Big Issues

7 Signs That Prove You Need To Take Some Time Off

We spoke to a psychologist about the warning signs of burn out.

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Us uni students have a lot on our plates. With classes, part-time work, internships and a social life to keep on top of, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed.

Being a stressed-out uni student has become a sort of running joke — but according to psychologist and Director of the Australian College of Trauma Treatment, Michael Burge OAM, we shouldn’t be taking it lightly. He says that today’s students are increasingly more isolated than previous generations, and burn out has become extremely common.

To help you get through the end of semester without a breakdown, we’ve enlisted his expert advice on the warning signs to look out for.

Your Concentration Is Lacking

It’s tempting to spend hours behind a computer screen cramming for a test or finishing up a last-minute assignment. But if the words start blurring together and you’re having to re-read paragraphs, little is being gained.

Taking frequent breaks means you’ll be able to absorb more information and continue working more efficiently over a longer period. The standard rule is that you should take a break for every 45 minutes of study.

The Smallest Inconvenience Sets You Off

With even the minutest problems setting you off, it’s more likely that you’re on the brink of burning out.

Burge told Uni Junkee that psychological indicators of burn out include, “worry, fear, anger, tearfulness, irritability, anxiety and helplessness”.

Things Are Becoming ‘Too Much’

All those impending deadlines are enough to make you feel like you’re at breaking point. Especially if you want to do a decent job. “The points of stress these days are greater demands to achieve in an increasingly competitive environment,” Michael Burge says. “[Students] focus on almost perfectionistic demands at the cost of developing the whole person.”

“Stressing about uni won’t get you a higher grade.”

AKA, we put our desire to get HDs, have perfect skin, and complete an internship above our mental health.

“Stressing about uni won’t get you a higher grade,” he says. “Perfectionism and catastrophising makes performance worse.” So in the interests of your studies, and your own health, make sure you’re always looking out for number one.

You’re Managing Stress In All The Wrong Ways

7 Signs That Prove You Need To Take Some Time Off

When we’re under pressure, we seek out the wrong kind of comfort through massive sugar hits, alcohol and smoking. But these temporary stress relievers will worsen our anxiety in the long-term, and negatively impact our mental and physical health.

Burge says, “It’s important to have healthy diet to perform well and your nerves will be better too. Employ stress management techniques like recognising and mitigating negative thoughts.”

He also added, “Stress studies show that one of the best ways to mitigate stress is human contact.” So instead of engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour, exercise, connect with mates and find individual, healthy ways to relax. It’s what the doctor ordered.

Feeling Super Sleep Deprived

If you’ve lost count of how many coffees you’ve had today, it’s time to put away your notes and take a nap.

Without enough sleep, your memory is impaired, meaning you’re unlikely to remember course material in the same way you would if you had a good night’s rest.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should have between 7-9 hours’ sleep a night. So don’t feel guilty for getting those extras ZZZs come exam period.

Frequent Headaches

Another common sign that you’re edging towards burn out might be that stress headache you’re sporting.

“don’t be afraid to seek support for special consideration.”

Frequent headaches, along with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, high blood pressure, stomach upset, diarrhoea (yes, really) and muscular aches and pains, are your body’s way of telling you to slow down.

Your Immune System Has Just Given Up

When we’re stressed, our immune system decides to raise the white flag and betray us. This usually manifests in a bad cold or flu.

Being sick is the last thing you need when you’re deep in study period but it’s also a sign that you’re in desperate need of a rest. Burge suggests managing stress by “externalising rather than internalising stressors.” That includes doing things like eating a proper diet, exercising, and meditating. “As long as that does not convert into helpless victimisation,” he warns.

“Try and take a break and don’t be afraid to seek support for special consideration if depression or anxiety is overwhelming. A GP or counsellors letter can really help,” he says.

If you or someone you know needs support, many Australian universities offer free counselling services. Organisations like Beyond Blue also provide mental health assistance.