It’s a common scene at most colleges: students who can barely catch their breath during long, grueling days due to being bombarded by combinations of classes, schoolwork, studying, athletics, clubs and community service. The scene of a young man or woman keying away on the computer until 3 a.m. to finish a research paper due the next day is not an uncommon image. At Springfield College, and every other collegiate institution across the nation, these symptoms are prevalent among many students.
This student exhaustion and overcommitment, often referred to as “burnout,” is a reoccurring issue on campus that can sometimes be very obvious. Brian Krylowicz, the director of the Springfield College Counseling Center, described the characteristics of burnout.
“[It’s] when a student avoids doing the things that they enjoy and/or need to do and feels the emotional weight of that lack of action,” Krylowicz said.
According to Krylowicz, common symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, procrastination, less or more sleep, less enjoyment, avoiding tasks, depression and anxiety. The pressures of succeeding academically and athletically and building up resumes for future careers are critical factors that can lead to student burnout.
Senior Robert Giordano, a Physician’s Assistant major, has recently experienced many of those symptoms due to the fact that his course of study requires an endless amount of work and dedication. As a result, it has severely cut down on time he would like to have to engage in activities that are enjoyable.
“This semester I’ve been so tied down with schoolwork that I rarely have time to do fun things that I normally did freshman year,” Giordano said. “I even have to study most weekend nights. With this much work, I have a lot more anxiety than I ever had before. Sometimes it takes me hours to fall asleep at night.”
Other students are simply involved in far too many activities and extracurricular clubs or teams. From athletics, to intramurals, to on- and off-campus jobs, students sometimes don’t even realize that they are in over their heads.
“Our students have many areas of interest and want to do lots of things, but each requires time and energy, and both of those are finite,” Krylowicz said. “We just don’t like seeing our limitations, and think we can do everything. I am always so blown away by how much Springfield College students can do, but even with the supermen and superwomen we have on campus, we can only do so much. But we often don’t know our limitations until we are overwhelmed and overcommitted.”
Many times, students are unaware that they are increasingly becoming burnt out.
“We are usually the last to figure out when we are stressed and when we are burned out,” Krylowicz said. “If people say you are stressed and are pushing it too hard, it is a good sign that we probably are.”
For Giordano, his parents always encourage him to take a breather every once in a while to keep a balance between pleasure and stress.
“Every time they call me they always remind me to get enough rest and keep eating healthy,” Giordano said. “They even tell me to watch the Giants games every Sunday, because they know they are my favorite football team.”
On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are groups of students that are undercommitted. Based on Krylowicz’s 10-plus years of counseling experience at multiple colleges and universities, he has noticed a segmentation of three kinds of students in terms of burnout.
“I have found [that] colleges have three groups of students. One group is not that engaged and has very few commitments. Another is committed to a ton of things. And the last is a group of students that have a manageable amount of commitments.”
As a college counselor, Krylowicz has advice to all students in regards to keeping a balance between work and pleasure.
“Think of it like going to Cheney. They have a lot of great things to eat. Take a look at all the options and maybe even taste a few, but only take back to the table what you can and should eat. Don’t take back too little and be missing out and hungry later. Don’t take too much back and eat too much and be overcommitted. Find that ‘Goldilocks’ space where it is just right.
“Be involved; just stay in balance with the time needed for academics, family, athletics, friends, work and all other aspects of life. Just be prepared to let the things that we don’t want to do go and be prepared to invest in the things that are important to us. Also, remember that you will have four years in college to do things, and life does continue after college, and there will be plenty of opportunities at that time too.”