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Virtual Learning Burnout: How to Recognize & Reverse it

The Zoom classes. The limited ability to see friends. The cancelled events and school rituals. No can blame you for being over all of it.

Virtual learning burnout is a real thing. And if you feel like you are, or have recently, experienced it, you’re definitely not alone. Keep reading for ideas on how to deal with it and prevent it from coming back.

What's causing virtual learning burnout?

Burnout comes from chronic stress–– something we’ve all had to deal with this past year. It’s that feeling when you “just can’t” anymore. For college students, virtual learning burnout is specific to the challenges of the online education most have had to do.

A Lumina-Gallup poll of college students found that while overall most students are still satisfied with the education they’re receiving, 44% of those who have had to transition to online say their experience is slightly worse and 16% said it is much worse.

Students also said working online made them less likely to feel they had a mentor or that professors cared about them as individuals.

Sound familiar? You could be suffering burnout too. Other signs of burnout include:

  • making careless mistakes
  • losing confidence or motivation especially during class or while working on projects,
  • feelings of being pressured, bored, or frustrated
  • sleep disturbances or feeling fatigued despite sleeping well
  • indulging unhealthy habits such as stress eating
  • having difficulty concentrating on work or leisure activities.

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How to prevent –or reverse– burnout

If those signs sound like you, there are steps you can take to turn things around. Since burnout is primarily a stress symptom, alleviating it means finding ways to reduce stress.

An easy first step: Reach out to friends and family for help or just to reconnect. Yes, we’re all in the same stress-filled pandemic boat right now. But sometimes, just having other people acknowledge your stress and share their own can make you feel better.

Take time for self care

Yes, it’s a buzzword. It’s also a legit way to ensure solid mental and physical health. Self care can take almost any form. It depends on you and what you feel you need. It might be exercise, a chat with a friend, a night of take-out and movies, a new hobby, or even redecorating your work area to make it a more welcoming space. Figure out what steps would most help you reduce stress and go from there.

Limit screen time

No, you’re not a grade schooler anymore. But too much time doom-scrolling or listening to depressing news stories isn’t good for anyone’s mental state. Try to limit your social media use to brief, limited check-ins. Use the time you just freed up to find other, more relaxing ways to unwind.

Rethink work to prevent burnout

Your schoolwork might be your number one stressor right now. And that can’t be put on a back burner. But you can take steps to reduce stress here too.

Work on time management and organization

Having an organizational system and a plan for how you’ll work and study ultimately saves you a lot of time and stress when trying to get your assignments finished on time. It takes a little more work up front, but it’s easier to start off organized than it is to try to  impose order on chaos later.

Break down all your projects and assignments into smaller steps. If you don’t do this, looking at what’s due can feel like you have to tackle a mountain all at once. But a list of small steps (find resources, do research, organize notes, outline paper, etc.) gives you a better sense of how much work needs to be done and how much time it will take to do it. (True talk: Every time you scratch an item off the list you’ll get a mini-endorphin rush.)

Don’t over schedule yourself.

This might not be the semester to take an extra class. Maybe you can cut out one workout a week to give yourself some breathing room. It’s a pandemic! It’s ok to adjust your schedule to give yourself some flexibility to deal with whatever may come up.

See also: Why College Students Should Work, But Only 12 Hours a Week

Other resources

Those steps still not helping? Or maybe you have additional concerns: The pandemic has caused plenty of financial distress for people and you might be worried about your family or how you’ll pay for next year. Contact your school’s counseling office for advice and resources. No doubt, you will not be the first person they’ve seen with burnout this year.

For more info, check out our article on how debt-related stress can affect your health


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