We talk a lot about the stress of being a new professional, and everyone knows that graduate school is not a walk in the park, but what about the people who do both at once? I had a full-time job the whole time I was pursuing my master’s degree. I also started graduate school in 2020, the first big year of covid. I was under constant stress, and had very little time to myself. The combination of these things eventually caused me to suffer from burnout.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, burnout is “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” It is the product of chronic stress, which is often a side effect of working while going to school. Once you start to feel burnt out, it becomes harder to keep up with the daily grind of working and doing homework. I tried a lot of different things to try and combat my burnout, and there are a few things in particular that helped me get by. Maybe these tips can help some of you that might be in the same situation.
1. Take time for yourself
The human brain cannot handle working 24/7. It needs time to rest and recuperate. If your current schedule involves going to work, coming home and doing homework, sleeping, then doing the same routine again day after day, then something will eventually have to give. Schedule in some time for yourself where you are not thinking about work or school. Spend time in nature, take a nap, or watch mindless television. Do something that leaves you feeling refreshed.
2. Build a strong support network
I would not have been successful in graduate school if I did not have my partner and friends supporting me. Holding a full-time job while pursuing a degree is really hard. By the end of some days all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and quit. Having people to talk to and who supported me helped me through those tough times. They believed in me even when I had a hard time believing in myself. Your support network will also be invaluable if something happens in your life that adds more to your already full plate.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
New professionals have a habit of saying yes to every request they receive. They want to prove themselves, and show their boss and coworkers that they can do the job well. If you are going to graduate school at the same time, then you have to learn to say no to some things. You probably do not have much free time between school and work, so set strong boundaries about the time that you do have. If you take on every project that is offered to you at work, then you will not have enough mental energy left to deal with school.
4. Remember that graduating will not magically cure burnout
I thought that my burnout would go away after I graduated from school. After all, I would be doing half the amount of work I was before, and I wouldn’t be under the stress of constant deadlines. I was wrong. My brain had no time to relax because I was still working full time. I was still exhausted because I never got a chance to take a break and recover from the prolonged stress. Try to take some time off of work after you graduate. Even a small vacation can do wonders for your mental health.
Keep in mind that I am not a medical professional, and while these things helped me a lot, everyone has their own unique situations that may need different solutions.
Author: Trenity Philips (she/her/hers) works as an Academic Advisor for nursing students at Concordia St. Paul University and is involved in the NPGS SC Team. She loves reading, playing tabletop and video games, and watching too many hours of youtube in one sitting. Trenity can be found on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/trenity-philips.