Academic Burnout: Students describe how they work through schedules

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Lance Pollard is not sure of the total number of credits they are taking. Pollard, who uses gender neutral pronouns, is pretty sure they are earning 17 and a half credits this semester—but when they add the classes they are taking for no credit, they are pretty sure that number jumps to 20 credits.

Undergraduate Student Senate (U.S.S.) president Vicki Lee has a bag of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds in a U.S.S office drawer, bag removed from box and spoon lying in bag. It is for the mornings she does not have time to eat breakfast at home—which are most mornings. “Fridays are literally my saving grace,” Lee said.

They both have completely packed schedules. On Monday, Pollard gets up at 6:30 A.M; they are at the gym by 7, at work at B Street Farm by 9:30, showering at home by 12:30, in class at 1, occasionally in a meeting at 2:30, napping at home at 3, eating dinner at 5, done with homework at 8, and in bed at midnight. Lee’s Thursdays begin in class at 7:55. She works on her capstone at 9:40, has an executive board U.S.S meeting at 11:15, the general board meeting at noon, office hours at 1, class at 2:45, an Epic Movement meeting at 5, and an APASU  meeting at 6. Afterwards, she still might go to an event. Otherwise, it is back to the office.

Both students have different ways to work through the vast amounts of work they have. Pollard, who changed into Environmental Science from Chemistry after sophomore year, likes to focus. They work with some of their best friends for hours at a time. “That is what I have to do,” Pollard said.

Lee, a double major and triple minor, prefers to multitask. “I know it is kinda bad for your brain, but I am used to it,” she said. Lee’s classes are very supportive—making them easier to balance alongside her other work, she said.

Despite their different strategies for dealing with work, the first thing they drop in a stressful schedule is the same. “Usually, what suffers is my homework,” Pollard said. “I have to have that point where I stop worrying about it, even if it is not done.” Lee feels similarly. “Have you ever seen me doing homework? I do not know where it goes.”

When stress starts to grate against their mental health, Lee and Pollard have different solutions. Pollard sets up boundaries. “Keep your stress life and your work life separate,” they said. Pollard never does work on their bed and tries to keep their evenings as free as possible. “If not, I feel like I am going insane,” they said.

Lee takes breaks whenever she can. If she is stressed about something and it is not due immediately, she will avoid the stress until she either needs to do it or is in the right mental state. When it is too much, Lee starts by texting her friends—usually “can you hold me?” she said—to relax. When she needs to leave the office, that relaxation evolves into a drive. “We are going to a go to a friends’ apartment, going to the library—anywhere but here,” she said.

When Lee needs to finish something she is stressed about, though, she would rather it be finished than perfect. “If I can be myself, it is fine,” she said of dreading emails. Pollard, on the other hand, prefers to take it slow. “You can handle it, and you do not have to have a perfect calendar, and you do not need to have a bullet journal,”  they said. “As long as you give yourself what you need to get through it, you will get through it.”


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