Most of us are familiar with the scary-sounding term “burnout syndrome”. But what is it like to experience it first-hand?
Burnout syndrome is often connected with people who have a lot of responsibility in their job and work with other people at the same time. However, it can also affect students, who often take on much more than they can handle.
According to Associate Professor Miňhová, who is an expert at the UWB Psychological Counseling Center, the most common reason for burnout among students is over-ambition, the desire to get good grades at any cost and the inability to say no. Most of the time, the students are taking part-time jobs, volunteering or doing hobbies and have more than they can handle. Burnout syndrome often affects students who don’t enjoy their job or school, don’t find it meaningful, do not receive feedback and lose a sense of usefulness.
Burnout syndrome has several stages, which are good to get familiar with and realize that it is a gradual process that ends with burnout itself.
Stage 1: ENTHUSIASM
At this stage we are fully committed to our job or school and invest a lot of energy and time in it. We often make very high demands on ourselves that we feel ready for, and at the same time we believe that we have the energy for their realization.
Stage 2: STAGNATION
The enthusiasm slowly fades as our energy is not inexhaustible. Most of the time, we begin to return to hobbies and activities that we used to do, but due to our high commitment to job or school, we have abandoned them.
Stage 3: FRUSTRATION
The frustration stage is not fun anymore! We begin to doubt our own endeavors and the meaning of the work we were previously passionate about. We experience stress that is reflected not only in our psyches, but also in our bodies. It’s an understandable fact, as we’ve long drawn large amounts of energy that we haven’t refilled back.
Stage 4: APATHY
Here the first enthusiasm is completely gone. We no longer tackle each new task with enthusiasm, but rather with disgust and annoyance. We do activities automatically, out of habit, and we don’t want to invest more energy in the work than is necessary to keep it running optimally.
Stage 5: BURNOUT
And here we are, in the burnout stage. Not only have we lost meaning and enthusiasm for the work, but we are even beginning to speculate on the meaning of our own existence. Our resources, both psychological and physical, are largely depleted.
So what can we do to avoid Stage 5, and at best, not to get into any stage associated with burnout syndrom at all?
Can you say no?
As much as you might want to, there’s no way you can handle everything you want and take every opportunity that comes along. That’s why it’s important to can say no! There’s nothing wrong with turning down a tempting offer because you don’t want to go crazy with your already busy schedule. Take the time for this podcast in which lecturer Jitka Ševčíková speaks about the art of saying no.
During a busy schedule, it’s important to be able to stop and allow yourself time to think about nothing. Try to just sit and literally stare blankly at the wall, without your mind constantly filling with thoughts. It won’t be so easy at first, but learning makes a professional! So don’t be afraid to repeat 10 minutes of staring at the wall without thinking every single day. I’m sure the results will come and you might build a fine habit out of this initially strange technique!
Breathing as a proven tool
An effective tool for calming and relieving stress is undoubtedly breathing techniques, which are dated back to the period long before BC. You can read a few lines about certain techniques and how to practice them properly here.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
At the UWB there is a Psychological Counseling Center, which is visited on average by three to four students per week from all faculties of the UWB. According to the words of Associate Professor Miňhová, the most common problems that are solved in the Counseling Center are anxiety states, which can be caused by an individual’s emotional lability, a difficult period (before and during the exam period, handing in term papers) or excessive ambition. They also experience states of panic anxiety, depression or various phobias. Last but not least, they deal with personal, family and study problems.
Recommendation at the end from doc. Miňová from the UWB Psychology Counseling Center
“First of all, I recommend students to take time off from studying and relax. Above all, I listen to the students and we try to figure out the problem together. Next, I use breathing techniques related to counting, which helps students to engage their cognitive functions, or the Jacobson progressive method, which works with muscle relaxation. I teach students to be able to sit comfortably, close their eyes, follow their breath and imagine a place where they feel good. In this way they can find their safe place, where they can forget their problems and worries. They then use the method without my instruction at home.”
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who’s ready to help you and knows the proven techniques that will help in the whole process. You can find all the information and contact details for the University Counseling Center here.