A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As we all have had to deal with living and coping in a pandemic, some of us naturally may be feeling mentally exhausted or burned out. This makes sense as most of us have spent a majority of our time cooped up in our living spaces for over a year now. We are expected to continue to produce the same quality of work for our university or jobs even though many of us may be more anxious, distracted, or just tired. I recently went through a bout of burnout myself, and I want to share my experience in case it might help anyone else. Just note that recovering from burnout can be a very long process and requires a lot of patience and self-forgiveness.
This one may be a bit unusual, but reading books has helped me to cope with my burnout. I once watched a Youtube video which explained how mental rest is very important when it comes to dealing with burnout. Mental rest is not just turning your brain off by watching TV. Mental rest is giving your brain a proper break from everything else and focusing simply on one thing. For me, when I read books I was 100% concentrated and involved in what I was doing. You can’t read and also check your phone or do other things. It also was a way for me to not be thinking about myself and my own problems for once. I am able to put myself in the shoes of the characters and be invested in their lives instead.
Exercise (if you can)
Everyone and your mother has given you the advice that exercise is good for you. We all know that it’s true. Yet sometimes we aren’t always the best at exercising regularly, especially these days with gyms being closed. What’s important is not that you go for a jog or do an intense cardio workout every day of the week. Exercise can also be taking a walk while listening to a podcast, cleaning your space, or dancing to your favorite music. You can also buy a football or volleyball and go play in the park with a friend. No one expects you to be training like an Olympian right now. It’s okay to slack off a bit. Just try to make sure you’re not sitting down the whole day and that your body gets a little bit of movement every day.
Take a break
I can’t stress enough the importance of taking a break. As a perfectionist and workaholic, I am not good at taking breaks. I’m used to working until I can’t see straight anymore. However, doing university online and in a pandemic has been draining for us all. I just needed a proper break. I didn’t get one because of the way my study is structured. I had to study through December and January for my exams, only to start the second semester two days after my final exam.
At some point, I would get daily headaches and be chronically stressed. I was also lethargic and lacked motivation. My self-care routine was abandoned completely. It took a long time for me to recover from that. But at least I am doing somewhat better now. I had to take several days and weeks off from any university work. I told my group mates for one of my classes that I wasn’t going to be able to help sometimes but that I would the second I felt better. I asked my professors for extensions. Usually, people will understand and be sympathetic to your situation. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a break or extension sometimes.
It isn’t always ideal but you have to do what you can to relax and cope these days. Also, what I think helps people feel better is feeling a sense of autonomy over what we are doing. If we don’t feel like we have control over some of the things in our lives, then it can be hard to feel purposeful. So take control of your breaks, your study periods, and yourself. It’s okay to rest. You can sleep in, miss a workout, or order takeout food every now and then. Everything will be okay in the end, as long as you make sure that you are okay.