At first you shrug off the feeling… it’s just one of those days full of procrastination, right? But then the lack of motivation lasts longer than expected. You tell yourself you just need the weekend to get caught up. Or the next week-long break. Or summer. Until nothing helps. You’re still struggling to stay caught up, you’re still stressed out, and yet you have no motivation to fix it. Burnout is real, especially in today’s fast-paced society. Though it seems like an impossible hole to climb out of, it actually is possible! Here are four ways to conquer burnout and invigorate the passion you forgot you ever had.
1. Take a break.
No, I don’t mean “take a break” like the breaks you’ve taken a hundred times in the past hour when you told yourself you’d start your assignment or task after you checked Facebook just once more. I mean take an actual break.
In the most extreme cases, taking a gap year or leave of absence for a semester or two can be highly valuable. However, because this is a big decision, make sure you carefully consider both the advantages and repercussions. Taking a semester or two off can be an opportune time to reevaluate what is really important to you and to gain perspective, allowing you to get the most out of the future years of college.
In less extreme cases, taking a break can mean taking a real break rather than merely a Facebook break. In terms of extracurriculars, consider taking a semester off of an extracurricular. Understandably, sometimes this isn’t possible. Sometimes it seems like if you don’t keep going full-force at your extracurricular, you’ll never gain the leadership position you want, and you’ll never achieve all you hoped to. However, by taking a short time off–even if it isn’t for an entire semester–the benefits of being more passionate about the extracurricular after a break can be worth it compared to trudging through your extracurricular half-heartedly the whole time.
2. Take a step back.
It’s really easy to forget why you’re doing the things you’re doing. It’s really easy to focus on the moment, to focus on the current assignment or task. Try to gain a real perspective of the purpose for your actions. Easier said than done, huh?
For example, try speaking with professionals in the field you’re interested in (or burnt out from), or professionals related to your extracurricular you’re getting tired of. Try finding internships that seem absolutely thrilling. Try attending conferences. Make a list of what you hope to do with your life. Think about your dream job or your dream life. Do anything you can to take a step back from your menial, daily work, and gain a broader perspective.
3. Meditate or reflect.
It might sound silly, but it works. Take time to think. Take a walk. Change your environment.
I recently took part in an abridged version of Work That Reconnects, a retreat-like reflective experience, with the Divest Harvard group, of which I’m a member. By taking time to connect with others, reflect on the overall picture, and meditate, we were able to reignite our passion as a group for climate change. Things like this can be done individually, and it’s a valuable way to reflect on what is really important to you.
4. Adjust your plans.
In the end, burnout might be a sign that you need to change something. This change could be either big or small. It could mean completely dropping an extracurricular activity and pursuing a different passion, or it could simply mean taking a semester break from something you used to love but now aren’t so sure about.
Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to adjust your plans and see if you can find a different way of life that feels more right. In the end, college is a chance for experimenting and figuring out what works for you.