2 - Identifying and Managing Burnout

Identifying and Managing Burnout


Attending university is undoubtedly a stressful experience in some sort of way for all students, and the recent pandemic has only amplified these feelings. Stress can rise due to several reasons, it could be a higher perceived level of academic demands; attending zoom classes, tight deadlines; balancing of study and additional paid work, trying to acclimatise to a virtual personal life; and of course, financial pressures. 

With all of this in mind, a build-up of constant stress can promote burnout. In this blog, we will identify the signs/symptoms you might be suffering from burnout, the 12 stages that can lead to burnout and explore tips to prevent burnout from occurring in the first place.

Trigger Warning: this article discusses multiple forms of mental health; eating disorders, drug abuse, suicide and self-harm, depression and anxiety. 

Symptoms of Burnout 

Worried that you may be experiencing burnout but unsure of the signs? We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that you can use as a loose guide.

  • Exhaustion. A general feeling of being physically and emotionally depleted. Physical symptoms may include headaches, stomach aches and appetite or sleeping changes (not enough, too much).
  • Isolation. People suffering with burnout tend to feel overwhelmed. This may result in them stopping socialising and potentially not confiding in friends or family members on how they are feeling.
  • Escapism. Dissatisfied with the never-ending demands of their degree or life in general, people with burnout may fantasise about running away or going on a solo-vacation. In extreme cases, they may turn to drugs, alcohol, or food as a way to numb their emotional pain.
  • Irritability. Burnout can cause people to lose their cool with friends and family members more easily. Coping with normal stressors like writing assessments, attending zoom lectures, and tending to simple household tasks also may start to feel impossible, especially when things don’t go as planned.
  • Frequent illnesses. Burnout, like other long-term stress, can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds, the flu, and insomnia. It can also lead to mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.

The 12 stages of Burnout 

Unlike a cold or the flu, burnout doesn’t hit all at once. It can waterfall down these stages:

  1. Excessive drive/ambition. Its common for students starting at University to have a compulsion to prove themselves and demonstrate their worth when undertaking a novel task. They aren’t the best at setting boundaries because they are always willing to go above and beyond making them venerable to burnout. 
  2. Pushing yourself to work harder. Some people just cant turn off. Having an inability to stop working, answering emails late at night or emailing over the weekend and are reluctant to have a holiday can promote burnout. 

(However, studies have shown that productivity plummets after 50 hours of work) 

  1. Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice simple self-care. Like sleep, exercise, and eating well. People experience burnout consistently if they are neglecting these needs. 
  2. Displacement of conflict. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame your lecturer, the demands of your degree, your job or classmates for your troubles.
  3. No time for nonwork-related needs. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Invitations to parties, movie nights or even zoom parties start to feel like a waste of time, instead of enjoyable.
  4. Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviors, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing. 
  5. Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable. You start to seek relief through seclusion andembrace escapism.
  6. Behavioural changes. Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason. 
  7. Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life. You start to fail to see yourself or others as valuable, failing to acknowledge your own or others people basic needs.
  8. Inner emptiness or anxiety. ‘Inner Emptiness’ is a lonely and extreme sign of impending burnout, defined by a feeling of numbness or ‘emptiness’. You may turn to thrill seeking behaviours to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
  9. Depression. Life loses its meaning and you begin to feel hopeless. You start to feel lost or unsure, exhausted all the time with a bleak worldview with no enthusiasm for the future. 
  10. Burnout Syndrome. Full burnout syndrome often results in a person’s complete mental and physical collapse. This can impact your ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary. 

Please see below for organisations that can help you.

Preventing Burnout 

Stress may be unavoidable at times, but burnout is definitely preventable. Following these steps below may help you battle stress from getting the best of you:


Not only is exercise good for our physical health, but it can also give us an emotional boost.

Feel like you have no time? You don’t need to spend hours exercising or at the gym to reap these benefits. Taking it in bite sized pieces and building routine is key! Mini-workouts and short daily walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit, take that time out to listen to your favourite artist or podcast. 

Why not listen to our ‘Chillout playlist’ on Spotify! 

Eat a balanced diet

Eating a healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids can be a natural antidepressant. Adding foods rich in omega-3s like flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fish may help give your mood a boost. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll go into more detail over diet and how it can affect your mood. Make sure you check back every week to ensure your getting all our handy tips to improve your overall wellbeing. 

Practice good sleep habits

Lockdown is a perfect excuse to look at your sleeping routine whilst we can’t get distracted with socials and weekly nights out. Our bodies need time to rest and reset, which is why healthy sleep habits are essential for our overall well-being.

What do we mean by establishing a sleeping routine? Try small changes such as, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, having a warm shower or bath, or banning smartphones and digital devices from the bedroom can help promote sound sleep. 

(Or if like most people you can’t resist your phone on an evening, adjust the settings so it’s on night time mode to remove the blue light being immitted from your screen.)

Ask for help

During stressful times, it’s important to reach out for help. If asking for assistance feels difficult, consider developing a self-care “check-in” with close friends and family members so that you can take care of each other during trying times.

If you don’t feel like you can reach out to loved ones, here at UMAberSU we provide regular digital drop in services throughout the week or you can arrange a confidential chat with one of our staff members in Advice. 

  • UMAberSU Advice Centre 

The Advice Service is operating as usual via remote means. You can contact the service using the contact the details below. The service will operate video calling consultations via Zoom as required during usual drop-in times of 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm, Monday to Thursday. You can find the link on our Undeb Myfyrwyr Aberystwyth Students' Union Facebook page or on our website on the homepage underneath our Facebook handle.

Online: Using our enquiry form 

By Email: union.advice@aber.ac.uk

By Phone: 01970 621712 


  • Togetherall (previously known as Big White Wall) 

A safe community to support your mental health, 24-7, sign up with your student email for FREE. 

During these uncertain times you don't need to struggle on your own. Togetherall is a peer-to-peer platform is a safe place to connect with others experiencing similar feelings, plus there are trained professionals on hand, 24/7. All members are anonymous to each other within the community.

Sign up here: https://togetherall.com/en-gb/


  •              Samaritans

Whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you, We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

By Email: jo@samaritans.org (response time 24hrs)

By Phone: 116 123 

Try the Samartians Self Help App


  • Space 

One-to-one support for whatever challenge you’re facing, designed for students. Whether it’s your mental health, your studies, money, housing or relationships, we’re here to support you.

              By text: text ‘STUDENT’ to 85258

              By phone: 0808 189 5260

              By Live Webschat: https://studentspace.org.uk/support-services/webchat-support

              By email: students@themix.org.uk


  • Community Advice and Listening Line 

Offers emotional support and information/literature on Mental Health and related matters to the people of Wales. Anyone concerned about their own mental health or that of a relative or friend can access the service. C.A.L.L. Helpline offers a confidential listening and support service.

By Phone: 0800 132737

By Text: text ‘help’ to 81066


  • Mind Aberystwyth 

Mind Aberystwyth is one of over twenty local Mind associations in Wales, working to improve the life of people affected by mental distress. We are an independent charity in our own right, run by local people, for local people

By phone: 01970 626225

By Email: info@mindaberystwyth.org