Seven Tips for Avoiding Burnout this Finals and Holiday Season 

With the semester coming to a close, finals looming around the corner and holiday frenzy in the air, students have a lot on their plate. Many of us come from different parts of the world. We might be planning on visiting family, but what is the best way to navigate this tricky time without being completely consumed by the weight of our responsibilities? 

While being a college student comes with a lot of perks, feelings of pride and excitement, it can also feel overwhelming. It’s important for students to have tools to balance the myriad of responsibilities. According to Katrina Cloyes, a career advisor at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Career Services and alum, burnout is real and it’s something that she’s had to navigate.

“Last year I was the president of a club and also a part of the sustainability club, I was taking difficult classes, along with some intramurals and running some intramurals so there was a lot on my plate and I think there is a way to be involved and still prevent burnout,” Cloyes said.

What is burnout and how do we identify it? Health promotion specialist at PLNU’s Wellness Center, Kaitlin Sorgea, says burnout occurs as a result of prolonged stress and can manifest itself in a variety of ways. 

“Physical symptoms include headaches, fatigue, stomach issues, changes in appetite and a lowered immune system,” Sorgea said. “Mentally, burnout can cause feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt, loss of motivation or decreased satisfaction in things that usually bring you joy. The solution is not to push past it. Once you recognize these signs, talk to someone who will listen.”

How can students strike a balance between their academic responsibilities and self-care this holiday/finals season while also spending quality time with loved ones? Below are seven tips according to Cloyes and Sorgea that can help you for this time of the year. 

  1. Schedule relaxation and social time just like you do study time while back home. 

“Allow yourself to take advantage of restful pockets of your day and know that they allow your mental and physical functioning systems to return to baseline. When you do need to study, mix up your environment! Find a cozy spot on your couch one day and go to your favorite hometown coffee shop the next. That variation will allow you to soak in the joys of being home while remaining productive,” said Sorgea.

  1. Prioritize sleep.

“Lack of sleep can lower your ability to learn new things, so there is nothing productive about an all-nighter. One tip is to avoid studying in your bed, as doing so trains your brain to associate that space with working, making it a more challenging place to rest. Another general rule of thumb is to take a 15-minute break for every hour of studying. Use that time to make a snack, walk your dog, shower, call a friend — anything that removes you from your work,” said Sorgea.

  1. Remember academic performance does not define your worth. 

“If finals week doesn’t go as planned, remember that setbacks are a natural part of learning. Evaluate your study methods and consider making necessary adjustments to improve your performance. This might involve modifying your study schedule, seeking additional resources or joining study groups for collaborative learning. Once you’ve reflected, set new goals for next semester.” said Sorgea.

  1. Utilize free mental health resources available to you during this time.

“For mental support during this stressful time, TimelyCare provides free 24/7 virtual counseling sessions for all PLNU students. Download the app, log in with your student information and talk to a professional. You can also make an appointment at the Wellness Center for any physical health needs associated with stress, such as recurring illness, sleep, etc,” said Sorgea.

  1. Keep Career Services in mind to discuss career anxiety

Cloyes encourages students to visit Career Services even if it might seem counterintuitive.  

“You don’t need to have anything specific to talk about, come in to talk with us and either set up a plan or talk through some of the career anxiety you might be having. Career anxiety is becoming an increasingly larger mental health issue that people deal with, because people think there is a specific career path they have to follow. Talking with someone who has your career goals in mind and sees you as a human can make a world of difference,” Cloyes said.

  1. Know your boundaries and prioritize self-care. 

“Gauge whether you’re experiencing stress to the point where it’s unhealthy. I think one common misconception is that if you’re busy, you’re going to get burnt out and I think a lot of people function well with a certain amount of busyness, but I also think with students in particular, with the holiday season and finals, it can be difficult to manage a whole bunch of really important things all at once. One of the biggest side effects, mentally and emotionally, is you can struggle to get excited about things, for example, the months leading up to graduation were busy for everyone [fellow seniors], I was wrapping up my job and had so many things to say goodbye to. Mentally you can just feel numb, the lack of enjoyment you feel about the things that you know bring you joy on another basis,” Cloyes said.

  1. Spend time in nature.

This holiday season get out and breathe fresh air, go for a swim or a walk. As a student, when all of it feels out of reach, nature is always an accessible resource available at any time. 

We can also recognize that, as students, we have very limited time some days and finding leisure time to spend outdoors can be tricky; however, experts suggest time outside is worth carving out of a loaded schedule. 

As winter holidays are quickly approaching, many students find themselves becoming burnt out and ready for the much-needed break and time with family and friends. Matthew Swift, a third-year transfer student and software engineering major has been witnessing burnout among his friends.

“With a couple of my friends I have witnessed burnout and just being overworked, specifically in ministry,” said Swift. “Overcommitting and getting to a point where they didn’t really want to do it as much anymore, and that was kinda the same boat that I was in too. So we were all going through a season together of just facing church burnout.”   

Breaks are important for students to get away from the stress of being overworked either from school or even in ministry. Many students look toward breaks as a motivation to keep working. Not only are students ready to relax over Thanksgiving break but are also ready to have much-needed fun away from school.      

“I’m feeling prepared to unwind, for sure. I think one thing I try to be intentional about is keeping school at school and [leaving it behind] when I come home to relax and spend time with family. That has helped me to be able to feel like I have space away from school,” said Swift.  

Coping with stress during the school year is also a very important skill to have as a student. School breaks can help out, but sometimes won’t be enough to calm down students’ feelings of burnout. Oftentimes nature is found to be a great escape for people to get motivation and energy back.          

“I spend a lot of time just praying or just trying to slow down intentionally and spend time with God especially when I feel really stressed out or overwhelmed. That helps me a lot to kind of refocus on what really matters,” said Swift. “Rock climbing, spending time with God, hanging out with friends, playing video games or even reading a book are the main things.”