"Girl-bossing" My Way to Burnout

Writing lists and taking regular breaks are effective ways to look after yourself while studying (Credit- Unsplash)

“I fear I may have girl-bossed a bit too close to the sun…”; a trending self-celebratory internet phrase, is one that I think very much applies to me now that I have realised the number of commitments I have to fulfil.

The pressures of university are back in full swing and with the long summer break, the demands feel like a shock after having very little routine for such a long period of time. There is a never-ending list of reading, and that when you tick off one item on your to-do list for one module, before you know it there is another text to read for the next week, or another essay to write.

We are not designed for the pendulum swing between having swathes of time to fill with things we enjoy, and pushed in the other direction with an intense workload and timetabling every hour of the day.

The feeling of dread at the intensity of the workload and the imminent burnout is inescapable. I do things in extremes and I have learnt the hard way – repeatedly –that this is not viable.

"These unachievable, unrealistic and time-consuming expectations were so popular and desirable that everyone I knew suddenly only used pastel highlighters and spent hours making notes for a twenty minute biology test."

So, what helps people to feel like they can get through the term, and not become too familiar with the same desk on the same floor of the same library every single day?

After the last four weeks of university and post-grad applications, I’ve taken to the internet for some tips and recommendations. I have felt bouts of intense anxiety and have been paralysed and overwhelmed.

Writing lists and trying to put into perspective my tasks have always been things that I have done, but they do not recognise the root of the problem, which is my inability to take breaks and rest until everything is done.

As such I have been forcing myself to set aside time purposely where I am not in the vicinity of my laptop or any of the books that I must read. Whilst the weather still holds, for me that means taking a walk a couple of times a week, even if it’s just twenty minutes away from my desk in the library.

Romanticising productivity has become its own corner of the internet, especially popular among young people. (Credit-Unsplash)

I have also been taking the advice to treat myself to something small each week – I like to go for a coffee and maybe work in a coffee shop for a couple of hours or go to lunch with a friend, with whom I am currently making my way through all the little independent cafes in Newcastle. Having contact outside of your course with friends and breaking up the day really has helped motivate me when I do need to get work done.

I have also attempted to carve out time for myself by setting a cut-off point with my work, that I will not work past 9pm each night, so that I can give myself space to relax in the evenings, even if it is aimlessly scrolling through Twitter or TikTok. The real test of this will come as deadline week approaches- bad habits are hard to break!

The concept of ‘rest’ has been one that has been demonised for me. Going to a school which prided itself on academic rigour meant that every evening after school and most of each weekend was spent working to keep up with the homework tasks and reading that we were presented with, as well as maintaining the image of being academically gifted and being told that I would thrive at university and in academia.

Allowing myself time off from studying brings with it a lot of guilt – guilt that I am using my time for something that is deemed “unproductive”. Combatting the narrative that everything I do must be to fulfil some end goal, stems from the unrealistic #productivity trend that had been huge on social media platforms.

Some may be old enough to remember #studyblr and the romanticisation of pretty notes and colour coded stationery. These unachievable, unrealistic and time-consuming expectations were so popular and desirable that everyone I knew suddenly only used pastel highlighters and spent hours making notes for a twenty minute biology test.

It is understandable why we try to find joy in academia when for many it takes up so much of our time, but I’ve realised that it is not the only aspect in my life that should provide meaning and self-fulfilment. It can be a difficult concept to talk about however, when the expectations for you to academically succeed are high.

Inevitably there will be moments of stress and anxiety around university life, but I have realised that I do not and should not feel this way constantly. There is so much more outside of this realm of working.

Vicky Gill's interest in politics grew after participating in the UK branch of the European Youth Parliament in 2018, and after doing a module on the 20th century social and political history of the UK at A-Level.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.

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