Academic Burnout


These days, the word "burnout" is present in many news headlines… And it is never for good reasons. But, what is burnout?

This condition is characterized by both physical and emotional negative reactions to task overwhelm. However, burnout isn’t only a punctual feeling of frustration, but a prolonged state of tiredness and demotivation.

According to the psychoanalyst Guilherme Facci, the so-called "Gen Z" is one of its main victims, especially on an academic level. But, why? Isn’t the student life the most desired?

Currently, the population’s education levels are quite elevated - which is great - but, with this, comes a bigger pressure to get a good job. In 1997, around 42 thousand individuals increased their education level through, for example, a bachelor or master’s degree. However, in 2020, this number increased to more than double: 87 thousand. A more educated country is hardly a bad thing, but, did the job supply follow this rhythm?

Just like the laws of supply and demand state, the smaller the quantity offered of a certain asset is, the bigger its value is. In 1997, it was normal to assume that anyone with a bachelor’s degree would find a job. In 2020, the reality is pretty different and there is a certain banalization of bachelorettes. Unfortunately, the rhythm of qualified job offers did not accompany the education’s, which is why young people feel an increasing pressure to stand out.

Thus, the emotional distress on an academic level is increasing its weight in conversations regarding mental health. The professional areas in which a student does not have to be concerned with internships and extracurricular activities to get a good job are quite scarce.

Student’s organizations, internships, hobbies… What else?

There is no doubt of the benefits of integrating a student’s organization, from the development of personal skills to more technical ones typical of each department. Nonetheless, it seems that nowadays it is not good enough to simply be a member of these organizations, since recruiters seem to be more interested in leadership roles.

Regarding summer internships, they are also a common experience for recruiters to look for. However, it begs the question: with so many of them being unpaid, is it that hard to understand why so many students don’t have them? In a world where big companies think interns have a fair compensation in the knowledge they acquire, interning becomes a luxury not many can afford.

But there is still more, since travelling to foreign lands with the famous erasmus experiences is also another appealing factor. Once again, it becomes an unfair criteria due to the financial effort this experience might require.

Oh! We also can’t forget the hobbies. When most students are already drowning in students’ organizations, internships and erasmus, it becomes harder to select new candidates. Thus, the new trend in recruitment processes is to ask about what are the student’s passions and interests to explore in his free time - if there is any. Afterall, it is not enough to be a qualified candidate, you have to be interesting too.

As a final result, we have young people incapable of setting limits to the workload they take on to get a good job at the end of their education. Thus, the burnout state can appear from this prolonged feeling of emotional exhaustion, in which it seems that no matter how many experiences there are on the curriculum, it is still never good enough to be selected.

Truthfully, when we join this academic pressure to the social, which is also increased in the “Gen Z” due to social media, we have the perfect recipe for disaster. Straight from the oven, comes a generation with anxiety levels through the roof.

Common symptoms from burnout

The feeling of impotence caused by burnout has several physical and mental impacts on the student, which creates a snowball effect in which nothing goes as planned. The main symptoms are:

  • feeling of tiredness that no sleep can cure
  • headaches
  • increase or loss of appetite
  • apathy
  • difficulties in concentrating
  • abusive consumption of alcohol, drugs and tobacco
  • anxiety crisis
  • irregular sleep pattern

All of these symptoms create a fragility in the person’s health, increasing the probabilities of them being sick and entering a state of mental and physical exhaustion.

Burnout Prevention

To avoid this kind of mental exhaustion, it is often recommended the practice of physical exercise, healthy nutrition and good hours of sleep. However, for these three things to be possible, students need a bigger self-knowledge capacity: they must know when to say "Enough!".

Truthfully, when we join this academic pressure to the social, which is also increased in the “Gen Z” due to social media, we have the perfect recipe for disaster. Straight from the oven, comes a generation with anxiety levels through the roof.

Between academic goals and the added pressure from competition amongst students, it is important to remember young people - and everyone really - that they must establish priorities and be realistic in the workload they accept. Another fundamental point is to guarantee that a part of their leisure time is completely out of tech equipment, so they can make contact with the real world and images that are not on a screen.

Finally, never underestimate the value of the emotional support the nes closest to you can give you. Asking for help is important, and the first step is realizing you need it.