I’m Burnt Out and Need a Break– But I Can’t Get One

by, Christine Nappi, Features Editor

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been someone who is super involved. Growing up, I did everything I possibly could, from dancing and playing basketball, to taking art classes and being a Girl Scout and more. It was easy to have a lot on your plate as a kid, because you were just focused on having fun and were simply trying to figure out what you liked to do.

Doing everything I possibly could became a habit that’s stuck with me for as long as I could remember– naturally, I have many interests and consider myself to be a well-rounded person, so having a plethora of hobbies and out-of-school activities seemed normal to me. Yet, it wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized the importance of those activities and the importance of “resume building” for college applications. The question “What do you like to do for fun?” quickly became “What do you do outside of the classroom that sets you apart from other college candidates?” and the pressure to do more was created.

I didn’t think much of this pressure at the time. In fact, I didn’t feel any pressure at all, despite the fact that I was that student involved in everything: vice president of my senior class, softball captain, yearbook editor, newspaper editor, still a Girl Scout… the list goes on. I loved each of the organizations I was involved in, and my only motivation for joining them was purely because I wanted to. I knew that being in everything would look good on my resume, but in all honestly that was simply a coincidence.

I remember during a college interview the interviewer looked at my resume and asked, “How do you manage this all?” I gave some answers about my time management and organization skills, but that was only because I didn’t know what else to say. Back then, it really wasn’t much of a challenge for me to balance it all, even though the interviewer insinuated it was. I just so happened to set myself apart from other college applicants by simply doing the activities I enjoyed, and I never felt like I was spreading myself too thin.

However, doing it all suddenly became challenging once I left high school, and in college, I developed the unhealthy habit of biting off more than I could chew.

Coming into college I was so eager to get involved on campus– I truly loved everything I did in high school and wanted my involvement to transition over into my college experience. I planned to do everything I possibly could– from writing for the newspaper to joining a sorority and more, I was determined to do it all, and I did.

I’m beyond proud to be the Features Editor for The Quad, the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus, Treasurer of PRSSA, and a sister of Sigma Delta Tau. I really hit the ground running when I got to Manhattan College, and I don’t regret my involvement in these clubs one bit. I wouldn’t be having the experience I am without these amazing organizations. Not only have I grown more as a student, and boosted my resume in the process, but I’ve made friendships through these organizations that I know will last a lifetime.

While more challenging than in high school to balance my involvement in these organizations on top of classwork, I somehow managed to do it my freshman and sophomore year. Coming into junior year, I was nervous about how I’d be able to manage my leadership roles and a heavier class load during the pandemic, but somehow I did it.

“How’s this semester going?” my friends and family members would ask.

“It’s definitely one of my busiest semesters, but I’m loving it all,” I would say.

And I meant what I said. Last semester I was crazy busy, but I truly was loving it all and having a great time– even with the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

But this semester, I can’t say that I’m loving it as much anymore. During last semester and now this one, the pressure to do more and be more involved really settled in.

I was seeing everyone around me somehow balancing leadership roles in seven different organizations, five classes, on-campus jobs, internships and some semblance of a social life. So I felt like I needed to do that too, which is exactly what I did this semester. On top of my classes, clubs, and on-campus job, I took on my first internship this semester, out of fear of falling behind the crowd.

But in all honesty, it’s getting to be too much.

Unlike in high school, an insane amount of pressure is put on college students to balance and prioritize a billion things at once, and that pressure hasn’t eased up during the pandemic. It looks something like this:

Each professor expects you to prioritize their class, which is impossible. Obviously, I’ve learned to devote more time to more important classes, but this isn’t always the case. Granted, some professors understand that students can’t prioritize their class but not all of them do. There have been times when I’ve had an insane amount of work for an intro course that I needed to prioritize over classes for my major if I wanted to pass that class.

However, it’s not really about your classes is it? Employers care more about what you do outside of the classroom. We’re told they like to see campus involvement and leadership experience. But don’t be fooled by this–clubs aren’t enough. You need an internship. We’re conditioned to think that if you don’t have intern experience, you won’t get a job.

But you also need to remember to have fun on top of classes, clubs, and internships. You’re only in college once so you need to go out, spend time with friends, and make the most of it. Yet, in order to go out and have fun, you need money, and that requires having a job.

As you can see, it’s hard for us college students to escape the pressure to balance a full class load, leadership roles in clubs, internships, jobs, and a social life. Being the do-it-all girl has taken a toll on my mental health, like how it has with many other college students. We’re burnt out, we’re tired, and we’re feeling done. We’re in desperate need of a break– but we can’t get one.

At the end of last semester, the administration made the announcement that Spring Break would be cancelled this semester in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 on our campus, which I think was the right call. This opinion article is by no means an attack on the administration for making the choice they did to cancel Spring break. I’ve been on campus since the Fall and have felt completely safe every step of the way, and I know the college is doing what is in the student’s best interest here. Did they make the right move to cancel the break? Yes, 100 percent, especially with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing recently. Do I think we maybe could’ve gotten a long weekend instead as we do for Easter break? Yeah, I do. But by not giving us a break, the college is just trying to keep us safe, and I can’t criticize them for that.

But do we all still need a break? YES! To say our mental health is suffering now is an understatement, and the lack of a break isn’t helping. Pushing through the month of March without a chance to catch my breath has not been healthy for me, or anyone else. I’m one of the many students who are struggling with the pressure of being in college and wondering how they will manage with no Spring Break.

It’s clear that we’re now stuck between a rock and hard place. With the pandemic still among us we can’t have a break, even though we need one.

So what’s left to do?

While I’m still struggling to manage this mess of a semester I’ve gotten myself into, I’ve done some things to help cope with the lack of a break. If you’re struggling like me, I suggest trying these things too. They don’t compare to having time off, but they certainly help make a busy semester more bearable and less stressful:

Go outside and get some sun: it’s time to leave your dorm/apartment/house and get fresh air. Trust me, your mood will instantly be lifted and you’ll have a more positive mindset when trying to balance your responsibilities.

Exercise: Although it may be easier to sleep in in the mornings, get up and go to the gym, or go for a walk outside. Exercise increases endorphins, which will make you feel a whole lot better.

Make to-do lists: this just may be the inner organization freak in me, but making to-do lists really helps me when I’m stressed out. Writing everything down that I need to do helps clear my mind and stay focused on what I need to accomplish.

Use the Weekends to Unwind: Each weekend I tell myself I’m going to catch up on work because I finally have free time, but I’m too burnt out from the week before to get anything done. Yet, this is a good thing. Weekends should be for free time, not catch up work. You need time to simply do nothing.

Write Down Good Things that Happen: I’ve picked this habit up from my friends at The Quad, but at the end of each day, make note of the good things that happen to you. This could be as simple as getting an extra hour of sleep or eating your favorite snack– whatever puts a smile on your face during a time when it may not be so easy to smile.

Spend time with Friends: being surrounded by your friends instantly helps you feel better about whatever you’re going through. You should also spend more time with them while you can, because you’re not going to look back at college and remember those long nights in the library– you’re going to remember the memories created with your friends. One day you’ll look back and wish you had more fun, so have more fun.

Stop Giving into the Pressure: It’s easier said than done and is a concept I’m still trying to grasp but stop giving in to the pressure placed on you. Stop spreading yourself so thin. In the grand scheme of things, your mental health is way more important than your grades or leadership roles.

So, to my fellow students who’ve been striving to do all and haven’t stopped since, I hope this article puts you at ease. Sometimes, you can’t do it all, and that’s okay. While you may not have a literal break from school, you still deserve to give yourself one.

One thought on “I’m Burnt Out and Need a Break– But I Can’t Get One

  1. Christine Nappi, what a great article! You are spot on. Great advice, great perception. I’m not even in school anymore. And for that matter I have just retired from a 40 year career. And through it all, your words ring clear to me. Stop. Breath. Look around. Take inventory. Be at peace with yourself. For after the tumult of your years there at Manhattan and through the world of daily crises we see each day, take stock in your exhaustion. What is ahead will not change all that much. But, that’s not a bad thing. People who manage the mayhem are successful, whether you light the world on fire, or you plod ahead with your own life’s agenda, please appreciate it all. I can say I am working harder now that I have retired than at any other time in my life. And I’m loving it! You should e njoy life too, and from your article I believe you do. The world is a better place when we all focus on what is most important. Personal happiness. It rubs off. Your positive attitude will light the world on fire!

    Thank you for your perceptive vision,
    Tom Hill
    (father of three Manhattan graduates, uncle to another, and brother of Manhattan College’s former chaplain)

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