Burnout is a common condition and significant threat to college students, especially pre-med students. It can sap you of your resolve, diminish your health, affect your grades, and cause you to question your chosen career path. That’s why it’s important to understand what burnout is, its signs and symptoms, and what preventative measures you can take.
What Is Burnout?
According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.”
More specifically, “academic burnout” is defined by the NCBI in their study as “a three dimensional syndrome which includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment” and it is considered to be “one of the most recently studied factors which affects students’ academic performance.”
Considering the stress that can come with a pre-med course of study, and the necessity for optimal academic performance, it is essential that students understand the perils of potential burnout and take a regular inventory of their emotional and mental health.
What Are the Signs of Burnout?
In her article, The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout . . . Do You Have Them?, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., lists the following as signs and symptoms of burnout:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Forgetfulness / Impaired Concentration and Attention
- Physical Symptoms (may include chest pain, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, headaches)
- Increased Illness (weakened immune system)
- Loss of Appetite
If you are beginning to experience these symptoms, now is the time to make some changes before things get worse. Burnout is avoidable; you can make adjustments in your mentality, your schedule, and your focus in order to be a motivated, positive, and successful student.
4 Ways to Avoid Academic Burnout?
- Take Care of Yourself
One of the reasons students suffer from burnout is that they pay little attention to their physical and emotional health. A proper amount of sleep, a balanced diet, daily exercise — these simple decisions can strengthen your mind and body to fight the effects of academic stress.
- Prioritize Time Management
Between going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, working a job, completing assignments, and studying for exams, your time is limited as a pre-med student. If you don’t have proper time management skills, obligations can pile up quickly, bringing considerable stress. View your time as an asset that must be protected. Plan your days carefully and avoid procrastination at all costs. If you’re intentional about managing your time, you’ll avoid much of the stress and pressure that causes others to burnout.
- Know Your Limits
With so much to accomplish and very little extra time for self care, it is important to learn to say “no” to certain things. As much as you might want to, you can’t do everything that presents itself to you. Some classes will have to wait until next semester; friends will need to understand when you choose to stay in and study instead of hanging out; there may even be an opportunity or two that you turn down because they would overload your schedule. It’s all about knowing your limits and respecting those limitations.
- Develop a Marathon Mentality
Burnout can easily occur when a student tries to do everything at once — they sign up for too many classes in a semester, they agree to too many hours at their job, they stack an internship on top of a volunteer obligation. It’s easy to get overly excited and dash out of the starting blocks as fast as you can. But your education is a marathon, not a sprint. If you go too fast too soon, you’ll exhaust yourself and struggle to reach the finish line. When choosing classes, internships, job opportunities, or volunteer endeavors, have the foresight to pace yourself with a marathon mentality.
If you’re preparing to take an upcoming MCAT®, proper preparation can help alleviate test anxiety. Our 2,000+ MCAT-style questions, detailed rationales for all answer options, vivid illustrations, and unparalleled performance tracking will have you confident and prepared for success on exam day. Start your FREE trial today!