Burnout in students

Burnout is your body’s way of saying: nope, nada, no more. And quite simply, your body shuts down. Caused by prolonged theories and prolonged feelings of stress, the body has experienced tremendous amounts of pressure, whereby it can no longer react to stressful situations. Anyone can get burnout, full-time workers and students.

Attached to burnouts are depleted resources, weakened tissue repair, lower immune system and an overwhelming sense of cynicism, to top it all off.

Burnout can severely impact your working schedule, forcing you to take time off work to recover. In addition to your work schedule, this can spill into your academic and personal life too. Burnout is making those deadlines and relationships harder to focus and maintain.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Work burnout can take different forms, both physically and mentally.

Knowing the early signs can mean you’re one chat away with your manager, friend or family to say, ‘Hey guys, I think I need some down-time’. Sunday blues is a real thing, and having burnout makes you hate the idea of going to work.

Burnout Mental Symptoms

  • Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated
  • Detachment from your job role
  • Feeling alone
  • Loss of motivation
  • Escapist activities
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Mentally exhausted

Burnout Physical Symptoms

  • Crying unexpectedly
  • Recurring illnesses such as the flu
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches

In a workplace setting, suffering from job burnout can mean several consequential factors. Unable to make coherent decisions, work relationships under pressure, arriving late or not arriving at all and so many more. You may feel like every day at work is a bad day, feel exhausted much of the time and feel no joy in your work.

What is stress?

Stress in small doses can often save the day. It can be that boost of adrenaline to help jump out of a plane. It can sharpen your senses and enhance your reaction time when pressing the brakes of the car. Stress can help you rise to those challenges.

However, the differences between acute and chronic stress are evident with the latter causing jeopardising effects on your personal and work career.

In response to your body feeling threatened, the nervous system releases stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which catapult your body into emergency action.

When this happens, you may experience the following feelings;

  • Heart palpitations
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharpened senses

The result of this? An increase in strength, stamina and response time can help you respond to danger.

With over 56% of UK adults saying work is the most significant cause of stress, it is an issue that 100% needs covering.

Are you working inhumane hours over Christmas and summer? Is your manager piling you with unreasonable workloads? Disagreement at work leading to tension in the workplace? Yep, you guessed it; these are the causes of stress.

Perkbox’s workplace survey discusses the top 10 industries most likely to deal with stress, with hospitality (64%) and retail (59%) reaching number 5 and 7 respectfully.

With a high percentage of students working in these selected industries; most likely, you are reading this with the experience of dealing with stress.

Stress comes in different forms and waves, thus affecting individuals differently. Although there are common causes of work-related stress. Here are the top 5:

  • Long working hours (21%)
  • Co-workers’ performances (14%)
  • Own work performance (13%)
  • Customer satisfaction (11%)
  • Office politics (9%)

This section can help you spot the early signs of work-related stress. Chronic stress can impact daily lives, work and personal relationships. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Headaches
  • Weakened immune system
  • Lower productivity
  • Unable to cope
  • Difficulty performing the simplest of tasks
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Change in appetite - eating too much or too little
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Tiredness

What happens if these symptoms are ignored?

We have all been there either as the victim or the friend. Someone approaches you with worry or an issue and are initial reply is to say:

Hey, don’t worry about it!

Surprisingly, this does not help. Brush these worries under the carpet, and it could potentially lead to burnout.

Dealing with stress at work

What precautions can you take to dealing with stress at work and the strategies put in place to help mitigate the situation?

  • Try and avoid heavy drinking and substance abuse. We say try because we don’t want to sound patronising. When times get tough, typically, the first response is to resort to drinking, smoking and all things unhealthy. Offering short-term relief only exacerbates things in the future. Running away from the situation and not taking it full on will not help.

  • Talk and connect with people. Maybe start with a close-colleague at work then work your way up to upper management. If you are feeling overworked, unable to perform roles such as a presentation or having difficulty focusing, talk it out. Otherwise, management will assume everything is fine and will continue to treat you all the same. Naturally, this is all made harder when one of the common symptoms is detachment from friends and co-workers. However, try and find the momentum to make that first move.

  • Spot the issues. Are you being treated unfairly? Are you working copious amount of hours? Is your personal life interfering? Spotting these issues can help identify the problem when it comes to managing stress.

  • Exercise. Yep, some places it may seem a little unreasonable to whack the yoga mat and start throwing all types of shapes. However, by doing small things like walking to work, or doing light exercises during your break, it can help release endorphins, notoriously known as the best natural way for stress relief.

  • Give yourself downtime. Disconnect yourself from work. Set yourself boundaries, so for when you go home, work is not the focus. You should sign out of emails and try not to discuss work-related issues at home.

  • Meditation and other ways of relaxing. Aside from entering into a state of zen, meditation has numerous benefits to help reduce levels of stress. Key neurotransmitters are released during meditation, like the following;

  • Dopamine - not only do you experience pleasure, but it helps stabilise your mood and sleeping patterns.

  • Serotonin - commonly known as the happy hormone, it helps relieve stress, keeps you more focused and calm.

  • Endorphins - known as the runner’s high, endorphins can enhance well-being and giving a sense of euphoria.

What are the causes of student stress?

Being a student’s job board, it would be silly to ignore the causes of student stress too.

The educational journey for most students is a bumpy ride. GCSE pressure, final year exams and university are all stress triggers. According to a recent NUS survey, 87% of students experienced stress, 77% suffered from anxiety, and 48% experienced panic.

As we discussed previously, stress in small doses can be healthy for the mind and body. It boosts concentration, productivity and awareness. However, 20% of students during mid-course suffer from stress symptoms at a clinical level.

That is not healthy.

There are many factors causing stress in students such as the following;

  • Coursework deadlines
  • Exams
  • Financial issues
  • Social anxiety
  • Homesickness
  • Balancing studies with other commitments
  • Academic performance
  • Personal, family or relationship problems
  • Alcohol and/or substance misuse
  • Finding accommodation
  • Finding a part-time job
  • Graduate employment
  • Fitting in

It’s no joke. More students are taking their own lives due to the immense pressure that comes from university.

That bodes the questions - how does a student manage stress through a time that evidently, is built on stress.

  • Take it easy (when it comes to studying). We have all been there. Deadlines are approaching; all-nighters are on the horizon and panic mode is inevitable. There has been a rise in students using drugs such as Ritalin (a drug prescribed to people with ADHD) to maintain focus for twelve hours or more. One weekend is fine, but it has been known for students to repeat this maybe four times a week. Lack of sleep and extended study times can cause your brain to go into meltdown. Try and take frequent breaks, and make sure you find a way to fit in at least seven hours of sleep.

  • Know your limit. Going to university and moving away means one crucial thing; making new friends. UK students are notoriously known for being heavy drinkers, with a large collection of international students being shocked and almost sickened with how much we can handle. Students may feel pressured to join in on every night out, to ensure the best friend status is maintained. Nonetheless, stick to going out once, maybe twice a week. Remember, there is no harm having a whole week off, too.

  • Seek support. Many universities will have dedicated departments to offer services for mental health. Some offer in-house counselling, whereas offers can refer you to external organisations. Nonetheless, you’re paying over £9000 in tuition fees, make the most of it.

  • Communicate. Having a good network of people who you can talk with about emotional well-being can have a positive impact. Remember, there is no shame in opening up your feelings.

  • And if you don’t have a good network? Loneliness is real and can creep into your life, regardless of age, location and situation. There are plenty of charities out there who specialise providing services whereby if you need a chat, someone is at the other end.

Mind is an excellent example of offering confidential support for mental health and overcoming loneliness. Mind can be contacted on 0300 123 3393.

Remember, burnout and stress go hand in hand. If you catch the signs early enough, it will be easier to recover from the effects of burnout. Unfortunately, burnout takes a lot of time to recover, and it will not go away on its own. You must seek help, communicate and try to improve your work-life balance.

While you’re here, why not have a look at some perks at work that may help improve your working space.

Register now with StudentJob

Do you want to be kept up to date on the latest jobs for students? Register for free on StudentJob.


All about well-being at work