end of term burnout

3 - Wentworth College, University of York

Here’s a free-write on a Saturday afternoon about something that happened last night. Perhaps it’s more for me than for my readers, but actually I feel like blogging should work like that sometimes, if only in part, and perhaps one of you might have a similar experience or thoughts to share on burnout and anxiousness.

I’ve been quiet in the past couple of weeks, even missing my first Sunday round-up post since starting the series at the beginning of the year. I’m frustrated about that, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do. On the Sunday in question I had an essay worth 50% of my module mark due in the next day, an assessment immediately followed by a second essay, this time 2500 words and worth 100% of the module mark, due in on the Friday – yesterday.

After submitting at around two-pm I expected to feel that huge weight lifting off my shoulders, but in fact it was the complete opposite. Rather than feeling free, I felt like I was the weight drifting away from the anchor which had been holding me down; all of a sudden I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m not sure why it surprised me; I’ve been tied down by essays for almost two weeks, so having nothing to do was bound to feel strange. In reality though, I just couldn’t think; all I could do was get into bed and curl up with Netflix.

Later on my housemates wanted to celebrate the end of term, so I joined them in ordering pizza and we had a chilled time in the kitchen. They were keen to go out, though, and invited various people over before heading into town. As the kitchen filled I felt myself turning inwards; I could laugh when expected, but I couldn’t actually speak. I knew I couldn’t go out – I’d never wanted to in the first place – but I felt awful for not going at the same time. It was some hours before I could make my excuses and escape to my bedroom, sinking to the floor. with my back against the door like people do in the films before the break down.

It’s frustrating because I don’t know who I am in those moments. The girl who shakes as she sits in a room full of people is not the same girl who can make a speech to an audience of hundreds or sing an aria on stage. The girl who gets so choked up amongst a group of people she can’t speak or even move is not the same girl who articulate an intricate point in a seminar or win the LitSoc pub quiz in a team of nine. I can’t equate these two people or work out what triggers the change, because most of the time it seems random.

I like being alone and that’s something I think a lot of people here don’t quite understand; they need the reassurance of others to feel confident about themselves. I can understand that, but for me it’s time by myself that lets me know I’m doing okay. If I feel happy alone, surely more people will only heighten that feeling? Sometimes that logic works and sometimes it doesn’t, and it doesn’t really depend on the people or the day or the situation or the alcohol consumption. It’s hard to explain to people for whom being alone heightens insecurity, or who haven’t had experiences of anxiousness.

I don’t know what it was last night; I actually wanted to be around people, but more and more people arrived who I didn’t know too well and it all got too much. That’s okay, but I wish I could control it better. At the end of the day, I guess the end of term just caught up on me. It’s been turbulent and busy and pretty hard at times, but I was in a good place before the essays kicked in. And I enjoyed the essays – I’ll write a little about them in tomorrow’s round-up – but when you spend day after day working on something that’s so important, I guess the feeling of burnout once it’s over it understandable.

Today, then, I’m torn between a feeling of desperately wanting to get home for a rest, and a real wish to stay in York for another week or two. I’ll write more in an end-of-term post next week, but I’ve reached a good place here; this term I’ve well and truly fallen in love with this city, and I feel good, on the whole, about my academic progress. But ultimately, I think last night’s exhaustion and anxiousness is my body’s way of letting me know that I need to stop, just for a bit.

That’s okay. I’ve become pretty adept at forgiving myself for these instances – if there’s anyone it’s not worth holding a grudge against, it’s yourself.

I’m so looking forward to having a chance to write freely over Easter, so I’ll be back soon with a bunch of posts I’ve been aching to write for weeks.

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  1. 12/03/2016 / 5:51 pm

    I am sure that what you experienced was a reaction to the stresses and strains of academic pressure, and not least the pressure that you place on yourself to do well, and to make a success of your time at university. Without sounding patronising (and I assure you I don’t mean to be) those feelings are very much a part of growing up, and discovering what you have become and where you are, at different stages in a life.
    I remain confident that you will do well, and have a happy life, whichever path you choose to follow.
    Best wishes as always, Pete.

    • Lucy Furneaux
      19/03/2016 / 5:39 pm

      Yes, I definitely agree. It’s such a strange feeling to go from having so much to do all at once, to absolutely nothing all of a sudden. I’ve always thrived on pressure, so I think I need to learn how to be happy without having a project or deadline to work towards!
      Thanks so much, as ever! 🙂

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