By Faith Wan (23S02B) and Thia Jiayun (24S03P, Peer Helper)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/RIAAUU and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
How can I recover from study burnout? I am really unmotivated to study nowBurnedout Brendon
Dear Burnedout Brendon,
Amidst the hectic life of a JC student, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the unhealthy cycle of working relentlessly. Think studying til the wee hours of the morning, guzzling down yet another cup of double shot espresso, and forcing yourself to make every moment of your day ‘productive’.
While everyone’s threshold for stress varies, it’s safe to say that such a work ethic is simply unsustainable in the long run. It is precisely this gnawing desire to do more, more, more (and often, the accompanying fear of failure) that triggers the avalanche of a burnout.
In addition to feeling constantly mentally drained even if you’re getting that coveted 8 hours of sleep, burnout may manifest in other damaging ways. Some develop an aversion to studying, others develop brain fog, and others still lose the sense of achievement they used to derive from academic success. When taking breaks, you might feel guilty and restless, yet unable to muster enough energy to study.
You may find yourself developing habits like disordered eating, or may experience mood swings—you may become more irritable and lash out at others, or you may become more withdrawn.
It is important to recognise these symptoms, whatever combination they manifest in. Through understanding how they reflect our feelings and what our body is trying to tell us, we can take a step back instead of being overly hard on ourselves—so kudos to you for reaching out for advice.
While we may be tempted to place our goals above all else, choosing to suppress and ignore the physical and emotional signs of burnout will impact our health and wellbeing in the long run. It is important to find a balance between the intense effort put into pursuing your goals and taking care of your physical and mental health.
We’ve compiled a list of pointers that can hopefully help you recover from study burnout.
Firstly, though we know it can be hard to squeeze out time in our schedules, spending just a short while every day, or even taking a full mental health day to do something that you enjoy works wonders. This can be a hobby or an interest, or simply an activity that brings relaxation and comfort, like listening to your favourite song.
While your feelings of guilt may be difficult to wash away entirely, it is beneficial to remind yourself that the activity you choose serves to recharge your body and mind, and that you do not need to be productive while taking a break.
As an extension to that, spending time with your loved ones through a meal or a meet-up can greatly uplift spirits. Talking to someone about how you feel can also help you untangle your thoughts. They can offer emotional support and guidance, and can be there for you during this tough period when you may need extra reassurance.
Next is exercise! This helps the body releases mood boosters called endorphins. Exercising can help take your mind off things and blow of some steam, and incorporating exercise into your routine can give you a sense of accomplishment and higher self-esteem.
Making tiny steps to prioritise self-care can let you develop a more positive self-image, while may help with the ability to cope with stress. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and making time for activities that are relaxing, like following a skincare routine.
Lastly, though this may not work for everyone, a change of study environment might give you a breath of fresh air and help you focus on your tasks better. Surrounding yourself with nature, like taking a walk in the park, may also help you clear your mind.
Taking these steps all at once to recover from study burnout can take up a significant portion of time, which we might instinctively reject. It is also prudent to note that success will not be instantaneous, and is a process. But as mentioned above, the key to countering burnout is to have a balance.
Creating a timetable with time slots set aside for such self-care activities, as well as small breaks between study blocks, will remind us to take a breather once in a while, so we have the energy to keep going.
In conclusion, we urge you, and everyone else, to view our JC journey as a marathon, instead of a 100m sprint—giving your all too soon and too fast leaves you without enough energy and motivation for the later half of the race.
We would also like to assure you that while you may feel like your flame has been snuffed out, burnout is usually temporary, given you do not let it fester. If you continue to feel lost and demotivated, we would also like to urge you to pop by the RGC to speak to someone.
The Aunts and Uncles here wish you all the best in regaining your momentum.
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset