Simple ways to manage burnout: A Q&A with the CCW

As the first wave of tests and papers comes upon Calvin students, it can be difficult to stay motivated. The many stressors of schoolwork and extracurricular activities contribute to student burnout. The Center for Counseling and Wellness (CCW) is equipped to give students the tools necessary to combat that burnout. 

With midterms approaching, Chimes reached out to Irene Kraegel, director of the CCW, to discuss the causes of burnout and easy practices students can implement to prevent it. 

Chimes: What are typically the stressors students experience that lead to burnout? 

Kraegel: Burnout typically stems from being too busy (without margin in your schedule for rest and connection), lacking time management strategies (without intentionality about getting things done at a measured pace) and negative self-talk (without acknowledgment of your successes, abilities and inherent value). There are a lot of demands to juggle in college, both academically and socially, and it’s common to feel burned out at points along the way.

Chimes: What are some ways students can combat burnout as midterms approach? 

Kraegel: Recognize that you need intentionality about your self-care in order to thrive during college. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong when you feel tired and burned out, it just means it’s time for an adjustment. Reconnect with why you are here and give yourself a pat on the back for sticking with the hard work of studying in pursuit of your goals you’re tired because you’re doing something that matters to you! Take some time out to be refreshed, and then get support in staying on track with the things you plan to get done.

Chimes: Are there any daily habits students can adopt to promote productivity and good mental health?

Kraegel:  Keeping a regular schedule of sleeping seven to nine hours each night and eating at regular intervals throughout the day (including full meals) are crucial. Without rest and fuel, you will be depleted. Work in some movement, whether it’s an all-out exercise routine or simply incorporating some short walks and stretches throughout the day. Connect with people each day in-person even if you’re an introvert or feeling anxious about it, and take some time to notice that you’re not alone in your experiences. Practice getting out of your head and into your body on a regular basis, feeling your physical sensations. Notice nature. Pray. Breathe.

Recognize that you need intentionality about your self-care in order to thrive during college.”

Chimes: What advice would you give to incoming first-year and transfer students who may be adjusting to stress and burnout in a new environment?

Kraegel: Change is inherently stressful. If you’re having a hard time, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it just means you’re adjusting to something new! Be gentle and kind with yourself, saying things like, “It’s okay to have a hard time doing something hard.” Ask for help from professors, friends and the many staff at Calvin that are eager to support you: Residence Life, the Center for Counseling and Wellness, the Center for Student Success, Health Services, the Career Center, Campus Ministries, etc. You can do this, and we are all here to walk with you.

It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong when you feel tired and burned out, it just means it’s time for an adjustment.”

Chimes: Are there any steps professors can take to make sure that their students are taking care of their mental health as tests begin to pile up?

Kraegel: Shame about uncomfortable emotions is one of the barriers we experience to caring for our mental health. Professors can help reduce that shame by acknowledging stress (“This is a lot of work”), encouraging help-seeking by students (“It’s normal to ask questions come talk with me when you’re confused!”), referring to services (“Have you considered talking with a counselor about how you’re feeling?”) and incorporating mental health materials or presentations (such as use of Therapy Assistance Online materials from the CCW) in their syllabus. Also, spreading out due dates so everything doesn’t pile up at once can be really helpful.