Are you suffering from academic burnout at university?

What is burnout?

Sometimes student life feels like every time you meet a deadline, another one looms. You’re constantly waiting for this crazy week to be over, just to have an even crazier one coming up. Staying on top of your workload is a challenge, but overworking isn’t sustainable for multiple weeks in a row. If you try and do too much in a short space of time, you’ll exhaust yourself – hello, academic burnout!

Lots of stress over a long period of time – aka, a uni term – can lead to a feeling of exhaustion. This fatigue can be physical, mental and emotional or all three. Professor Kim Hirabayashi of the University of Southern California says that burnout is a catch-all term that ultimately means “the opposite of thriving”.

University student suffering from academic burnout, sitting at desk with laptop
Photo credit: SB Arts Media, Shutterstock

Academic burnout symptoms

Academic burnout is unlikely to be caused by one thing in particular. However, there are several aspects of student life likely to cause added stress and make burnout more likely. These include work overload, accommodation worries, feeling isolated due to online learning, and financial concerns.

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s very common and can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life. But too much stress can affect our mood, body and relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. If you ignore the signs of stress and neglect to manage it properly, you’ll eventually burn out.

Some physical signs of academic burnout:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity and frequent illnesses
  • Headaches and/or muscle pain
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits

Some emotional signs of academic burnout:

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, or overwhelmed
  • Detachment and/or loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Some behavioural signs of academic burnout:

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or racing thoughts
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustration on others
University student suffering from academic burnout asleep on his desk
Photo credit: Antonio Guillem, Shutterstock

Burnout recovery

Take a break

It sometimes feels like doing well in uni work is the world’s most important thing. While it’s admirable to be taking your work seriously, your mental and physical health should always be number one. If you’re feeling burnt out, you’ve probably prioritised work at the expense of your wellbeing. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be productive all the time, especially during the pandemic.

The first thing to do when experiencing academic burnout is to take a step back from your work. Take a couple of days off and make sure you really relax, whatever that means for you (sport, reading, time with friends, bubble baths…). This might feel like the last thing you should be doing with exams or deadlines approaching. However, getting some breathing space will help you regain your energy, and be more productive in future.

Challenge your negative thoughts

The way we think affects the way we feel. Try and challenge unhelpful thoughts by considering the good things in your life. Of course, this is way easier said than done. But focussing on the good in your life will remind you that the world is bigger than your uni campus. You have so much more going for you than just your marks!

Try to stop comparing yourself with others and adding unnecessary academic pressure. Every day, list three things about your own life that you’re thankful for. These can be as big as an important person in your life and as small as finding a 50p piece on the floor.

Talk to someone

Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline can all help when you’re struggling from excessive stress and student burnout. Though uni can sometimes feel like a lonely place, there are lots of people there that have your back. Try and seek help early instead of waiting until you’re at crisis point. See our mental health tips for more info.

Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Talking to a good listener is a great way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Try and schedule quality time with uni friends, or call important people in your life. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.

University student suffering from academic burnout speaking on the phone
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

Build a good schedule

As you go forward, try and stick to a schedule that gives you lots of breaks and time off. If you want to keep up a good momentum for a long period of time, you need to pace yourself. For example, if you’re studying hard until 4 or 5 pm, there’s no need to keep going into the evening! Take a look at our post on time management for more advice on setting good boundaries. Use all your time off to chill, unwind, spend time with other people, and get enough sleep.

Set reasonable goals so you can stick to them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large tasks like ‘Start Chemistry revision’. Breaking it down into ‘Chapter 1 notes’, ‘Chapter 1 practice questions’, etc, will make it more manageable. You can keep your morale up by ticking lots off your to-do list, thus avoiding burnout.

Remember your work-life balance

Life at uni is about loads more than your actual degree. Joining a club or society can be a great way to do something you enjoy and boost your mood. You can even meet nice people and create a community. However, don’t take too much on – you don’t have to say yes to every social activity or study group! Only do the things that bring you joy.

Exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing when your energy is low. But just 15 minutes of movement can make a huge impact on your mood, especially if you manage to spend the time outdoors. There’s a form of sport for everyone: it can be as simple as moving from your desk to the floor for a yoga video.

Discover cheap things to do in London for students

Are you staying in your London uni halls over the holidays? Returning home from campus to the capital? Planning a day trip for some fun during the break? Take advantage of any free time you have in the big city, and try out some of these cheap things to do in London. They’re perfect for a student budget!

We know you’ll probably be studying hard this holiday, but all work and no play will leave you burnt-out and miserable. Though your time off may be limited, use our tips to make the most of it.

Museums and history

London’s museums are amazing, and most of them are completely free. These include the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Wellcome Collection and more! Some of these have exhibitions on that you need to pay for, but they keep the prices pretty low. The Science Museum’s fighter jet simulator is just £6, and the Horniman Museum’s magical aquarium is £4.50. For cheap things to do in London after sunset, check out funky late night events at the Science Museum, V&A, and Natural History Museum. They’re all free (though some are ticketed).

Want a quick glimpse of London’s history? The changing of the guard happens at 11:00 am almost every day at Buckingham Palace. The Tower of London’s Ceremony of the Keys happens every night at 9:30 pm. Both are completely free, but for the latter online booking is essential.

One of London’s best-kept secrets is the Mithraeum, a Roman temple hidden underneath the Bloomberg buildings in the City of London. Dedicated to the mysterious figure of Mithras, you can visit without paying a penny.

The Great Court of the British Museum, full of visitors.
The British Museum. Photo credit: Konmac, Shutterstock

Art and architecture

Lots of art museums, like both the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, National Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts are free. Keep an eye out for free exhibitions at the Curve at the Barbican Centre too!

For something festive, Winter Light is a free, open-air exhibition at the Southbank Centre featuring ten festive installations from famous artists. Or, go hear some carols inside St Paul’s. Every year, the legendary London landmark hosts a series of free, non-ticketed carol concerts.

Looking for more architecture? On the first Wednesday of every month, visitors can see ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ for free. The Baroque murals covering Greenwich’s Painted Hall were painted more than 300 years ago, but have just been restored. Somerset House, the last of the huge palaces that used to line the Thames in central London, also offers free tours. Alternatively, Severndroog Castle in south London is only £3.50. It’s great for panoramic views of the city, ancient woodland and general Gothic vibes.

The great outdoors

London’s green urban spaces are really special. Though it’s cold outside, on bright days you’ll still enjoy places like Green Park, Hyde Park and St James’s Park. Lots of these also have pedalo boats you can rent. These are usually around £4 and great fun if the weather holds out! For the really brave at heart, you can swim in the Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds for £2 per day. Sack off the gym pool and join in if you dare!

A good walk with a friend is priceless, making it one of our favourite cheap things to do in London. Stroll along the South Bank, follow the towpath through Little Venice, or join one of Strawberry Tours’ free London walking tours. If you want to relax in nature while actually staying indoors, try the Sky Garden (free) or the gorgeous Barbican Conservatory (free on Sundays!).

Hyde Park, one of the best cheap things to do in London!
Hyde Park. Photo credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock

Culture

Use websites like todaytix, or the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, for £20 West End tickets. But for a cheaper theatre alternative, standing tickets at Shakespeare’s Globe are just £5. Arrive early, and you’ll be close enough to touch the stage. The Royal Ballet also offers £5 tickets for amphitheatre seats right at the top of the Royal Opera House. Bring binoculars and enjoy!

Lots of London’s best comedy shows are either free or very cheap. You then tip what you can at the end depending on what you think it was worth. Our favourites include the Bill Murray in Angel and the Top Secret Comedy Club in Covent Garden.

For cinema lovers, the PeckhamPlex shows all new movies at ’90s prices. The House of Vans in Waterloo runs free cinema nights, as well as its other events like skate school and live music nights. And for cinema haters, Old Street’s Crap Film Club screens a different terrible movie every month. Early-bird tickets are £5.

Views

See the city from the top of Monument’s 311 stairs for just £5, or from the eighth floor of the OXO Tower for free. For outdoor alternatives, look out at the capital from Primrose Hill or Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath.

Try the Emirates Air Line (nicknamed the Dangleway) for a cheaper version of the London Eye. The cable car opened in 2012, so as cheap things to do in London go, it still feels like a novelty. It crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock, and best of all, it’s only £3.50!

Your favourite cheap things to do in London

Did we miss any must-see activities? Have you tried any of our recs and enjoyed them? Let us know in the comments below!

Eight key revision tips for exam success

The good news is that the end of the year brings a well-deserved break. The bad news is that you probably have exams either before the holiday or immediately after. Here are some of our best revision tips to keep your exam stress low and your grades high this December.

1. Start early

The most important of all our revision tips is to begin preparing for the exam period well in advance. The more time you give yourself, the more thorough you can be. In addition, if you spread your work over more weeks, you don’t need to push yourself so hard each day. You’ll have more flexibility to take time off for special occasions, or just when you’re not in the mood to study!

But what about if you’re reading this the week of your exam and thinking, ok that sounds nice, but too little too late? We don’t recommend cramming, but sometimes there’s no alternative. Use Proprep‘s video tutorials to make your revision as efficient as possible, especially when time is limited!

2. Create a good timetable

If you’ve managed to start revision in advance, work out how much time you have left and divide it up into study sessions. Make a revision timetable and stick to it!

As we wrote in our time management tips, different people work better at different times of day and in different ways. For example, I know that I like to change up what I’m doing every hour. That way I don’t lose focus and can stay productive for longer. If I’m doing this, I can revise well from the morning until about 6pm, but I hate studying into the night. If you’re not sure how you function best, try a few different ways until you find a schedule you like. Remember to take enough breaks to keep you sane and avoid burnout!

Photo credit: Cmspic, Shutterstock

3. Find the right location to study

This might sound too basic for our revision tips, but it couldn’t be more important. What works for you might not work for a friend, and will probably be dependent on how you like to revise. If you need motivation to get your head down, go to the library. However, if you like to study in the early or late hours, your room may work out better.

Wherever it is, make sure you have a clean, well-lit, quiet space that you can focus in. Snacks within reach are an added plus!

4. Work on your weak areas

We all like to play to our strengths. However, if you only ever revise what you’re good at, you’ll never improve. Get real about which are your weaker areas, and dedicate more time to those when you’re making your schedule. Figure out how you can improve in these areas – do you need to do extra background reading? Can you ask a coursemate for help? If it’s time management itself that is a weak area for you, check out our blog about working on it!

If you’ve missed a few lectures over the course of the term, it’s all good. Proprep‘s video tutorials and study guides can help you if you need to go over content. This is true whether you were in the room but zoned out, or hungover in bed!

5. Use memory tools

Now to the actual revising. The goal of revision is to retain information you can then bring out to answer the exam questions. If you don’t have a good memory, this might feel a bit daunting. However, there are tons of things you can use as memory aids. Notes, flash cards, diagrams, flowcharts… If something’s worked for you in the past, use it again. Otherwise, again, try out a few techniques to see what feels the best.

Visual learners like using bright colours and aesthetically-pleasing notes to aid their revision process. Check out the world of Studygram if that applies to you!

6. Take advantage of resources

Be sure to use all the course resources your professors point out to you. They’ll have guidance, extra support, and revision tips for you to use. Alongside these, you can do your own research to find resources that’ll help you expand your knowledge of the subject.

Try Proprep‘s video tutorials if you want learning tools customised exactly to your STEM course. Don’t waste your time with material that’s not relevant to what you’re studying! If you can’t find a module, send us your syllabus to receive materials created especially for you. Plus, if you’re stuck on anything, you can send your questions directly to our professor team! They’ll respond shortly with a personalised video answer.

7. Practice makes perfect

Ok, so you think you have the theory down. The best way to test your understanding is to get as much practice answering questions as possible. Past papers will help you hone your answers as well as familiarising you with the format of the exam. For example, if you have a choice between two sections, you can decide which areas to prioritise in your revision. Try your hand at attempting problems under time pressure, and without looking at solutions or using any help.

If you’re looking for more opportunities for improvement, there are thousands of practice problems on the Proprep platform. Have a go at them, and watch the video solutions if you need to see where you went wrong.

Photo credit: Jacob Lund, Shutterstock

8. Study with your peers

Revising with friends is a great way to work socialising into your study schedule. As well as being an important break from staring at your notes all day, you can learn from one another. You’ll get to share resources, revision tips, and info. Study groups are great if you want to brainstorm in a big group, but so are one-on-one sessions with a friend. Choose to focus on a certain topic area every time you meet up, and bring your notes and other materials you might need.

This one is harder to achieve if you’re home studying during the Winter holidays. However, sometimes even working next to someone doing something completely different to you will help keep you focused for longer. The perks of peer pressure! Invite friends over, catch up for a little while, then get down to business.

What are your best revision tips?

Did we miss anything important? Have you tried any of our revision tips and found they helped you reduce exam stress? Let us know in the comments below! We can’t wait to hear from you.

Better time management for students: our six top tips

Student life is BUSY. You’re working, doing activities, socialising, and remembering to feed and clean yourself… It makes sense that time management for students can go out the window. It also might be the first time you’ve been left to your own devices for a lot of the day. Gone is the structure of school, replaced with overlapping deadlines and long library hours.

One of the best reasons to use Proprep is to up your time management game. When I was a student, I always started the university term determined to stay on top of things. However, I would get more and more behind as the weeks went on. I was like a duck: calm on the surface, but paddling like crazy to stay afloat behind the scenes. If this sounds familiar, here’s how to work on changing your routine for the better.

The importance of time management for students

Good time management helps students to prioritise their tasks and submit assignments on time. Students can plan, set aside the time they need to complete work, and make better use of the rest of their time.

It might feel like some people are naturally good at using their time, but this isn’t the case. Time management is an organisational process that enables you to plan effectively, and anyone can learn to do it. Excellent time management skills will allow you to work more productively. You can then get more done with less stress, especially when pressure is high. Follow our top tips to start managing your time better today!

A female student, struggling with time management, checks her watch while working.
Photo credit: GaudiLab, Shutterstock

1. Prioritise your tasks

The key to time management for students is creating a to-do list. Identify what you need to do, then prioritise tasks based on the dates your assignments are due and the amount of time you’ll need. You can base your schedule for the day and week around what needs to get done first. If you’ve got some flexibility, start with what you most feel like doing. Hopefully the momentum will carry you through the rest of your list!

2. Break big tasks down

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large tasks like ‘Start Chemistry revision’, and the anxiety can make you want to procrastinate. Start with shorter, simpler to-do items and then move on to larger projects or assignments. You can break these down into manageable chunks too. Rather than ‘Revise’, try and get through ‘Chapter 1 Notes’, ‘Chapter 1 Practice Exercises’, and so on.

3. Make a schedule that works for you

Some people like to divide their time and assign different tasks to each chunk; some people like to stay at one until it’s done. When I was at uni, I got bored if I spent too long on one thing, so I changed it up every hour. Even though overall assignments took me longer, I was able to be stay more productive all day. Try a few different ways until you figure out what kind of time management works for you.

Different people work better at different times of the day. If you know you’re a night owl, take it easy in the morning and get back to work after supper. I knew this would exhaust me though, so I preferred to get to the library early and try to leave by 6pm.

Whatever you choose, make sure you put enough breaks throughout the day to keep you sane and avoid burnout. Many people like the pomodoro technique, which consists of working for 25 minutes before breaking for five, with a longer break every four cycles. Once you’ve committed to a plan, stick to it!

4. Remove distractions

A University of London study showed that those who multitask see a drop in IQ similar to someone who didn’t sleep the night before. If you’re trying to juggle doing multiple things at once, you’ll almost always end up less productive. Get real with yourself about what might be distracting you. Are you spending too much time checking Instagram or TikTok? Even if you’re online for a productive purpose like Studygram, try and stay in the zone while you’re working. Can you turn social media breaks into rewards for crossing something off your list?

5. Treat yoself!

Speaking of rewards, positively reinforcing the work you do will help you keep working for longer. Use your breaks to check the apps you’ve been avoiding, catch up with a friend, or spend time outside to feel refreshed. Pick something you’re looking forward to each week to use as motivation to accomplish your goals. For example, when I’ve finished three practice papers, I’ll watch the new James Bond film.

If you’re struggling to relax during your downtime, give your mind a rest through meditation or yoga.

A young woman practises yoga online from her living room.
Photo credit: Luke SW, Shutterstock

6. Build a good routine

After a couple of weeks of sticking to your time management schedule, hopefully you’ll build up good momentum and feel more in routine. An important part of this is also taking care of yourself: getting enough sleep, nutritious food, fresh air, and movement. Try and give yourself early nights when you can. These are especially important if you know you have a busy few days ahead, or you’re always late for the same lecture.

Your thoughts on time management for students

Have you tried any of our tips and found them helpful? What’s your best time management advice? Let us know in the comments!

How #studygram enhances student motivation

Have you heard of studygram? No? Well, picture that one kid in school who had 700 fineliner pens and always made the prettiest mind maps. Now imagine if they could’ve used the internet to connect to thousands of different versions of themselves, all around the world.

We’re probably all used to admiring the beautiful notes of some of our friends and classmates. However, the social media age means that we can now do the same to people from around the globe: enter #studygram. With over 13 and a half million posts (!), the popular Instagram hashtag has launched a positive student community of proud studygrammers. These users connect and share diagrams, to-do lists, tips, notes and more, to inspire other learners around the world. 

Pretty notes for the win

Typical studygram posts show off vibrant, neat notes, usually handwritten but sometimes created on an iPad or other tablet. Colours affect neurological pathways in the brain and create biochemical responses, improving our memory, stimulating our emotions, and further motivating us to learn. Taking notes by hand has also been proven to be better than typing for both understanding and remembering conceptual information in the long term.

Of course, it’s important not to get lost in the aesthetic aspects of your work and compromise on quality. If you’re a visual learner, however, investing in the appearance of your notes will definitely pay off. 

A positive community

Social media often gets a bad rep for being a distraction from your studies. The studygram world shows that it can also be used for good, keeping you learning from others and motivating yourself even during your downtime. Studygram posts range from stationery tips to detailed notes, aiming to inspire other students to get more organised about their studies and daily routine. In addition, studygrammers help their peers to discover new learning resources.

On the flip side, have you ever been labelled a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ for enjoying working hard? You can use the studygram community to take pride in being a diligent student. Instagram’s international reach means you can engage with like-minded people all over the world and of all ages. They’ll embrace you in all your highlighter shades.

The community is very positive, with studygrammers encouraging their fellows to share thoughts and tips in the comments. They’re also honest about the struggles of time management, staying motivated, and exam stress. Users have noted the culture of personal growth and accountability, feeling encouraged by seeing other studygrammers hard at work.

Photo credit: @studyrhi, Instagram

Our favourite STEM studygrammers

Emilystudying

Emily’s notes cover a range of topics in Biology and Maths, and always look beautiful! Check out the mix between her trademark rainbow-coloured pens and, more recently, some impressive iPad art.

Studykween

Aleksandra is a fourth-year medical student in London, and her page has it ALL. Using more muted pastel tones than the typical bright colours you might expect to see, check out her diagrams, study tips, and weekly newsletters!

Studywithara

Ara is a pharmacology and physiology major using her digital skills to promote good motivation and productivity habits. She even creates wallpapers available for download each month, with desktop, tablet, and mobile sizes.

Thewordygal

Don’t be put off by the name: Sarah is a nurse-to-be. For a girl who must spend so much time in the lab, her desk is AMAZING! Follow for workspace decor inspiration and tips for the best buys to help you study.

How to up your note-taking game, inspired by studygram

  1. Grab a blank page of a pretty notebook or planner.
  2. Make sure you have some coloured pens on hand, and use them as much as possible.
  3. Write a big, beautiful title at the top or in the middle of your page.
  4. Use numbered lists, bullet points, subtitles and boxes to divide your page into sections. These will break up the material and make it easier to learn.
  5. Try a hand-drawn graphic or doodled diagrams to add pretty detail.
  6. Most importantly: don’t panic if it doesn’t come out looking like how you intended. The studygram community is loving and supportive, and every page is a fresh start you can use to try again!