Burnout—we’ve all been there. Often, giving 100% to school, work, your social life, staying healthy, and keeping your room clean can catch up to you and bring on exhaustion. 

College can be an overwhelming time because so much is changing. On top of that, you’re making major life decisions (career, what to study, dating, living away from family), and all of that piles on. While it is exhausting, it can also be a lot of fun! 

Finding the balance between these things can lead to over exhaustion physically, but also mentally. This exhaustion can result in burnout. 

The American Psychology Association defines burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others.”

This burnout can be avoided (and in some mild cases treated) by taking some time for yourself. We like to call this a mental health day, or a self-care day. Simply taking some time to do what you love, relax, catch up on sleep, and give yourself a break from stress can be what you need to treat your exhaustion. 

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, family member, counselor, or online resource for help. In some cases, a mental health day won’t be enough treatment and that is okay. There are resources available to help you manage these feelings.

What is Burnout?

In most cases, burnout results from prolonged exhaustion and extreme stress. Basically, college is a breeding ground for burnout. Everyone is exhausted and there are a million things on the to-do list. 

Burnout can present itself in many ways, and at the end of the day will be different for everyone. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to mental health is that it’s just as important as physical health. 

Sometimes, it can be hard to explain or “see” mental health. There is no easy way to measure your mental health like there is for physical health, which can make treatment and prevention harder. 

Signs of Burnout

There are many signs of burnout both physically and mentally. When it comes to mental health, it is important to give yourself breathing room in between activities, obligations, and your daily routine. Even if you only experience some of these symptoms, it is probably time for a mental health day (or weekend) to let yourself reset and feel ready to keep tackling your responsibilities. 

These symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • A loss of motivation regarding all or any aspects of your life
  • Lack of productivity
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling sad, angry, upset, or easily irritated
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stress headaches
  • Constantly thinking and worrying about your responsibilities (school, work, etc.)
  • Activities that used to make you happy or that you looked forward to are no longer fun/make you happy
  • Low social battery and withdrawal from friends and family

Let’s dive deeper into the 3 most common symptoms of burnout and the signs that you need a mental health day.

1. Lack of Motivation

A lack of motivation is commonly the first sign of potential burnout and can be the reminder you need to take a little bit of time for yourself. 

Everyone struggles sometimes with not wanting to study for that test or go to the gym, so occasionally having a hard time motivating yourself is not a bad thing! When this lack of motivation escalates and starts impacting numerous areas of your life, that’s when it becomes something to maybe start worrying about and addressing. 

A loss of motivation is especially something to notice when it starts affecting things you normally look forward to. If you stop being motivated to read your favorite book, see your friends, or make your favorite meal, you may need a mental health day to recharge and reset your mental health. 

2. Never Ending Exhaustion 

College is an exhausting time. With an endless amount of activities and often not enough time to do them all, being tired is completely normal. Another common sign of burnout and needing a mental health day though is extreme exhaustion. 

This can sometimes show itself as never feeling fully rested even after a good night's sleep. It can also present itself as mental, emotional, or spiritual exhaustion as well. Exhaustion can also be an inability to sleep through the night. 

3. Not Feeling Happy

One of the most common signs of burnout is an overall sense of not being happy. It is okay to have a bad day, but if those bad days start outweighing the good ones, it may be time to sit down and find some help. It is okay to not be okay, and finding help if these feelings start to worsen is the most recommended response to this type of burnout.

If you are finding yourself to be unhappy, stressed, and having a hard time finding joy in your day-to-day life, it may be a sign that you are experiencing burnout and need to take care of yourself.

This is especially true if you are having a hard time being happy doing things that usually make you happy or make you smile. No one is going to be happy writing a chemistry exam, but if you have a hard time smiling while watching your favorite show, it may be time to actively take care of your mental health. 

What is a Mental Health Day?

So, what is a mental health day anyway? Simply put, a mental health day is a day (or a weekend, or an afternoon) spent doing things just for YOU. Everyone’s version of a mental health day will look different. 

Typically, one day won’t fix all of your problems, stresses, or worries. But it can help you reset, regroup, and recharge before continuing your normal routine or activities. During a mental health day, you should do your very best to leave your stresses behind. Try to take a step away from school, work, family stresses, and anything else that is increasing your stress. 

A mental health day is best spent doing things that make you happy, allow you to have fun, relax, and do things to recharge your battery.

Ideas for a Mental Health Day

While there is no “cookie cutter” mental health day, there are some common ways people spend mental health days to recharge, relax, and focus on their mental health. 

Go Outside: One way to spend a mental health day is to go outside. It can be heading to the mountains, going on a walk, biking, or doing anything else that helps you unplug from your stress. Being outside in nature can help you leave your stresses behind and can be a great way to destress. 

Sleep In: Sleep is critical in maintaining adequate physical and mental health. Especially in college, sleep is in short supply, so take advantage of your mental health day to sleep in, go to bed early, or take a nap. Getting adequate sleep can help you gain a better perspective on your life and help you step away from your stress. 

Do Something Active: Being physically active releases endorphins that help counteract stress. In day-to-day life, it can be hard to find the time to do physical activities. You do not have to go to the gym. Your physical activity could be a yoga class, going on a run, stretching, or doing anything else that gets you up and active. 

There are many other things you could do for your mental health day, it’s entirely up to you. Ultimately, what matters is that you do activities that allow you to recharge, relax, and step away from your responsibilities. 

Some other ideas for a mental health day could be:

  • Watching a movie
  • Going to lunch with friends
  • Calling your family
  • Making your favorite treat

While your mental health day is your day, a couple of things to try and avoid would be:

  • Spending time with people who drain you
  • Binging on unhealthy foods (some treats are amazing, but it may not be best to eat fast food all day)
  • Spending all day scrolling social media (social media can breed comparison which can be hard on your mental health)

Outside of your mental health day, finding balance in college is important. Do your best to establish time every day to take care of yourself. As always, contact us if you have questions or are looking for an apartment in the Rexburg area.