Student burnout: a silent issue

Concordia University’s Sir George Williams Campus. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

Student burnout is becoming a more serious issue amongst university students, requiring greater attention in addition to solutions to tackle it.

Mental health awareness has been a topic of discussion for the past few years at schools, universities, and workplaces. 

Individuals often open up about their work and school schedules impacting their mental health negatively.  Nour Assad, a second-year engineering student, expressed the effects of stress impacting her academic performance. 

“As an engineering major facing a heavy course load, maintaining a good academic record, fitting extracurricular activities all while trying to have a social life can get exhausting. The state of chronic anxiety, stemming from the overwhelming feeling of having to balance it all pushes me into burnout which leads to a sense of indifference as well as an immense lack of motivation,” said Assad.

According to a recent study on the overall wellbeing of Canadian students, 62 per cent of undergraduate students in Canada have reported feeling stressed and anxious because of school.

Excessive stress over schoolwork can lead to students feeling emotionally and mentally drained. This is commonly known as a burnout, and it severely affects many students’ motivation and likelihood to stay in school. 

Second-year psychology student Gaelle Chalouhi opened up about their own experiences regarding burnout. “University makes me stress even more than I already am because they have high expectations when it comes to grades. I’m studying stuff I barely understand and I need to have specific grades. My mental health isn’t doing so well, that everytime I talk to my therapist or my family they see me having anxiety attacks, panicking and crying every week,” she said.

A group of undergraduate psychology students at Concordia conducted a survey studying school-related stress amongst students who are currently completing their undergraduate degrees in the Montreal area, and the results demonstrate a concerning reality. 

85 per cent of the participants expressed that they felt emotionally drained from school. In addition, 47.7 per cent admitted to having experienced muscle pain due to academic stress. These results, although based on a small group of students, are alarming since the participants were in different fields of study as well as different years in their academic careers. The one common ground for this diverse group was feeling stressed due to university.

First-year political science student Tia Abdul Baki said “Burnout affected me both mentally and psychically, I stopped going to the gym, started to become very anxious, depressed and angry with myself. I stopped being productive, had a relapse and stopped eating as much,” she said.

These findings point to the importance of preventing academic burnout before it starts. Eloïse Fairbank, a PhD candidate  from Concordia’s psychology department, has identified a few useful strategies which you can use to reduce any academic stress you may be feeling.

  1. Set a routine schedule. Organizing your daily tasks with a to-do list can help to control your schedule and prevent procrastination.
  2. Take breaks/time off. For example, take weekends and/or evenings off from schoolwork when possible. Work-life balance is important!
  3. Take advantage of Concordia’s resources. Not only does Concordia offer a variety of resources to help with your studies through the Student Success Centre, but the University also offers a range of mental health support services. 

Visit Learning services for more information regarding Concordia’s support services, and the health and wellness centre for information regarding the school’s mental health services.

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