Burnout, a symptom of excessive stress, rages on campus as the end of the semester and exams quickly approach, according to UNC Asheville students.
“Student burnout is going to look different from one person to another, but it tends to encompass feelings of excess stress, lack of motivation and full-body exhaustion,” said Sarah Donnelly, a lecturer in health and wellness at UNCA.
According to Donnelly, burnout can affect the brain in ways which may impair a student’s ability to focus and study with the same efficiency as earlier in the semester and it can be a detriment to a student’s well-being as excessive burnout can lead to anxiety, cynicism and depression.
Clayton Hutchison, a UNCA music student said the effects of burnout have made him lose the energy to do homework or practice his instrument because he is overloaded with his school schedule, band and rehearsals.
“It sucks not having the energy to play my instrument by myself because that’s literally the only coping mechanism I have and I haven’t been able to give myself that platform to express myself recently,” Hutchinson said.
The music student said he has multiple rehearsals a day but cannot find the motivation to practice the instrument he loves to play in his free time and feels like he is barely pressing on in his classes.
Creative writing major and UNCA junior, Roy Farrell said over the pandemic his stress levels didn’t increase but as a year of the pandemic has passed and the end of the semester nears, his stress levels have risen dramatically.
“I don’t really feel motivated to do schoolwork. All I want is some time off so I can just rest,” Farrell said.
Donnelly said burnout is normal and talking with a trusted friend, family member or counselor is a good first step when burnout and fatigue set in at the end of the semester. Additionally, she said she suggests goal-setting practices.
“I am a big believer in setting goals at the beginning of the semester that you can look back on as your energy starts dwindling toward the end of the semester,” Donnelly said. “Seeing the goals in your own handwriting will remind you of some of the feelings you had going into the semester and can rev your engine back up.”
Carter May, UNCA senior and double major in political science and history, said the university’s administration has contributed to a lot of his stress and burnout symptoms and the lack of a pass/fail option during a COVID-19 present semester is a detriment to his possibility of graduating.
“Why the fuck did I work hard all pre-COVID semesters just to get screwed by the one COVID semester with no pass/fail despite the student body wanting it? My academic success person even said way more people are on academic warning this semester,” May said.
According to the UNCA senior, his biggest reason for feeling burnout is a lack of support in his thesis courses and from the university administration because he said there is a lack of accountability and the consequences fall on the students.
“If I weren’t a super senior and didn’t have a support group of friends here I would transfer,” May said. “I’m fearful to even say anything because I’m super close to graduating and getting a degree and getting out of here, so I don’t want to mess anything up.”
According to Donnelly, breaking down tasks into miniature to-do items will help students feel more accomplished and won’t overwhelm students who already have an overwhelmed mindset as much.
“Exercise. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. Getting outside— or inside and getting your blood pumping is good for the brain and good for the soul,” Donnelly said.
Bow Rudolph, UNCA senior and political science major said he is also in senior thesis courses and feeling burned out from the compounding stress of his senior year and COVID-19 taking more energy and concentration from him.
“Overall it’s a weird mix of emotions but I’m looking forward to moving on and graduating,” Rudolph said.
Jordan Perry, healthy campus liaison and adjunct faculty member said burnout does not only affect students on campus, but faculty and staff alike due to the stress of a university career and the pandemic.
“At UNCA, there’s a lot of pressure for staff and faculty to do more with less and add in a pandemic and it’s an unreal amount of work. For example, today I spent about 10 hours trying to get folks scheduled for upcoming vaccine clinics. Normally, I have pretty decent work to life balance but it has absolutely gone out the window over the last year,” Perry said.
According to Perry, the best solution to burnout for students and university staff and faculty alike is a regular sleep schedule, healthy and regular eating and time spent online or safely in person with friends and family.
“Often, those are the first things to go when we get stressed or burned out but research indicates we do our best work when we are rested, fed and connected with others,” she said.