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How do you know when you've pushed yourself too far? How do you figure out that you took too much on your plate?

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8 answers

John’s Answer

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Kaela you don't wake up one morning and all of the sudden "Your Exhausted." Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognize it before it's too late.

SIGNS OF PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION
CHRONIC FATIGUE – In the early stages, you may feel a lack of energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread about what lies ahead on any given day.
INSOMNIA – In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. In the latter stages, insomnia may turn into a persistent, nightly ordeal; as exhausted as you are, you can't sleep.
LOSS OF APPETITE – In the early stages, you may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals. In the latter stages, you may lose your appetite altogether and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
ANXIETY – Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes with your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.

Kaela if you start recognizing some of the symptoms above in yourself, it’s time to make changes before you experience full-blown academic burnout. Also, if you have a heavy semester or degree coming up, you may be worried about getting burnt out and looking to prevent it from the start. Good for you! There are many easy ways you can change your habits and lifestyle to prevent burnout in school.

John recommends the following next steps:

  • Make Time for Enjoyable Activities – And not just on the weekend! Sprinkle your calendar with things you love to do throughout the week, and you’ll feel start to feel more motivated to start your school days.
  • Get Plenty of Physical Exercise – Try to exercise at least three times a week, stay hydrated and eat healthy to keep your mind and body active and healthy.
  • Avoid Procrastination – When you are feeling stressed, putting off assignments and projects is tempting, but ultimately this will lead to sleep deprivation, frustration and end in more stress.
  • Get Better at Time Management – This is a key factor in making sure you stay on track with deadlines, avoid procrastination and end up with a more positive relationship with your studies.
  • Work-Life Balance – Work-life balance is just as important for students as it is for workers. Set up your schedule for equal parts school and fun or social activities. And don’t forget to make time for just YOU.
Thank You Caroline. “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” – Erma Bombeck John Frick Translate
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Wayne’s Answer

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Hi Kaela. We all have the desire to succeed and win and we do not want to get burned out in the process.

Here are 3 signs that you are pushing yourself too far:

You feel overwhelmed by all there is to do. Over-committing is the single biggest mistake most people make that makes life stressful and overwhelming. It’s tempting to fill in every waking moment of the day with to-do list tasks, events, obligations and distractions. Do not do this to yourself. You CANNOT do it all. You have to let some things GO!

You are actually trying (consciously or subconsciously) to do it all. Another major issue that keeps so many of us stuck in a debilitating cycle of busyness is the fantasy in our minds that we can be everything to everyone, everywhere at once, and a hero on all fronts. But, of course, that is not reality. The reality is we are not Superman or Wonder Woman. We’re human and we have limits. We have to let go of this idea of doing everything and pleasing everyone and being everywhere at once. You’re either going to do a few things well, or do everything poorly. That’s the truth.

You have lost track of your priorities. Priorities do not get done automatically. You have to make time for what is important to you —- time for learning, time for exercise, eating, laundry, sleep, mental breaks, etc. Push everything else aside to make time. By saying no to more things that sound really exciting, you get to say yes to more of what’s truly important.

Here are some tips on how to prevent and overcome burnout:

Take the Warning Signs Seriously. First, recognizing the early signs of burnout and to anticipating things that cause it is the first step to freedom. It is much easier and more efficient to manage burnout when your mental faculties are not hampered by constant exhaustion or frustration. Unfortunately, students might not acknowledge or take action on the warning signs because they feel it’s a sign of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. By stepping in early, you give yourself a chance to do better work than you’d ever be able to do under endless stress and fatigue.
So, if you feel like you might be on the road to burnout, don’t take the warning signs lightly.

Learn How to Say “No”. Young, ambitious people are often allergic to the word “no.” We accept any challenge or opportunity that comes our way because we want to impress our peers and superiors by juggling all sorts of obligations. Taking on more work might give you the illusion of being productive and talented. But there are hidden costs: you have less time to think, reflect, grow, and learn. If we don’t draw the line, burnout is inevitable.

Sleep: Your Sanity Depends On It. College culture tends to glorify the “all-nighter”: those 12-hour study sessions where bleary-eyed students chug Red Bull to crank through their term papers or cram for a final exam—as if it is a badge of honor to be sleep-deprived and on the edge of hysteria. We do not glorify the student who got seven or eight hours of sleep the night before and earned a higher grade than the student who pulled an all-nighter. There’s one key difference between these two types of students: one is on the path to burnout and the other is not. Sacrificing sleep might give you the illusion of productivity, but in my experience, I always performed better academically when I traded an extra hour of studying for an extra hour of sleep. But don’t take my word for it. Max Hirshkowitz, chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council, suggests that people ages 18-25 should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew. When I was a student, I thought it was always better to have too much work to do than not enough. Truthfully, though, you need to find a balance. A good rule to follow is this: Be willing to challenge yourself, but think very carefully before committing to long-term obligations that will stretch your resources thin. You have limitations, and surpassing them for too long can have consequences. This lesson about moderation is especially important when it comes to determining your course load, considering that it’s the primary cause of student burnout. Cal Newport (a writer all college students should be familiar with) explained this in his commentary about that study we mentioned from the University of Southern Maine: “…you need to be extremely vigilant about your course selection. Choosing your courses is the most important and potentially dangerous activity you perform as a college student. While you’re at it, don’t forget about your extracurriculars. If these become too demanding, even a light course schedule can still induce overload.”

Find the “Off” Switch. I developed a bad habit in college, one that I still struggle with today: I don’t hit the “off” switch when it comes to work. I respond to emails and Slack messages immediately (even if it’s late at night), and I try to knock out assignments as soon and as fast as I can (even if it’s a weekend). Obviously, this isn’t a sustainable system. Left unattended, these long stretches of constant mental activity and periodic interruption can definitely lead to burnout. But recently, I’ve become better at catching myself in this trap and hitting the “off” switch, which in my case entails snoozing notifications and logging out of my working files. When a computer or phone operates nonstop, it glitches and slows down. Your brain is no different. That’s why you need to hit your brain’s “off” switch so it can cool down and recharge. While there will be some days when you just want to binge-watch Netflix or party with friends, I’ve found that the most effective escapes from work are ones where you can have a sense of progress and productivity outside of traditional “work.” This might be exercising, reading, or volunteering. Whatever you decide, your brain will thank you.

Ask for Help. Education and adulthood can often feel like a solitary pursuit. There’s always something being added to the already-heavy load on your shoulders. But you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re in college, there’s almost certainly a resource on campus whose job it is to help you cope with the symptoms and causes of burnout. If you’re not comfortable with talking to a professional about stress-related issues, sometimes a good venting session with a trusted friend or family member can help you clear your mind and figure out a plan to reverse the burnout cycle. You’d be surprised how many people feel or have felt the same way, so starting a dialogue can be mutually beneficial.

You’re Already Ahead of the Curve. Just by admitting your feelings of stress and taking the time to read this post, you’ve already taken the most important step to prevent or address burnout: acknowledging of the problem. I know way too many people who should read information like this, but don’t: students who don’t have time for a social life, overworked employees who can’t escape the screen, the list goes on.

Burnout is nothing to take lightly, but the earlier you address it, the easier it is to overcome.

Good luck!
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Krishna’s Answer

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You know you have pushed yourself too far when you lose interest/motivation to do what you intentionally wanted to do. While I believe is is necessary to push yourself to grow and better yourself, it is also very important to take a step back to relax and not feel pressured to be a certain way.

You know you took too much to handle when you are sacrificing your free time, family time, and friend time to accomplish that task. Remember to always put yourself first. It is very important for you mental health and sanity.
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EmilyAnn’s Answer

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For me, I know I've started to spread myself too thin when I start trying to get out of things that are supposed to serve as mental breaks from stressful things in life. I will also feel like I have so much going on that I can't decide where to start to fig myself out of a hole. I'm a college student, and it's important to have activities that allow you to unplug and de-stress (for me, this is softball, yoga, cooking, etc). When other obligations start to encroach on this time to the point where I feel like I can't make any time for myself, I know it has reached a point of spreading myself too thin. Constantly jumping from one commitment/deadline to the next will cause anyone to become stressed and overwhelmed, which will affect your performance everywhere, so this is when I know it's time to take a step back and re-prioritize. Just take a moment to listen to yourself once in a while - mental health is so important!
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Gina’s Answer

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I think you can feel it mentally and physically. I became anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted. I also lost track of my priorities. It was hard to put things in order. I was also disconnected from my family and friends. I feel there is an important work/life balance. Work hard an dreward yourself. There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself but everyone has their own breaking point.
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Nika’s Answer

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The risk of burn out is real. Personally, I used to love to take on all and every task that came my way, but I ended up working dozens of more hours per week because I needed to retain the quality of my work. It's sustainable in the short-term, but not in the long-term. Best of luck, and don't ever hesitate to push back on work / assignments if you feel over-burdened. Not great for your mental health or your physical well-being.
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John’s Answer

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When you can't get things completed on time or at all. When you feel like too many things are happening too fast. When you don't understand what's being thrown at you and you don't have time to figure it out. You're getting so stressed out or overwhelmed that you stop doing anything.

You could decide to back-off or you could decide that you're going to try to get a handle on the situation.

Plan out what needs to get done each day. Eliminate all the things that are low priority or interruptions. Stick to your plan and prevent others from interfering. Things you don't understand, find someone that can help, like a tutor for example or a friend. Goal is to determine you're going to figure this out.

Or, you can replan a different path with less stress.

We all run into too much things in our lives. Just need to determine the path forward.
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Vikram’s Answer

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I can answer this in two parts, 1) if you are a person who is a wholesome workaholic and would love to do everything that comes your way. You are running a risk of burning out quite too often and the results and one's performance will show a dip in the outcomes and the quality of work would also be a tard below par. What this will lead to is the person would not be able to meet the objective and often fail in the deliverables. 2) this part of my response is purely on personality and most of the time we end up signing up more than required just to satisfy someone's ego and also portray that we are capable to do things and often fail. Also please do not sign up up for a task or an activity that isn't your core skill and you would eventually fail. So do the right thing and take baby steps to ensure you are successful.
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