What’s worse: burnout or isolation?

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whoever said that you couldn’t learn anything through osmosis was a liar. tony-tran (unsplash)

Many students are still feeling the effects of last year being online. How are we supposed to cope with another term? 

Starting a new term means that we should all be well-rested, ready to learn, and actively engaged in what is happening in both our classes and the wider university community. This sounds like a nice dream, doesn’t it? The ideal situation. A fairy-tale you could even argue. 

What are many students currently experiencing when entering this term? Burnout. Exhaustion. Feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and isolated. This isn’t the way that it’s supposed to be, and yet, here we are. I asked peers how they would describe their first two weeks back in the swing of things and I fear that these answers are not uplifting in the slightest. 

Individual K.L describes his term as being busy, overwhelming, and repetitive. We are feeling as though we are doing the same things day in and day out without that needed change of scenery or pace to break up our day. It feels as though we have been doing the same thing for the last 18 months and haven’t had a chance to stop and take a needed break. 

Another individual V.B., states that the term is already discouraging due to the lack of connection provided in the online environment. You would hope that with how long we have been living in this virtual state of interacting that we would have figured out more effective ways to do so than having so much of it provided in asynchronous formats with message boards and forums as the only options for a chance to interact with other people in your courses. 

Why is this such a problem? Well, the first issue is that the feelings of being isolated are only increasing. For many of us, going out and interacting with people outside of our bubbles is still a very high-risk gamble that we cannot take. This makes meeting new people extremely challenging and going outside of our regular four walls extremely nerve-wracking. These feelings of anxiety can be isolating in themselves, as it is harder to find people who still feel the same way that you do. Seeing photos and videos of countless people going out and interacting in groups while feeling like one of the only people who are not partaking in that is difficult to sit with. 

Another major problem that these opinions bring forth is the idea that student burnout is only going to grow as the year moves forward. There are many reasons for this potential growth and increasing severity of burnout. Many students didn’t take the breaks that they were used to getting in the summer from course work as there are many who chose to enroll in Spring or Summer courses, as it didn’t appear as though there was much else to do in the meantime. For those who were able to go to work or get a summer job, they were working in a way that they weren’t used to. Many who lost their jobs or were laid off were excited to get back to work and as a result ran the risk of overworking themselves at a higher rate. 

We have not had a chance to rest. We are tired, scared, and feeling defeated when being forced to look at the many weeks staring us in the face for this term. It is not an easy time to try and slow down, as we are expected to push through. We are also unable to push the same way, as we are still tired from 18 months ago. 

Try to be kind to yourself moving forward in the next few weeks. This term is going to be more challenging than the others. We are now all at different stages where we used to be in the same place at the beginning of this all. Stay strong friends, and do your best to lean on whoever you can. 

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