As the American Studies blogger, it’s easy to see how the past ten days since the inauguration of Donald Trump could have provided me with ample writing opportunities. Whether it be his dismissal of his acting Attorney General for refusing to comply with his orders or his travel ban on citizens of certain, predominately Muslim, countries I could discuss, at length Donald Trumps’ first eleven days in office. I might tie it in to my course, and discuss what they mean for the future of the Presidency and the United States as a whole. However, I’m just exhausted. Waking up each morning to news sites and social media flooded with even newer, more shocking, news from somewhere in the world has taken its toll on me and as someone who usually takes delight in following current affairs that’s disheartening. So, I thought I’d take this chance to write a blog post about burn-out.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always just done the /most/. Since I’ve been at university, I’ve regularly worked two or more jobs at the same time as my degree. I’ve also been involved with Union Council, served on society committees, been elected as a course representative, completed the Leicester Award, attended Model United Nations conferences, played a little Quidditch, and much more besides. I’m the prime example of someone who seems to be making the most of their university experience and using every second of my time at the University of Leicester to its full potential. Unfortunately, there is another side to that coin. I’ve found whilst trying to cram all of the above in alongside friends, family, and aiming for a First in my degree something has to give. As I’ve got deeper in to my final year, I’ve realised I’m experiencing a major case of burn-out.
What that means is, after working so hard for so long first to get in to university and then to keep up my grades once I got to Leicester I’m physically and mentally exhausted. The past three years of rarely, if ever, taking time for myself have completely ruined me to the point where it’s a struggle to sit down and complete seminar reading or work on an essay. The road to graduation is simply paved with too many words to write (in the form of essays) for me to be able to compartmentalise and focus. All of this is because I’ve pushed myself to the limit since first year and never allowed myself a true break from either studying or working.
The same can be said for politicos and activists all over the United States and the world. The past few months since the announcement of Trumps’ candidacy in the primary elections have been filled with scandal and outrage after scandal and outrage. In the U.K, Brexit is happening. For someone, like me, with a newsfeed made up of predominately Anglo-American voices, across the political spectrum, the last year has been exhausting. Daily I am confronted with a new disaster even more urgent and devastating than the last. Friends who have been in politics and campaigning for a long time report similar feelings of exhaustion and burn-out as a result of living in ‘exciting times’.
So, what can those experiencing a sense of burn-out do to help themselves? Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you have to recognise that constantly working or being outraged is not good for your physical or mental health. You need to take time for yourself every once in a while. It’s ok to delete news and social media apps from your phone, or at least turn off their notifications, because trust me the dumpster fire that is 2017 will still be there when you come back. Spend a couple of hours each day doing whatever makes you feel more like you, for me cooking and knitting are things I enjoy doing that take my mind off what’s bothering me. It’s also ok to reduce your workload, whether that be stepping down from a voluntary position to focus on your academic goals or choosing one issue that’s important to you to campaign on, it’s impossible to do everything at once and its’ foolish to even try. One thing I’ve learnt since joining university is that being assertive and setting healthy boundaries or goals for yourself is the only way to manage your time effectively and ensure you don’t end up burnt out. I’m still working on the actually being assertive part though!
So, dear readers, let me know in comments what you do if you’re feeling a little burnt out and frazzled.
If you need cheering up, here’s why 2016 wasn’t quite as much of a dumpster fire as you think it was. If you’re a student at Leicester and are experiencing academic burn-out, the student welfare service can help you.