Burn out.It’s a common phrase heard in the hallways of many academic institutions. Burn out has become a major contributor to mental health issues among graduate schools across the country. Driving yourself intensely for an extended period of time can lead to graduate school burn out, and it can last for weeks, sometimes even months. The concept of burn out runs in cycles and the more cycles you go through, the more exhausted and frustrated you become. The cartoon above represents the typical stages of the burn out cycle.
Here are a couple of myths that you should be aware of as you go through your graduate school journey:
- More work equals more progress: I am sorry to say that this is only true to a certain extent. You do need to put time and effort into your work, but doing it all day long does not always help. You are more likely to achieve desired results if you structure the day around breaks or exercise.
- My work needs to be perfect: We come from a world of high achievers chasing perfection, but research does not work that way. Your attention to detail is important, but your colleagues know there can be variation in your data sets. This is why we run experiments in duplicates and repeatedly.
- My work has to be groundbreaking: This ambition can be motivational, but unrealistically high expectations can lead to upsets, frustration and burnout.
Tips and tricks for avoiding burn out:
- Accept that you will make mistakes: Everyone does. Sometimes mistakes are what you learn the most from.
- Make time for breaks and exercise into your daily schedule. Remember to take breaks away from work and give your brain a chance to look at something else.
- Remember to nurture your mind and body unconditionally. Celebrate achievements, even the little ones. Remember that you can reward yourself for every milestone you accomplish.
Burn out may seem inevitable, but you can work against it. Always remember to provide yourself with proper sleep, nutrition and recreation, regardless of how you are doing in school.
By Indira Purushothaman, Associate Editor