Young people are becoming more vulnerable to burnout. Psychologist suggests how to stay away from the dangerous line.
Emotional health in youth is a hot topic not only for young people themselves but also for their families and people close to them. According to experts, burnout and exhaustion are common problems that threaten our society today. A fast-paced lifestyle and never-ending rush put young people under immense and permanently growing stress, deprive them of adequate leisure, and leave practically no time for things that are pleasant for them. Sometimes even their academic performance may suffer. Such problems must be brought to attention, and it is important to remember what almost every expert emphasizes - balance is the key.
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Fatigue can manifest itself in the most unconvenient moment
For Gabrielė (name changed), a third-year student, the search for her first job started right after finishing school. She says she has always wanted to be independent and self-sufficient. Initially, her goals seemed easily attainable, but later on, she encountered some unexpected challenges that brought with them a rather tiresome experience.
"My decision to work most definitely has an impact on my life as a student. I have to skip lectures and attend only seminars. Frequently I do everything at the last minute or even at night. I usually cannot stay after lectures and have a chat with friends while such communication is badly needed," says Gabrielė.
According to Gabrielė, at her first job, she felt no lack of understanding from employers. She had a part-time job as a waitress and since she was able to balance work and study fatigue and stress seldom troubled her. Gabrielė’s life, however, has slightly changed since then. Her work now takes up a huge portion of her life hardly leaving the time to accomplish all the tasks that she has as a student. Fatigue very clearly manifests itself at the end of the day, particularly when she attempts to concentrate on her studies.
"Honestly, there are times when things become so hard that I feel like giving up my job and studies. I think a lot about the difficulties that wearing me out, but then I remind myself to stay grounded and manage to seek out additional motivation and set up new goals," says Gabrielė.
Fatigue is a multifaceted issue
The need to work while studying is only one aspect explaining why young people feel tired and start to doubt their abilities, thinks Ugnė (name changed), another student who works. Sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend the expectations of others or even oneself, she says. This uncertainty wears out as much as physical exhaustion.
"I, as a person who works whilst studying, feel that fatigue is usually the consequence of my own tendency to overdo and overwork rather than intense schedule and routine. Although I know that perfectionism often helps me with my tasks at work and university, sometimes I think of it as of my worst trait making life rather hard for me as well as for those who live beside me", says Ugnė.
Overwhelmed by the wish to fulfill the employer’s expectations and to please the loved ones she ultimately forgets about her own dreams, says Ugnė.
"I used to say that I will never become someone who solely focuses on work and responsibilities. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s how I live. At times I find myself pushing beyond my limits and neglecting my dreams and goals that are unrelated either to work or studies. On those occasions, I feel like going with the flow but such a condition does lots of harm to my emotional well-being", Ugnė notes.
She sometimes fails to hide her exhaustion, causing strain on relationships with family and close friends.
"I’m not of those who willingly discuss their feelings with their parents or best friends. However, when I feel overstrained and overwhelmed by my own thoughts and doubts, I become really irritable, and withdrawn, and struggle to make plans for socializing. Only after I take time to rest emotionally, even the smallest things can bring me something good", says Ugnė.
Sometimes wishes exceed the opportunities
According to psychologist Gintarė Buinikaitė, there are numerous reasons why some people start working relatively early, i.e. during adolescence or while studying. Some are motivated by the desire for financial independence, others are encouraged by parents, but one of the most important reasons is the search for fulfillment.
"Even some successful entrepreneurs began their business careers while being teenagers, and they were driven by the wish to find fulfillment, to realize their ideas, finally, to earn money", she says.
However, dealing with challenges can come at a high cost, especially when it is difficult to find a balance between work and studies.
"If a student spends more time working than he or she is capable of, this can adversely affect his or her academic performance. Thus, balancing work and study is crucial. It is advisable to opt for a part-time job and work for half a day or even less. If possible, it is recommended to arrange the timetable so that there would be fewer lectures per semester. If it is not possible, students can consider working on weekends or a few evenings a week," says psychologist Buinikaitė.
Buinikaitė believes that studying and working simultaneously can result in young individuals losing out on valuable leisure time.
"Balance is of the utmost importance. Students have to work only as much as they can without depriving themselves of free time. Sometimes the decision not to work at all is the most reasoned one," says the psychologist.
"Failure to balance work and study can result in sleep deprivation and lack of rest, and this, in turn, can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and other health issues," explains the psychologist.
Balancing work and studies is not an easy task, but many students are determined to take the challenge despite the negative impact on their well-being and academic performance. Sleep deprivation is the most common issue among such students. However, this is a problem that cannot be ignored.
"Sleep deprivation, as we all know, has a far-reaching impact extending far beyond academic achievements. It negatively affects the ability to concentrate and can cause the loss of appetite, energy, and enthusiasm to engage in previously enjoyable activities. Shortage of sleep and free time can put a strain on one’s relationships. Students who work may feel sad, helpless, and guilty," Buinickaitė explains.
Nonetheless, the psychologist argues that a good and well-maintained work-study-life balance can have a lot of benefits for personal development. Challenges can be viewed as an opportunity to gain valuable experience, not as a mere burden.
"The experience that is gained can be very helpful in the future. According to some research, university years are seen as the happiest time of life by a great number of people. This period may not be as stressful as what the future holds for some of us. Such things as career or parenting challenges can prove to be more pressing. Thus, one should adjust their personal viewpoint and search for the best balance," says the psychologist.
According to Buinickaitė, there are quite a few ways to improve one’s emotional state.
"To regain inner strength students can practice meditation and engage in mindfulness exercises. They can also find someone who can listen to them, offer some help, and provide advice. Alternatively, they can become a source of help to someone who is struggling with their problems. Doing something good for others makes us feel better and boosts our self-confidence," says Buinickaitė.
According to the psychologist, young people should understand that life is not always easy or comfortable
"It’s impossible to feel happy and satisfied all the time. Researchers have pointed out, that this generation is afraid of experiencing sadness as an emotion. When overwhelmed by sadness young people think that something is wrong with them. They haven’t been taught to experience negative feelings. Whenever parents or caregivers saw that the child was miserable or felt some kind of discomfort, they would rush to entertain him or her. Of course, this reaction was driven by the urge to help," Buinickaitė explains.
The psychologist offered some tips for coping with uncomfortable emotions
"It’s natural that sometimes we feel sad and helpless. But we should allow ourselves to "feel" our feelings. Once we perceive that our efforts are meaningful there is a chance for progress. Thus, one can ask oneself why he or she works while studying. Most probably it is because he or she wants to gain experience, make useful contacts, and earn money. One should know how to help oneself through sadness. Usually, it is recommended to have a rest, do something enjoyable, and talk to someone. With peace of mind regained one would find the strength to move forward," Buinickaitė suggests.