Taking a Break

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I’ve had trouble in school lately, and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. All my life, I’ve been passionate about doing well in school. I care a great deal about my future, and I have big plans for what I want to do. I’ve always been a hard worker.


However, these days, I’m having trouble focusing. I feel tired and worn out, and I don’t feel as motivated as I once did. At one time, I could go “full speed” all the time, but now I feel like I’m dragging everywhere I go. I don’t feel like getting up in the morning, and when I try to study, things just swim before my eyes, and nothing registers. I’m freaking out about this, and my grades suffer. My parents don’t understand, and neither do my friends, who are accustomed to me being the “super-nerd,” and powering through everything. I feel so frustrated, and I don’t know what to do. Experts, please–can you help?


We’re sorry to hear of the trouble you’re having in school. It’s clear that you take your studies seriously, and that you are a very motivated and intelligent person. It’s great that you’re taking this issue seriously, and you should think about re-evaluating the ways in which you work and study if you want to strike back against these issues.


It sounds as if you may be suffering from “burnout.” Burnout refers to a collection of symptoms that can set in if we overwork ourselves. While all of us want to work hard and succeed, we must be careful about how we balance our work lives with our personal and down time, because it’s possible for any person to exhaust their ability to work.


Before we get too far into our discussion of burnout and its possible solutions, we must make note of something important: we are not mental health professionals. It would be a great idea for you to take advantage of on-campus and off-campus resources for mental health. A visit to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist could help you understand the feelings you’re having in more detail. You may be suffering from issues other than burnout, including ones that may or may not be related to burnout itself. You may have anxiety or depression, for instance, and those are conditions that should be treated with the help of a professional. While we’re happy to offer some insights into things you can do for your mental health, we are not a substitute for a trip to a mental health professional who can work with you face-to-face on your specific issues.


With that said, let’s talk a little bit about burnout, work-life balance, and time off.


First things first: burnout is real. Those of us with old-school attitudes about work ethic might find this hard to hear, but there is a scientific basis for believing in burnout, and there is plenty of hard evidence demonstrating that those of us who keep the pedal pressed to the floor will be outperformed time and time again by people better at knowing when not to work. For instance, societies that allow their workers more time off tend to see more productive workers than those that have a culture of nonstop work.


Work-life balance is something that must exist in your day-to-day life. You must have certain hours and spaces carved out for yourself: work-free zones, if you will. If you let work creep into your personal space and time, you’ll deal with a host of issues. You might disrupt your sleep, for instance, by making your sleeping area less relaxing or by working too late into the night. Since we know how important good sleep is for productivity, we can see how a lack of work-life balance can lead to destructive burnout.


It’s not just the day-to-day, say vacation experts. Taking time off for multiple days is vital, too. That could mean relaxing over a long weekend and steering clear of work. Or, it could mean that you take a trip and visit Lansing, Michigan, for instance, suggests a tourist organization there. You don’t have to take a cruise every year, but you should take time off and leave your space for a vacation destination that is entirely work-free.


Spas and beaches are famous for their ability to relax. So, by all means, check out one of the many places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast or jet to some tropical island. Check out mentally for a while, and you will likely find that you return to your school work feeling recharged.


If this sort of laid-back thing isn’t your scene, that’s alright. The intellectually curious may prefer to explore Henry County, Georgia and other historic areas. This sort of vacation is just as capable of being refreshing–it may even work better for you, depending on your mood. Just because you are using your brain and learning during, for instance, your experiences in Vicksburg, Mississippi, doesn’t meant that you’re further wearing yourself out. The point is that work is off your mind–not that your mind is “turned off” entirely!


Understanding that you need to work less may be difficult, especially given your past as a non-stop worker and your obvious passion for school and your future. But you should think carefully about the ways in which your personality may actually be hurting your priorities. While it might not feel right to take time off from your work, you need to decide what you really want: do you want to feel like you’re working effectively, or do you actually want to work effectively? If your priority is truly your schoolwork and your future, then you should embrace effective techniques for improving your performance. Fighting burnout should be a priority for you.


Again, you should take the time to speak to a mental health professional about your entire range of symptoms. However, you should keep in mind that your breakneck working pace could be working against you. By incorporating a little more work-life balance, you may find that you are better able to succeed and be happy at the same time.


“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – quotesgram.com