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Academic Burnout: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Anna Wang

What is Academic Burnout?

Academic burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is caused by prolonged stress.

Stress vs. Burnout

While burnout can be the result of stress, too much stress and burnout are not the same. Here are some differences between the two:

  • Stress: loss of energy; there is usually an end in sight; over-engagement; can be aware

  • Burnout: loss of motivation and hope; a cycle of negative emotions; dis-engagement; not always noticed


Symptoms of academic burnout are much more than just feeling tired. It can cause problems such as depression and insomnia, which is why it is important to take steps to recovery as soon as you spot these symptoms in yourself or others.

Some symptoms of academic burnout are:

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Increased irritability and lashing out at others

  • Lack of motivation to attend classes or start assignments

  • Poor concentration and focus

  • Lacking creativity to bring to projects

  • Inability to meet deadlines

  • Increase in bad habits such as pulling all nighters, overeating, nail biting, etc.

  • Feelings of anxiety and/or depression

  • Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities

  • Loss of enjoyment in daily activities

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to keep up

  • Feelings of failure

How to Prevent

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent burnout in school, such as:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle: exercise regularly, maintain a nutritious diet, spend time outdoors, and get enough sleep

  • Make time for enjoyable activities: make time to do things you love! It doesn’t have to be something big, but setting aside time for you to relax can help you feel motivated and ease stress

  • Avoid procrastinating: manage your time by keeping a calendar and making sure your tasks are reasonable. Sometimes, you will have to say ‘no’ to commitments that you don’t have time for, and that’s completely okay!

  • Make time for social activities: connect with others and build/maintain friendships

  • Take a step back: acknowledge your feelings and look at your situation as a whole

  • Setting reasonable goals: be realistic about what you can accomplish with the time you have. Remember to not take on too much and that not getting a perfect grade is okay

How to Recover

When left unaddressed, academic burnout can develop into problematic health issues that impact an individual’s wellbeing. Luckily, there are steps students can take to reverse its effects.

  • Recognize symptoms: don’t ignore symptoms and acknowledge them

  • Seek help and support: from a health professional, guidance counselor, friends, family, or teachers

  • Setting time aside everyday: to relax, and recharge yourself

  • Make changes: to your schedule to establish a healthier work-life balance

Remember, academic burnout develops over time. Naturally, recovery will take time and commitment.


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