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Feel the burn: How to deal with mid-semester burnout | Column

Lecture hall

A lecture hall in the Chambers Building on Nov. 11, 2019.

You’ve probably seen signs of it already. Your friends not wanting to go out as much, a sense of constantly being stressed and a desire to do nothing but rewatch “Ted Lasso” for the fifth time.

These are all signs of mid-semester burnout.

Penn State students haven’t had a day off since Labor Day, and the two weeks until Thanksgiving break can’t go by fast enough. Many students are just getting past the “PSFlu,” and their reward? Midterms upon midterms and 20 degree weather.

It has been a grind for almost two straight months now. When students enter the workforce, this won’t be anything new, so some might say asking Penn State to sandwich in a wellness day is asking for too much and providing an unrealistic expectation for the rest of life.

There’s a difference, though, as being a student is a 24-hour job for some. For many jobs, you clock out and don’t think about it for the rest of the day, but students go from class to homework to potentially a part-time job.

In many jobs, there’s stability in that you know what you’re doing, and better yet, you’re being paid for it. Students deal with a wealth of uncertainty and watch their bank account totals just drop.

It’s tough because the holidays that breaks are given for are late in the semester, so it’s a long stretch until you reach them — whereas spring semester has spring break, placed right in the middle.

Wellness days were a great idea, but they should be brought back for every semester. Obviously, wellness days for this semester are a lost cause, but there are still ways to get through these two weeks until break.

Many professors understand stress and offer extensions on assignments, so that could be a possible route. Forcing yourself to take a break no matter what you have to get done is another.

Doing poorly on one assignment is better than doing progressively worse because you don't have the energy to put your full power into it. That may not sound like a great option, but relieving yourself of that building stress for just one day can have an enormous effect on motivation.

Talking to professors, though, might be the best option. They were once students who were also looking for a break. Some are bitter they didn’t get one and don’t think you should, but over my three years at Penn State, time and time again the kindness of professors has left me astounded compared to what my friends at other universities say.

It’s important to remember that one assignment, one week or even one semester doesn’t represent you.

It’s how you handle and approach all the pressure on yourself that shows what kind of person you are.

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