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Thread: Burnout and the subsequent loss of motivation: prevention and treatment?

  1. #1
    baby kiffer

    Default Burnout and the subsequent loss of motivation: prevention and treatment?

    Hello all,

    I created this thread with the intention to generate discussion about "burn-out" with regards to its prevention and treatment.

    I am sure I am not the only one who has felt burnt-out, at times, by stress. It is a frustrating experience, because it can happen during periods when productivity or responsibility is high priority--say, during finals week.

    Of course, if procrastination is the source of the burn-out, the solution is simple: don't procrastinate.

    However, what I wish to address is the burn-out which results from a constant state of exhaustion--despite sufficient planning and organization in one's work life--and often without the option of backing out on one's duties.

    Take me, for example.

    I wake at 0630 most days, eat breakfast, go to school (often early, to see my teachers or other students for study purposes), attend an extra-curricular activity after school, eat dinner, and work on homework (including scholarships) usually until after midnight, meditate, and go to sleep (I average 5-6 hours per night, during the week). I do my best to not waste any moment of my time--I only take breaks if I need to (5-10 minutes; usually no more than 20-30 minutes total in one night), and I try not to obsess over details or things which could be resolved over a few days.

    Sometimes, I can't always fit in time for myself, and this extended eat-sleep-work routine really burns me out--physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    I would like to generate discussion for people like me who feel like they sit in the same boat. It does not matter if you are in high school, college, graduate school, or living independently--stress is relative to the individual.


    when there are no excuses for otherwise well-used time, what can be done to prevent burn-out? OR, if one is already burned-out, how can one recover?

    For myself, I have the following methods:
    • Deep breathing
    • Refocusing on an easier task, which can bring a small sense of satisfaction (say, folding the laundry sitting on one's bed)
    • Infantilism***used with extreme caution, for danger of over-exposure and subsequent behavioral spiraling***
    • Listening to music
    • Playing music (Yay for musicians!)
    • Making art (yay for artists!)
    • Cat nap (limit 20-40 minutes, to prevent drowsiness)
    • Other stuff....

    If you have another method to add to my list, please do not hesitate to do so...and if you have gone-through some tough times (like college or life/death situations) please take the time to share your experiences.

    Thank you, and I appreciate any and all of your cooperation.

    ~Baby Kiffer~

  2. #2


    I tend to smoke myself out. It's rather a 'do it when you can think things over' deal. (relationships, confidence, the ego itself) Helps the tension between myself and others to recollect what is needed to be done or said.

  3. #3


    Your day both depresses and scares me.

    How much homework do you actually have?

    And rest: "20-30 minutes total in one night" :0
    When I 'study', I generally do an hour on and an hour off. Or if things are more intense (it's near exams for something), I'll maybe do an hour and a half on, half off.
    I never really feel burnt-out. I think it's perfectly possible to get good results without over-working.
    Resting is part of the work IMO, it lets things settle. Binge-working seems counter-intuitive.

    I've felt burnt-out during 'finals week' (or any exam period) because I generally feel well prepared already, and I get spurred on by how much I feel I'm kicking ass in the exam room.

    When I do feel burnt-out, I stop what I'm doing straight away and just rest and watch some TV or something, until I feel like getting back to it.

  4. #4



    At one point I was working an average of 50 hours a week and taking 4 college classes (3 at night). I was miserable, always tired, and almost forgot what fun was. My friends wondered what had happened to me. About half way through the semester, I hit the wall, so to speak, and realized that the thrash I was in the middle of wasn't healthy, and I needed to change something. At that point, I made a plan to schedule down time, working in a block of time where I could do NOTHING work or school related. My night classes were M-W, so I invited 4 friends over to my apartments to get in the pool and drink daiquiris on Thurs. night. It felt SO GOOD to be able to relax without thinking about anything other than my friends and feeling calm. Every Thursday became pool night for the rest of the semester and the summer. It became an event of legend with my friends and me (we still talk about it from time to time, many years later).

    The point of all that is to say that you have to find a balance. If there are things that you are doing that are causing you stress, yet aren't as important in the long term, (extracurricular school activities?) consider removing them and focusing that time on YOU.

    Make sure you get appropriate amounts of sleep. 5-6 hours is not enough.

    Analyze what you obsess on when doing schoolwork and try to dial that back some. Unless you are trying to get a free ride at Oxford or Harvard or MIT, it's likely that a 4.5 grade avg is highly unnecessary. If it reduces your load, turn in a B paper rather than an A++ (and you know the difference if you are doing as much as you are). Look at whom you are trying to impress with all the struggle. If you are doing it for your own sense of satisfaction, then you have some value decisions (is it worth it) to make, if you are doing it to seek approval from others (parents, trusted teachers/ mentors) you might consider what your motivation is and make healthy decisions to change.

    I say that I can do ANYTHING. For a certain amount of time. Knowingly putting yourself into a stressful environment can be a self esteem builder (I did it, I survived, I succeeded, kick ass!) or a horrible train wreck waiting to happen (AAARRRRGGGGH) Learning how to recognize and change the course you are on is a key element in succeeding.

    Good Luck!!

    Several little changes can have as great an effect as one large change, but look to make time for yourself.

  5. #5


    I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, so your burn-outs are how i feel every day. Some days i just cant get out of bed, or need crutches to get around, and other days i feel just fine.

    I've really had to change my schedule since i became ill, and one of the things i did, was to stop stressing too much about homework. I told my teachers very calmly that i would continue to do my very best, but if i was too tired then i wasnt going to do it, since in the end it would mean id be stuck in bed for a month and would miss more class in the long run.

    Do you really need to do 4 hours of homework a night? I find it dubious that your tutors are really giving you that much work. Is there anyway you can cut down a little, or spread out assignments so you can tackle a few on an hour or two at the weekend.

    I've been told by my doctor that the brain can only take in information in blocks of around 20 minutes and then you need a really short break, so maybe cut your blocks down a little into like half an hour or 45 minutes, and take 5 - 10 minutes in between them.

    Can you cut down a little on your extra curricular activities?

  6. #6


    Well being in school for a profession where burnout/loss of motivation is pretty much a given at some point I have a couple ways I try to prevent it (though they don't always work...)

    1) If I feel it coming on I do everything I can to force myself to take an extra day off of studying, or extend a weekend, take a small trip somewhere, basically get away from the school/work environment.

    2)When I am studying I make sure that I do other stuff on and off while I am studying, Ill try to go to the gym, or maybe turn on the tv for a bit after class and before studying and then interrupt studying with AIM/Forum's/Reading News and always always ALWAYS at least take at least one day off from any work related in any way to school or medicine in general.

    3) I try to remember that there is a reason I am doing all this, and even if what I am going through now seems at times like pointless trivia it is all to get to a point where I am actually doing what I love and am helping treat patients.

    4) For me, remember that C/P=MD, and more generally remember that you don't always need to get the highest possible grade in everything and that sometimes the effort required to raise your grade one level isn't worth the benefit.

    5) Most importantly I do everything in my power to get at least 8 hours of sleep/night when averaged over a week... Sleep does amazing things and getting as much as possible is worth it even if it means putting off an hour of studying until the weekend or another day...

    and one more...
    6) Set reasonable goals.

  7. #7


    We've discussed burnout quite a bit in a couple of my classes. They tell us to:

    1. Exercise more

    2. Drink less caffeine

    3. Get more sleep

    and they said a few more things that I can't really remember. I personally find that it really helps me to relax if I exercise a bit more or if I just go for a nice long drive, usually late at night when there's hardly any cars on the road, it leaves me alone to my thoughts.

  8. #8


    If you feel that all your time is well spent and you are getting burn out then it is very simple, and you aren't going to like to hear this, but you are doing too much. Your body is telling you that you are doing too much. You need to find somewhere you can cut back on - with your time to relax so limited that is going to be what is getting you to this burn out state.

    A very simple way to avoid burn out is if your lifestyle is causing burnout, change the lifestyle. Now you will probably find this very difficult to do, because you sound like the sort of person who always wants to be productive. You may know the phrase:

    "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"

    You need to get more play in your life. Not every minute of it should be well-used as you put it. You need time to mess about, relax. Whether this is by doing something relatively active or just relaxing somewhere doing nothing, you need to find an activity, maybe one of the ones you suggested and do it instead of doing one of your well-used time activities. The easist to cut back on is probably extra-curricular stuff. Do you really need to do that.

    As for your list I will add writing stuff. I write poetry, but I imagine prose could always work.

  9. #9


    I know the exact feeling you're talking about, and my solution for it is to just take a day and get nothing accomplished. Turn off the alarm clock, call in sick, and only do what you truly feel like doing. If you feel like sleeping all day, allrighty then. At work they know I do this maybe once or twice a year, and are OK with it because after that one day I come back and get more done in a day than before that day off.
    As far as the sleep goes, I used to only sleep for like 3 to 4 hours a night when I was in highschool. Would go to sleep around 11 to midnight, and would be back up by 4 in the morning without an alarm clock. Now I sleep around 8 to 9 hours a night.

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Jacks View Post
    I tend to smoke myself out. It's rather a 'do it when you can think things over' deal. (relationships, confidence, the ego itself) Helps the tension between myself and others to recollect what is needed to be done or said.
    I approve of both your method and your avi.

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