Burnout

Hey, it’s been a little while. I’ve finally found a moment to sit at my desk with a coffee and write a blog post so, thought i’d use this one to update you on the last month. February managed to feel like it was a year packed into 29 days whilst also feeling like my whole life was zooming past in fast motion. I felt like I was stuck in a Durham version of groundhog day in which I woke up, got changed and then worked till I rolled into bed.

For those unaware, I study English Literature and Education Studies at Durham University. It means my time is split between two entirely different departments, very fun when it comes to remembering two completely different formatting systems. I have an average of about 7 contact hours a week which means the majority of the time I have to be sat alone working through a ridiculous amount of reading, research, tutorial prep and essay writing. Hardly any contact hours seems inviting but, i’ve found it to be very isolating and almost constantly highly pressured. You have to be very strict in sitting at your desk to work continuously as it’s so easy to quickly slip so far behind. The work set is often reading or research that will require you to form your own arguments so, it’s not really the type of work you can meet to do with your mates. For second term (Epiphany term here at Durham) i’ve had a total of 8 deadlines that will all contribute towards my final grade. Five were submitted during this term, one is scheduled for submission over Easter break and the final two are for the first day back. We don’t have January exams or mid term exams for my subjects so I have three exams contributing to my degree (1 50%, 2 100%) in final term. Unluckily for me, very early on and very close together which means revision has to start now (cries).

February and March have been a constant cycle of researching, drafting, editing, re-drafting, referencing and, quite frankly i’m sick of it. The standard expected for each piece of summative work is pretty damn high so means there’s literally no room for taking a break. I shot myself in the foot as back when I chose my modules for this year I didn’t think about how much stress I was signing myself up for. An endless amount of summatives and the start of exam revision on top of all the normal daily work has just made me into a foul person. If you’re close to me i’m sure you’re sick to death of hearing me moaning about work. I think one of the reasons i’ve struggled most is because i’ve always been able to handle work quite well so, feeling like i’m constantly fighting against this stream of work has been tough for me to cope with.

Days spent alone at my desk has made me feel so lonely. I’ve been missing my mum, my boyfriend, my friends 1000x more than usual. Uni has felt very claustrophobic so, I’ve been longing to escape home just to take a breather. So, I did just that. 10 days ago I booked train tickets for a long weekend home. I planned it so I could see both my boyfriend’s gigs, visit my mum and see some close friends. I’m writing this after just coming back from that trip and, it did the world of difference. For the first time in what feels like forever I let myself sleep with no alarm on. I ate all the shit food. I had a drink and a boogie. I avoided anything that would remind me of uni and, I feel (nearly) like a new woman for it. Obviously, returning to Durham with a to-do list treble the size of me was not fantastic. No difference has been made regarding work load or the pressure of deadlines but, I feel refreshed (bar the blocked nose i’ve come back with). Part of the weight dragging me into the depths of self-pity has been lifted and, I feel ready to face the last couple of weeks of Epiphany Term.

Everyone burns out. It’s a completely normal thing but, yet it makes you feel so unbelievably shit. I’ve found myself doubting if I even deserve to be at Durham just because i’m struggling with the work-load. The fact is, if you aren’t struggling with the work load at uni- you’re not working hard enough. 10 week terms are never going to be anything but intense. Admitting that you find it overwhelming or challenging is not a weakness on your ability- that’s something i’ve had to remind myself over and over again. Sometimes you’ve just got to throw your hands up and give in to that fed-up, tired voice screaming for a break. Sleep in, eat the junk food, avoid work like its the plague. Give yourself a little time for the batteries to charge and then get back at it, hopefully a little bit stronger than before.

Very nearly done with this term and very nearly done with second year altogether. So, i’m going to try force myself to enjoy it as much as I can. I do enjoy my degree so for the next few days i’ll be trying to get myself to enjoy researching and writing summatives…I doubt it’ll be met with much success but we can try!! I’m going to try chill out a little and just take it for what it is. 2 weeks of hard grafting doesn’t seem so bad when I think about a trip to Liverpool, the Lakes and a holiday (if Covid-19 permits) waiting for me on the other side. Putting into perspective and refusing to wear anything but a smile for this last push.

I hope you’re all doing well and not being too bogged down or fed-up like me!! Writing this has been the biggest pressure release of all and, I will be (hopefully) be back to uploading more regularly now that the worst of this term seems behind me. Let me know in the comments how you cope when you burn yourself out? I think I could do with storing a few other coping mechanisms up my sleeve.

Happy Tuesday loves,
Al x

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