Student Life, Word on the Y

Word on the Y: Experiences with burnout

With finals season upon us, McGill students and faculty alike are entering a period of intense academic stress and anxiety. The turmoils of the past months, from online classes to several spikes in COVID-19 cases, have offered no relief. These high-pressure situations are the perfect recipe for burnout and ––the exhaustion that comes from prolonged stress. While these moments can leave you feeling alone, it is important to remember that many other McGill students face similar mental and physical fatigue. Here are some of their experiences with learning to combat burnout. 


“I did not know what burnout was until a few months ago as I was starting my first year as a university student. Back when I burned out in middle and high school, I thought I was simply disinterested or lazy, which just caused the negative cycle of thoughts to continue to persist. I recently booked an appointment with my local wellness advisor and got connected to a counsellor at the Wellness Hub, and though I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, it’s personally been one of the best choices I’ve made this year. They’ve helped me to pay attention to things I didn’t even know were going on in my body, have a way better sense of what is healthy for me, and learn that it’s okay to lighten my load. Even though many unexpected stresses and barriers have hit me this year, I’m happy I have this new knowledge and set of skills to tackle future ones and I feel more hopeful for the future than I have in years.”

—C.S., U0 Science

“Continuous uncertainty surrounding whether I get to have in-person classes has led to burnout for me in my first two years at McGill. What gets me through rough patches is having established habits and routines with regards to my schoolwork that establish a sort of bare minimum, so I at least never fall too far behind. I guess it’s not really a solution for burnout, but it minimizes the damage.”

—Jacob Van Oorschot, U1 Science 

“Burnout has hit me really hard with the McGill workload. Things tend to snowball one way or another. I have found it helpful to turn the snowball around toward productivity by forcing myself to get moving so that I am likely to continue that momentum.” 

—Ophelia Kaya, U2 Arts 

“I struggled with burnout for a few years in high school and into my first year of university. I felt so much pressure to perform well and get good marks. I had taken on too many responsibilities and my expectations for myself were too high. I began to detach and make excuses for why I couldn’t do things. I eventually reached out to a therapist who helped me realize I needed to change my expectations and just do enough, that I couldn’t do everything. I took a step back and focussed more on what I could enjoy in each thing I was doing, rather than what I was achieving in every aspect of my life.”

—C.W., U0 Arts 

“It was like I could not focus on anything. I could not delay gratification and I had a hard time getting easy things done, like cooking and doing laundry. I’m not out of it yet, but I had to take a step back from school and other activities to start my recovery.”

—L.R., U2 Science

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