Rope fraying from tension and stress.

Avoiding Burnout in an Online Environment

In an online environment, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information, discussions, assignments, and outside commitments that you are expected to digest and process. Oftentimes your best quality work is compromised due to deadlines and the fast-paced nature of each term. With the constant demand for attention to detail in your coursework, there can be a lot of added stress that eventually leads to burnout. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid burnout and ultimately thrive in the challenging, yet rewarding environment of online learning.

What is burnout?

For starters, it’s important to understand what burnout is. This may seem straightforward, but understanding what you’re feeling and why is an essential part of addressing the root of the problem so you can navigate ways to reduce symptoms of it in the future.

Essentially, burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic stress. It takes form in a few different ways - mainly feeling exhausted, disengaged, bored, numb, and wanting to escape. These symptoms are important warning signs that your day-to-day routine contains unsustainable patterns that you may need to tweak.

How can you avoid burnout?

To avoid burnout, you need to adjust your routine by changing the unsustainable patterns that don’t serve your physical or mental health. Consider these tips to get started:

Control the Controllable with Gratitude

There are so many events happening in the world right now that are completely out of your control and remain as constant static in the back of your mind. By focusing on what you can immediately control and appreciate, you can cut out a lot of that background noise and bring an immense amount of joy to your daily life. Oftentimes when I have a challenging day, I will think about what I am grateful for, such as my health, family, friends, and a nice cup of coffee. By recognizing what you have in your life that you appreciate, you will feel inspired and hopeful, thus limiting the symptoms of burnout.

Refocus Your Goals and Stay Organized

A lot of times burnout can generally feel like a distraction from a larger goal. It’s important to take the time to sit back and look at the larger picture. Ask yourself, “What am I working toward?” or “What have I accomplished?” or “What are the next steps I need to take to reach that goal?” to refocus your aspirations. This tip can take shape in many forms, whether by simply cleaning your work/living area, to writing each of your goals down on paper. Refocusing your goals will give you a better sense of direction and ultimately reduce burnout.

Take Time for Yourself

With all of your responsibilities and commitments, it can easily feel like you have little time for yourself, however, it is essential to make time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of time, but it is important to give yourself breaks, whether it’s going on walks in your favorite park, exercising, or indulging in your favorite hobby. These breaks are buffers to burnout and can revitalize lost energy from the constant demands of life.

If you are truly burnt out, you may find that you do not have the time or energy to do something you love. It can be quite challenging to re-engage yourself with your interests and may take some time to do so. When I find myself going through this scenario, I will first recognize it and then take small steps to add my favorite hobbies back into my day, such as playing guitar for five or 10 minutes. These small breaks change up what would normally be a monotonous routine, and instead, inspire my energy and creativity.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle is sometimes overlooked when dealing with burnout, but it actually makes a huge impact on your physical and mental health. While it can feel challenging to fit in exercise or cooking a healthy meal when your life is busy enough as it is, there are some simple ways to make it work, including:

  • Exercising. One misconception is that exercise involves a lot of time. Truthfully, though, even just a mere 10 minutes of stretching, light jogging, or lifting weights can make a difference; it just depends on how you schedule your day. If you know you have an extra 10 minutes to look at your phone, utilize that time to exercise instead. In this scenario, you’re not only moving your body to get your blood flowing and boost your endorphins - but you’re also giving your eyes a break from staring at a screen.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Cooking yourself healthy meals can certainly eat up time in your day, but there are still ways to make it possible. One of the best ways to save time, but still eat healthily, is meal prepping. For me, dedicating a Sunday afternoon to cook meals for the week ahead is a real time-saver to ensure I follow a healthy diet. Not only does this effort keep me on track by eating better, but it also forces me to take some time for myself and prioritize what my body needs.
  • Getting enough sleep. Sleep is another overlooked part of your routine that is absolutely necessary, as it reduces a good amount of stress that you undergo throughout the day. I am often guilty of staying up too late, which limits my sleep to less than seven hours per night. I have found on days that I get eight hours or more of sleep, I feel energized for the day ahead and can approach stressful situations with a clear mind. If you are a night owl, you may want to consider going to bed earlier a couple of nights a week, which can truly make a positive impact on your day.

How can you apply these tips to school?

All of these tweaks and changes to your routine will ultimately play an integral, sustainable role in your academic success. Most of these adjustments involve organization, time management, and self-appreciation, which can inspire creativity and re-energize your mind and body. Thinking about making positive, sustainable changes to your routine is one thing; but it’s another thing altogether to actually implement these changes and get it right.

It’s important to recognize that many of these tips take time to fit into your day-to-day routine and require a healthy balance, as each day brings different opportunities. The hope is that by reducing burnout, you improve your academic performance online, as well as in the rest of your life, to make a positive impact on those around you and in your community as a whole.

About the Author

Champlain College Online Advising Team

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