How to study without risking burnout

Studying effectively while avoiding burnout is crucial for both academic success and your personal wellbeing. Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, often caused by prolonged stress. Aside from feeling awful, it can also hinder your productivity, memory and learning capabilities.
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Higher education can be both extremely rewarding and demanding, so it’s important to know how to keep the balance and ensure you thrive academically without risking your health.
Here, we run through the key points to remember about how to study without risking burnout.

Set clear goals and priorities

Prioritising your tasks is a great way to begin mapping out a clear, efficient study plan. Start with identifying specific goals and work backwards to dedicate blocks of time to each. Knowing what you want to achieve helps you to stay focused and motivated, but be sure to not overcommit yourself – it’s equally as important to leave yourself time for self-care, hobbies and relaxation.

You could use an online tool or good old-fashioned pen and paper to track your goals and tasks, but having a plan laid out helps to avoid stress and overwhelm. Consistency is key, but your plan needs to be realistic and manageable, too.

Breaking up your study sessions into manageable chunks will look different for everybody, but typically, 25-30 minute blocks followed by 5-10 minute breaks work well. Check in with yourself regularly to see how fatigued you feel, and try not to feel guilty if you need a longer break – you can always pick it up again later with renewed focus.

Use effective study techniques

Active learning is known to promote deeper understanding and information retention, so be sure to engage with your study material by summarising it to others, as opposed to just reading it.

Try to stick to one time-blocking technique or study method for a few weeks to give yourself enough time to see if it’s right for you, but don’t be afraid to switch it up if you feel it isn’t. Spacing out your learning of complicated topics can help to improve long-term retention and reinforce your knowledge on the subject.

This is why beginning your revision process early is key – you should regularly revise throughout your course rather than trying to cram in all of your studying a week before your exams.

Look after yourself

It’s very important to keep yourself healthy whilst studying, which means getting enough sleep, eating well and managing your emotions. Ensuring you get 7–9 hours of good quality sleep each night will keep your cognitive functioning at peak levels, unhealthy habits will interfere with your sleeping patterns and leave you fatigued.

Consume a nutritious diet to fuel your brain. Though it can be tempting to snack on high-fat, salty foods whilst studying, try to stick to a healthy selection of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins all support cognitive health and will help you avoid burnout.

Staying active with physical exercise boosts brain function, reduces stress and improves your overall performance and wellbeing – all key aspects of reducing the risk of burnout. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, whether it’s walking, running, weight-lifting or any other activity you find enjoyable.
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Find the right balance

Effective studying and burnout prevention requires a balanced approach. By setting clear goals, maintaining a routine and prioritising self-care, you can enhance your study plan and avoid the risk of burnout significantly. Remember, working hard isn’t just about the time you spend with your nose to the grindstone, it also involves working smarter and making an effort to take care of yourself.
  • Mark Ketch
    As an advocate for self-care and a teacher with decades of experience, Mark loves to help students on their academic journeys. He also enjoys walks on the beach, summer BBQs and rock climbing.
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