Are you exhausted all the time? Unable to find motivation or energy? Feeling emotionally drained?

These are symptoms of burnout, a form of intense exhaustion that comes after long or intense periods of stress—whether mental, physical or emotional. Though these are commonly labeled as a career-issue, many students also experience these symptoms.

There are three types of burnout: overload burnout, under-challenged burnout, and neglect burnout.

Overload Burnout

This is when a person works so hard to achieve success (e.g. good grades) they don’t have time for family, friends, and health. This is the most common type of burnout. When someone works at an unsustainable pace, they end up in a place of physical and mental exhaustion. Often they don’t even eat enough or get enough sleep.

There are two parts in resolving this type of burnout. First, overworking people must acknowledge that they struggle with regulating their thoughts and emotions. They often berate themselves for not working and have a constant stream of negative self-talk. This self-regulation must be addressed and changed, to ensure a healthier mindset going forward.

Second, we all need to separate self-worth from work. Often, the people that suffer from overload burnout believe that their only value is in their work. To recover from overload burnout and try to prevent it in the future, it is important to find self-worth in something other than work.

Under-Challenged Burnout

This happens when a person is under-stimulated. When they don’t have enough to do at work and feel that they are underappreciated and unable to grow where they are. This can also be true where work is monotonous and boring.

So, people avoid this stress by stopping work altogether. Under-challenged burnout can be helped by finding a stimulating activity, such as a person challenging themself to learn a new skill in a set period of time. In work settings, people can explore new (more interesting) areas of work, try harder and different classes, find a new project to undertake, or learn a new hobby.

Neglect Burnout

This happens when a person feels helpless in a situation, or is unable to meet certain expectations set for them. In school, this could be when a person is unguided, left without a structure or framework to follow, or feels overwhelmed and unable to finish the workload that they have been given.

This creates a sense of learned helplessness, where a person feels like they cannot change their situation. They give up on trying to find solutions, even when options are available. In a state of learned helplessness, the student will become passive, and stop giving any effort into their work. The way to address this form of burnout is to become active again to regain agency in life. We must take initiative, learn our boundaries (such as taking easier classes or more interesting classes) and focus on what we can control, not what we can’t.

Most people will suffer from burnout at some point in life. But there’s always hope! Find the support you need here: