Burnout, Boundaries, & Taking a Break

by Jenna Ranney, Product Specialist


Today marks my first day back on campus following our short “spring break.” It was only five days off, days given solely because I’m a student of a Jesuit university that couldn’t keep us over Easter weekend, but the difference it has made in my semester is unbelievable. Before this year, I had thought of spring break mostly as a luxury - a week for college kids to trek down to Florida or some other sunny beach to soak up the sun and party for a week. Never had I considered how much we need that week - maybe not for partying exactly, but simply to take a deep breath and spend a few days relaxing without the looming stress of impending deadlines. With the pandemic jeopardizing the safety of a traditional spring break, thousands of students have been working non-stop since January. It has been an especially stressful year, and for this to be the year that we lose our break as well has only exacerbated the burnout that college students are suffering from.

I don’t think I had realized how much stress I was holding onto until I had the chance this week to stop, take a deep breath, and let it go. Being able to take five days in a row at home with my family gave me the breath of fresh air that I hadn't even realized I was missing. I went five entire days without spending a minute on Zoom, without studying or watching online lectures, and without checking my Blackboard page or email inbox worrying about impending deadlines. I took a break from my books and my screens to sleep in, soak up the sun, and spend some much needed time with the people I love most.


My brief reprieve from schoolwork, after almost 3 months straight of hard work, was a major eye-opener. I had been growing increasingly distracted, exhausted, irritable, and unfocused as the weeks went by, and I hadn’t even noticed. I was running on fumes, yet still expected to deliver my best work. I knew on some level that the burnout was affecting me, but I hadn’t considered all of the other areas in my life that were affected as well. This semester has taken a toll on me mentally, physically, academically, and socially - but I’m not letting that trend continue.


The burnout that I’ve confronted this week is hardly isolated to college students, either. I’ve seen it in my friends, parents, coworkers, neighbors, and professors. As we’ve all tried to come up with solutions for distanced working and learning during the pandemic, some essential boundaries have been lost along the way. When our academic and professional lives entered our home last year, we accepted a temporary disturbance in work-life balance. Whether it is schoolwork due on weekends and holidays, a semester without breaks, or an expectation to be available to your supervisors and co-workers 24/7, we’ve all made allowances for increasing academic and professional burdens. Yet this temporary shift is looking more and more permanent, and it’s time to reinstate some level of separation between responsibilities and relaxation. It's time to stop sacrificing our own wellness for the sake of productivity. This week has surely been my wake-up call to prioritize my own wellbeing, and I’m hoping that we can all begin to make more time for ourselves as we settle deeper into our new normal.