Female student sitting in bed on her computer late at night

Grad school can be stressful, especially since so much has changed since the start of the semester. If you’re feeling stressed right now, that’s okay. Many of us are still adjusting to a new normal. Working to balance teaching, work, research, home obligations and our relationships can lead to burnout. 

Here are some tips for identifying and dealing with burnout during this time.

Knowing the signs

Feeling exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally or a combination of the three – is a sign that you may be experiencing burnout. Other signs include:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Missing deadlines or a decline in academic performance
  • Disconnecting from others or experiencing loneliness
  • Difficulty sleeping, changes in eating patterns or an increase in substance use
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or irritability

Watch out for these symptoms, and take note of which ones may be affecting you. This may make it easier for you to identify red flags in the future and know when you aren’t doing well.

Managing burnout

Burnout can sometimes cause us to lose sight of our goals, and it may make us question what we’re really working toward. When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and remind ourselves of our values, why we’re in school and how our goals fit into what we’re doing in school. It can be helpful to ask yourself questions to explore your current state. Here are some examples:

  • What are my values? (e.g. work ethic, learning, helping others, etc.)
  • How do these values align with my graduate program?
  • Where can I find support if I need it?
  • How are my efforts now helping me accomplish my future goals?
  • What things are still within my control right now?

If you are struggling to answer these questions for yourself, it can be helpful to seek support and consultation from your advisor and peers. In many cases, they are experiencing the same things and may be able to offer you advice about how to get through it when you’re feeling unsure.

In addition to peers and mentors, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) can provide insight for grad students who are struggling with burnout or purpose. All grad students can access short-term individual counseling online by calling 303-492-2277.

Taking time to recharge

As we adjust to changing schedules, expectations and disruptions to our daily lives, it can be helpful to take breaks to recharge and reset. 

  • Prioritize sleep by setting a nighttime routine that helps you relax and get a more restful night. This may include stopping work, reducing your caffeine at night or reading a book for enjoyment before bed.
  • Make time for your favorite hobbies outside of school. Hobbies can be a great way to take your mind off of school and other events, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. You can explore virtual activities and hobbies online or get active with free virtual fitness classes with The Rec.
  • Stay connected with your friends and colleagues online. You can setup virtual coffee hours, group chats and other activities to keep in touch while social distancing from one another.
  • Practice stress management techniques that work for you and be open to trying something new. For instance, meditation may be helpful to help you relieve and manage increased stress levels. Try using the mobile apps Breathe2Relax or Stop, Breathe and Think. You can also watch the Rec Center’s free meditations videos or listen to Health Promotion’s meditation soundtrack
  • As you reflect on the last few months and prepare for summer, make some time to visualize what success looks like to you in the short-term and long-term. This can help bring us back on track with why we are doing what we are doing, and where we are heading.

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