Surviving First Year Burnout

So you’re finally free and think that you can tackle the world.
Well, University is a different world, my friends. And its main components are last-minute efforts, early morning train rides and various forms of caffeine. It’s commonplace to think that everyone around you knows a lot more than you, which can lead you down a spiral of self-doubt, a lack of effort in Uni work, threatening deadlines and an omnipresent fear of ‘the failed assignment’, thus inciting: First-Year Burnout. Below are some tips on how to beat the cycle.

1. Schedule. Timetabling is everything. If you want a head start then you need to ensure you’re making the most of your time. I dropped maths in year 10 but here’s a little equation for you: EFFICIENCY = AS MANY CLASSES AS POSSIBLE / AS LITTLE TIME AS POSSIBLE. If you schedule yourself two days of just classes and tutes, the rest can go towards working, study and free time. Yes, long days can be tiring, but nothing beats the feeling of coming home and knowing you can spend the rest of your week however you like.

2. Time out. Uni is overwhelming, there’s no doubt about it. Howe- ver, the burnout cycle can be avoided by designating yourself a set amount of time to chill out without feeling guilty about it. Whether you choose to spend this time napping, having a bath or catching up on youtube is up to you, but make sure it’s not interrupted. By scheduling this time after working or study etc, you’ll be feeding the brain’s reward centre and have something to look forward to each week. Once the chill time is over, however hard it may be, it’s important to get back to work to keep your brain convinced that you’ve got your shit together 😉

3. Prioritise. If you have one assignment due at the end of this week, and another due next week, do the for- mer one first. Things such as readings may be low on your priority list but find a way to make sure they get done. This could mean doing your readings on the train home every week to give you a head start for the following lecture or put an alarm on your phone every Friday at 4 pm to answer discussion posts on Canvas. Without prioritising, the little things can pile up and create a whole new headache. Plus getting the smaller tasks out of the way will keep you from feeling overwhelmed when it comes time for bigger priorities like assignments.

4. Deadlines. This one is a doozy. Deadlines keep us accountable but are also the biggest form of stress for a Uni student. From readings to enrolment, all the way up to final exams, we always find a way to do it all at the last minute. My biggest tip for dea- dlines is to trick yourself. Make a new deadline for yourself a week earlier than it actually is. If you do this for all your assignments, then eventually it becomes second nature to believe that it’s real. I used this method all of my first year, and though I did still have some last-minute efforts, the majority of the work was already done by the time everyone else was stressing about starting their assignments! This also gives you a week to edit and ask your tutors questions. Or to do it all over again if you realise you misread the question…

5. Routine. Avoiding First Year Burnout comes down to sticking to a routine as much as possible, so you don’t get a build-up of overdue work and incite a mental breakdown. I don’t mean waking up at 4 am like Casey Neistat would have you do, but by having designated times for certain activities and limiting them to a certain number of hours, you can plan your ideal week which will turn into an ideal month and eventually an ideal First Year. Set easy times for the little bits and pieces like answering upcoming tute questions while you’re on the loo. You’d be surprised how much you can achieve on there.

Final thoughts and tips: Wherever possible, watch lectures online at 2x speed. Don’t bite off more than you can chew unless you’re sure you can digest it. Don’t be that person messaging everyone at 11:54 pm saying you didn’t know the assignment was due in 5 minutes. Don’t be worried if you think everyone’s ahead – they’re probably just better at lying than you.

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