjusting your schedule is a great first step in dealing with burnout, but seeking outside help can make it easier to get out of that cycle of exhaustion and fatigue. At Lightfully, our licensed clinical experts are here to help you deal with your symptoms of burnout. Here are a few ways we can help:

  • Mental health online support group — We provide a number of free online resources for our clients, including an online support group. Joining a support group may make you feel less alone, and it can help you meet others who are dealing with similar issues. This support group does not provide therapeutic care. It’s a place for those with mental health challenges to find support and community.
  • Process-based therapy — With process-based therapy, our goal is to design a treatment plan that’s customized for your needs and goals. Whether you’re dealing with college-related burnout or another mental health issue, we’re here to help.
  • Virtual Intensive Outpatient Treatment (vIOP) — Our Lightfully U vIOP is designed specifically with college students in mind. You’ll get access to evidence-based, clinical mental health care that can help you deal with burnout without leaving your dorm.

No matter what you’re dealing with, remember that you’re not alone. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. If you’re struggling with academic burnout and need help coping with stress and establishing a well-balanced routine, there are steps you can take to address it. Our licensed clinical experts can help you develop a plan that can decrease your stress levels and make it easier to succeed in your academic career.

Change is possible. At Lightfully U, we’re here to help you navigate life’s challenges and help you thrive in your college career.When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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