Academic burnout

Texas A&M's decision to forgo a traditional spring break is leaving students burned-out with many continuing to face additional stress associated with COVID-19. 

With all of the challenges this semester has presented, many students are beginning to experience academic burnout while trying to push through to the end.

According to the New York Times, college students are beginning to see increased mental health issues due to the environmental changes around them. With academic burnout being a common problem among college students in any given year, the presence of COVID-19 and a lack of Spring Break at Texas A&M has added stress to students who are beginning to feel the extra pressure. With the unexpected curves and navigating online classes, students may experience a lower work ethic and diminishing motivation.

In the early weeks of the semester, the winter storm canceled classes for a week, causing many students to feel they were falling behind due to professors’ revised spring schedules.

“This can be an overwhelming time. It’s important that you take care of yourselves, your physical health and your mental health. Please let us know how we can support you,” interim Provost Mark Weichold said in a Feb. 18 press release.

Another factor making this semester different from others is the shortening of Spring Break to a single Friday off. Many students, like agribusiness junior Cate Diezi, use a typical Spring Break week to rest and catch up on assignments. However, Diezi said that was not possible this year.

“The hardest part of the semester is just staying motivated,” Diezi said. “I’m someone who’s very type A and ambitious, and I feel like I’m losing a part of myself when I don’t feel like doing anything, from school work to going out and having a social life.”

Diezi said she is using her Aggie Ring as her motivator to continue to push through this challenging semester and the stress that comes with it academically.

“I have a countdown by my computer that I change every morning and look at when I need the extra push to continue working hard,” Diezi said.

In addition to the winter storm and lack of Spring Break, students have also been quarantined at various points in the semester due to contracting COVID-19 or being in close contact with someone who has tested positive. As of March 31, political science sophomore Barret Grandstaff has been quarantined on campus due to close contact with someone who tested positive.

“Quarantine has demolished my social life,” Grandstaff said. “Of course I still have strong online contact with friends, who now play Minecraft with me and call me just to check in all the time, but it isn’t the same. I can’t go outside, I can’t get the foods I’d like to eat, I can’t go near my friends and I can’t really feel the pressure of needing to do my work. Without my scheduled out-of-dorm things [like] running to go grab dinner with a few friends at the same time everyday, attending my in-person [classes] and going to work out, I don’t feel the low level stress that gets me motivated to do homework.”

Grandstaff said during her quarantine, motivation has been hard to come by due to the isolation and the lack of an organized schedule.

“I lack the drive to get me out of bed simply because it’s like time doesn’t exist outside of my little dorm room,” Grandstaff said. “It could be entirely a personal feeling, but I assume others have felt the same way. It’s just dreary despite all my friends do to try and include me or make it up to me.”

Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, provides services to A&M students who are in need of someone to talk to. CAPS counselor Michelle Morris said self care is very important, especially now more than ever with everything that is going on this semester. She urges students to practice self care in the way that is best for them because it is not the same for everyone.

“It is important to be able to break things up on a daily basis because I think sometimes what we do is we just push hard through the semester and we are relying on those big chunks like Spring Break and summer break,” Morris said. “It is important on the day-to-day to find different avenues for students to take care of themselves.”

If students are feeling overwhelmed, there are many resources available through CAPS that are free of charge to students. These can include counseling appointments, online trainings and the CAPS HelpLine.

More information on CAPS services can be found on caps.tamu.edu.

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