Burnout is the result of too much energy output and not enough energy self-invested. In other words, it’s burning too much fuel than you’ve put in your tank.

Melissa Steginus

Let’s be honest, being a student is difficult. You’ve got classes to attend, projects to work on, assignments due and exams waiting around. Add work and social commitments to the pile and you’ve got a recipe for good ol’ academic burnout.

Boy being handed a pile of papers and falling down.

According to a survey released by The Ohio State University’s Office of the Chief Wellness Officer, student burnout was at 71 per cent in April 2021. The pandemic and stress of virtual learning were cited as contributions to the increase in numbers.

What is academic burnout?

Animated character furiously typing on three different laptops.

University of the People describes academic burnout as a negative emotional, physical, and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced ability in school.

Studying the same subject matter for a prolonged period or working on similar assignments or projects in the long term can cause this chronic condition.

How does academic burnout affect you?

Woman looking worried.
Text: [concern intensifies]

While it is easy to confuse burnout with temporary stress of being a student, ignoring the symptoms can lead to developing severe mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

So, in order to overcome burnout, you first need to recognize it. Some common symptoms of academic burnout are:


Animated woman falls on her bed.
Text: Tired of being TIRED.

It is normal to feel tired after pulling all-nighters in a school week. But, if you feel like a dementor’s sucked the soul out of you even after getting a good night’s sleep, it might be a sign you’re going through burnout.

Lack of motivation

A dog laying in bed.
Text: So much to do, so little motivation

Picture this: You’re halfway through the school year. You’ve got a class to attend, two assignments to submit and friends to meet. But you can’t find it in you to even lift a finger because it feels like all motivation has been drowned out. Yup, this is a cause for concern.

Constant irritability

Little girl resting her head on the car seat in annoyance.

Yes, your roommate “breathing” isn’t a good enough reason to be annoyed by them. Feeling constantly irritated by the slightest inconvenience is an effect of burnout.

Physical illness

Man laying on bed saying, "I feel like complete shit. I can't go anywhere."

If you’re frequently falling ill, this could be your body reflecting the effects of burnout. Insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, and body pain are common symptoms of burnout.

Also, burnout can lead to the development of harmful habits like stress-eating and revenge bedtime procrastination.

How to overcome academic burnout?

Woman asking, "So, what's the solution?"

Now that you know what burnout looks like, lets focus on how to tackle it.

Identify the cause

Spongebob screaming "Why???"

What is the source of your burnout? Is the workload too heavy or have you lost your passion for the course? Once you recognize the cause, you can work on solving it.

You could create a planner to schedule tasks that’ll help with time-management. Or you could opt to change your subjects and enroll in classes that you are truly passionate about.

Take a break

Man closes his laptop and says, "Break time."

Rest is a biological need. Taking a break not only gives your body some much needed rest, but it also helps in resetting your mind.

Set out specific timings during the day and on weekends to unwind from academic stress and focus on nurturing your wellbeing.

Change your lifestyle

Man saying, "It's time for change."

If you’re experiencing burnout, it means something in your current routine isn’t working for you. Take a step back and evaluate your lifestyle. Focus on developing healthy sleeping and eating habits to steer yourself towards a positive lifestyle change.

Also, exercising daily is a great way to relieve stress and keep yourself physically and mentally fit.


Four friends meeting on zoom.

Sorry to break it to you but scrolling through social media and socializing are two different things. So, put that phone down and go meet or get on a call with real human beings. This will not only elevate your mood, but also help you de-stress.

Reach out for help

Animated character lifting a phone.
Text: Call someone. Asking for help makes you stronger.

Sometimes all you need is another person’s perspective to be steered towards the right direction. So don’t be shy to reach out to your loved ones for some extra support.

Also, trying to overcome academic burnout by yourself can be tough. So, make use of Humber’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre’s counselling services to help address your issues.

SWAC’s free, confidential, and virtual services are available to all Humber and University of Guelph-Humber students can help:

  • Address your issues
  • Support you
  • Help you work towards attaining your goals
  • And help you function effectively as a learner.

To book your appointment, visit the SWAC’s website or email counselling@humber.ca.

Hard times always lead to something great. So, don’t be discouraged as you work on yourself because future you will be grateful for the help!

And don’t forget, IGNITE will always have your back through it all!

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