Earning a degree in college, especially in a graduate program, can be a rewarding yet highly challenging experience. When you’re working on projects, studying for exams, and focusing on lectures, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. This continuous stress can lead to what’s known as burnout, making it that much harder to handle all of the tasks involved with working toward an MBA degree.
It’s important to be cognizant of the common signs of burnout ahead of time. Being familiar with these signs can help determine if you’re experiencing them, so you can work to avoid burnout. If you feel that you’re already struggling with burnout, knowing how to knowing how to recognize and adjust accordingly can help you stay on track toward achieving your educational goals.
Signs you might be heading to burnout:
1. Sleep Issues
Trouble sleeping can have a lot of causes. It can be hard to get a good night’s rest the night before a big exam, for example. But if you have problems sleeping night after night after night, that could be another issue, entirely. This could be an indicator of a sleep disorder, one that requires professional help. In these cases, it’s advised you contact a health care provider to discuss the situation.
Nevertheless, a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality often exacerbates feelings of stress and burnout. Not sleeping enough on a regular basis also makes it hard to focus on schoolwork, especially if you need to complete a project or prepare for an exam.
Finding ways to improve your sleep may help you handle burnout better. Artificial light, especially that which emanates from screens on phones, computers and other devices, can overstimulate your brain and disrupt sleep. Try putting your phone or tablet away before you go to bed. Instead of scrolling through social feeds, curl up with a book before trying to fall asleep. Reading or other quiet offscreen activities can help calm your brain. You can also help improve the quality of your sleep by keeping your room quiet, cool, and dark at bedtime. Also, avoid taking any naps later in the day.
2. Hopeless Feelings
When you struggle with burnout, you might have strong feelings of hopelessness. It can be a severe drain on your motivation to achieve your academic goals. It can even lead to a lack of enthusiasm for those things you genuinely enjoy doing. For example, you love creative outlets such as photography or drawing, but burnout is robbing you of the inspiration and joy they normally bring to your life. These activities might even begin to seem pointless or make you feel like they require too much energy.
What should you do? It may be necessary to get help. Depression, anxiety and other symptoms associated with feelings of hopelessness may be signals of a larger issue. Like physical issues such as sleep disorders, emotional and mental distress should be taken seriously. It’s advised you contact a relevant health care professional to discuss your situation and symptoms.
What are some things you can do to overcome emotional numbness or feelings of hopelessness that may be caused by burnout? Physical activity can help. It may be difficult to get started but stick to it. Physical activity can help boost your emotional well-being. You might also find it helpful to talk to someone you trust. Let them know you’re dealing with feelings of hopelessness. If you’re trying to find joy in activities you used to like, consider asking a friend to do them with you. Having a friend to chat with while doing something you usually enjoy can help put you in a better frame of mind and provide you with hope that things will improve.
3. Consistent Anxiety
Feeling anxious about classes or other aspects of your life is normal. However, when you’re approaching burnout or already suffering from it, you might experience anxiety on a regular basis. Anxiety is more than worrying about an upcoming exam or project. When you have anxiety, your mind can make almost every part of your life feel stressful and overwhelming. You may find you use so much mental energy on worrying that you’re unable to handle everyday tasks. Anxiety can also make you forget things or lose track of time.
There are ways to manage anxiety and find your way through burnout. Practice mindfulness or meditate, take up journaling, do yoga—these types of activities will help you re-center your mind to better control and reduce those anxious feelings. They can help make it easier for you to work on handling other symptoms of burnout for a faster recovery.
4. Physical Problems
Burnout affects you in multiple ways—mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It is possible to experience measurable physical symptoms from burnout. You might start having headaches on a regular basis, perhaps a dull headache that last for hours. Or, since stress can affect your gastrointestinal system, you may have stomach aches and other problems with your digestive system. Maybe you lose your appetite, or you find you’re hungrier than ever. You may even experience muscle pain as tension stresses out different parts of your body. Burnout and stress can also make it harder for your body to fight off viruses and other illnesses, so you might find yourself becoming sick more often.
If you experience physical symptoms like these and you think it may be from burnout, talk to a doctor. This will help rule out other conditions that could be affecting your health. (This can actually provide some peace of mind, which may even alleviate some of the issues that led to burnout and physical pain in the first place.) Your doctor can also recommend treatment to ease some of these symptoms, such as medication for headaches or dietary changes to ease digestive problems. If you’ve been sick frequently, work on improving your sleep, washing your hands often, and avoiding touching your nose, mouth, and eyes to help reduce your risk of illness.
5. Trouble Focusing
There are a number of things that can cause you to have trouble focusing on your studies, but burnout can make it nearly impossible to concentrate period. When you’re burned out, exhaustion combines with a lack of motivation to disrupt your ability to pay attention in class or focus on assignments. Your mind wanders and you find yourself putting off projects or studying.
How can you handle this burnout-induced lack of focus and get back to the school-related tasks at hand? Making the effort to achieve smaller daily goals can help you recover. Ease your way back into your routine. Start with a commitment to doing just a few tasks per day. Just make sure you’re not putting off tasks that can hurt your academic progress overall. For example, focus on studying for an upcoming exam. Cut back on other tasks that aren’t essential. If you’re part of a campus group, scale back your responsibilities with that group until you recover.
If you’re exploring options for graduate MBA programs, please contact the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga today. We can provide you with detailed information on our Master of Business Administration program.