On Recognizing Burnout And Ways to Combat it

The type of burnout I write about is mainly for those experiencing burnout in school, whether you’re an undergraduate, master’s or doctoral level student. Of course there are other types of burnout as well, like with work, or organizing, romantic relationships, etc., and the list goes on. But I talk about school burnout specifically because it’s what I’m currently going through and I am in need of reflecting badly on this condition.

I haven’t been creative, articulate, or motivated for a few months now. Pretty much all of winter quarter I had been struggling to find a sense of encouragement, or anything that will push me to do the thing I love: write. I’ve technically been writing still, but I feel as though most things I produce have been empty, rushed or meaningless. When I think about what potential clients or future employers might see when they see a comprehensive list of my pieces, I don’t want them to think, “Oh, so she’s not a serious writer;” I’d be mortified!

I know that this is also my anxiety talking to me. It’s because of my anxiety that for the first time ever since I’ve been awakened to politics and my feminist consciousness, I do not feel like writing about those issues. And if you know me, you’d know that THIS IS CRAZY! I’ve been telling my therapist about this sudden lack of interest and she’s mentioned my ongoing feelings of school burnout have now trickled into my writing domain. She pointed out the obvious; I’ve known about my burnout for a long time now.

I started feeling burnt out from school when after multiple paper assignments in classes, I couldn’t generate excitement from any of the topics. I even had one paper assignment where I had to write about employing love ethics in mediation work and I still was not excited. It wasn’t the normal type of exhaustion that you obtain from just being a student; what I’ve been feeling all year has been a complete burnout from school.

From what I’ve experienced, the difference between a burnout and from simply being tired is the prolonged lack of interest. If you have the ability to find enjoyment or your passion in what you are learning, despite how exhausted you may be, then you’re probably not burnt out and just need to take time to self-care. I haven’t been able to derive enjoyment from my studies for quite some time, and feel as though I’m only in school to just pass time by. And you shouldn’t be wasting your money on school with that type of mentality.

Some ways to help with burnout:

  1. Self-care: In whatever (healthy) way you see fit. I typically take bubble baths and meditate. Afterwards, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. I may not be able to activate my love for my studies with a bubble bath, but I at least have a calmer sense of self in order to tackle on projects.
  2. Talk about your frustrations with someone: I have a great supportive network of folks that I turn to (along with my therapist) when I feel the need to vent. Graduate school isn’t easy by any means, and most likely, you’re not the only one experiencing burnout. Chat with your cohort, classmates, advisers, and/or school counseling resources. It’s helpful to recognize that there’s a community of folks that may be feeling the same way as you.
  3. Look at what others are doing in your field of study: Perhaps you’re like me and you’re feeling burnt out because you’re not able to grasp the passion in your field of study like you used to. I’ve been trying to remedy this by checking out what alums from our program have been doing, and researching the types of careers people do in the conflict resolution/peace and conflict studies field. By seeing actual role models, it’s helped me develop ideas for the types of career paths that I can possibly do.

Now that I’m in my second to last term (I’m planning to take the summer off and complete my thesis in the fall), I’ve been playing around with ideas of what my next steps will look like once I’m done with school.   Hopefully with more reflection and planning, I can move away from this burnout and get to a place of feeling passionate and motivated once again.

By Luann

Feminist, Pinay, coffee lover, boba aficionado and pop culture enthusiast. Current graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies. Dwelling in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon but always California dreaming. You can also read more of her articles at

3 replies on “On Recognizing Burnout And Ways to Combat it”

Burnout is the bane of my existence. My grad program means I am student teaching full-time this semester, following two back-to-back semesters of 18 credit hours. I might have no other classes this semester, but student teaching is unpaid, more than full-time work. Top that off with about 10-20 hours of paid employment a week, and other stuff around my house and family. Oh, and I’m five months pregnant.

Not trying to play oppression Olympics here; I spend a lot of time doing yoga, walking my dogs and riding my horses to combat the burnout. Struggling though, to come up with other strategies for when aforementioned pregnancy makes the horseback riding impossible. Yoga is already getting harder.

I’m with you on the burn out, and it’s starting to spread to other areas, like my workouts and friendships. Thanks for the much needed reminder about self-care. I don’t really do things that make me relax any more, and I really should.

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