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Tackling burn out in your final semester

19 February 2024
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

The final semester of university is a notoriously challenging time in students’ lives. While we face many unknowns in our lives (where we will live and what job we will do are just two examples), we have the weight of the last push of work towards finishing our degrees. In such a frightening, but sweet, time when we try to treasure our last months in a city that we’ve grown to love, while being weighed down by financial responsibility, job applications, planning our last summer of ‘freedom’ and managing our own academic workloads.

This is a time of looking forward, while reflecting back; appreciating the current moment while designing what feels to be our entire future. We observe our friends making plans and are forced to accept that we are all looking in different directions, a moment that has felt like our entire existence within education has been leading up to.

Despite this uncertainty, we must stop and focus on our essays, dissertations and exam preparations. As we receive regular job rejections in our emails, if we can bring ourselves to apply in the first place. In this case, burnout is inevitable. Having succumbed to this myself, I am in the process of resetting my actions and general confidence to make the most of my last months as an undergraduate student, here to share the steps that I’m taking.

Getting outside

Barry Island
Photo by Suntooth on Unsplash

This point would be ‘being in the sun’, but in Cardiff, who knows if I’ll see the sun each day. Consequentially, I have a goal of going outside and getting 10k steps a day, no matter the weather. With the hope of this getting easier as Spring comes, the flowers bloom and the days get longer, it’s important to get outside and have time to think and reflect. In the past, I have felt guilty for the time that this takes in the day, but the benefits far outweigh the time costs.

Mood boards

It’s important to keep in mind what you’re working toward. This doesn’t strictly mean creating mood boards, but maybe writing down where you want to be this time next year, simply going on Pinterest and looking at photos or even saving jobs on LinkedIn that you want to have in 5 years. Anything to keep you motivated and keep your eye on the prize.

Working on things you enjoy

Not everything is work, work, work, and that shouldn’t be the only way that your last months at univeristy are spent. To prevent burnout, I’ve found that balance is important so allow space in your week to get involved in a society, work towards a project outside of university or simply enjoy reading a book.  This can add some exciting work to your week that transcends your time at univeristy, to make the end seem less scary because you’ll have constant projects and goals.

Keeping up with your network 

A challenge when many of your friends are most likely in a similar place of feeling guilty when not working but keeping up with family, friends and your professional and academic networks is so valuable for not feeling isolated in your work. This can remind you where you fit in, and why completing your workload is valuable. Family and friends can enrich you emotionally, while professional networks can inspire your next steps after graduation. Your university network can make you feel less isolated and more supported.

Doing something nice each week 

Taking the time to do something that you enjoy can add so much brightness to your week. Whether it’s going on a walk with a friend, or going on a shopping trip for the perfect ball gown, doing something that you enjoy outside of your workload is so valuable for staying connected to yourself and maintaining good mental health.

Creating a plan (and being nice to yourself if it doesn’t work out)

Finally, creating a detailed plan that accounts for everything that you need to get done and trying to keep to it can be a huge step in completing your goals. Another tip is to be nice to yourself if your plan doesn’t work out, but start again and see how long you can keep to it next time. This will ensure some structure to return to every time you get distracted or unmotivated.

In all, this is a challenging time for most final-year students and we’re all in the same boat. I try to enact the tips above each day to help me stay on track (and catch up when things go downhill). Burnout is inevitable, but it’s how we respond to it that counts.