Headed for burnout? Here are the signs you may not know

August 10, 2022

Keeping your body in top condition and not extending yourself too much is a critical part of achieving the best marks you can, but maintaining that balance can be hard.

We have already mentioned the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep as a student. There are plenty of reasons why you might be struggling to get enough sleep, from partying too much to taking on too many activities and studying through the night. You may think, however, that you are coping and might not notice that fatigue is starting to set in. Here are some unknown signs that burnout is on its way that you may not already know.

Trouble concentrating

Finding yourself unable to focus is easy to blame on the weather, or a boring lecturer, but the truth is that the most common reason for not being able to focus is simply a lack of sleep. While physically you may feel alert, not being able to concentrate on your work is actually a sign that your brain is not operating at its peak. A good way to tell if this is caused by exhaustion rather than regular boredom is if you are struggling to complete tasks that require logical thinking. Try playing a simple puzzle game, if you struggle or find it tougher than you usually would, it’s time to take a nap.

Falling asleep immediately

You may think this is a good thing. You are nice and relaxed and slipping off to sleep is the simplest thing in the world. While no one should be tossing and turning, the opposite effect of falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow may be a sign you aren’t getting enough sleep. The average person takes between five and 20 minutes to nod off, so if you are regularly falling asleep quicker than that you probably need a few nights of sustained rest to catch up.

A negative attitude

There are a lot of reasons why people may be depressed or down. If you find yourself feeling pessimistic when usually you are bright and cheery then it could be because you are working too hard. A 2016 article in World Psychiatry suggests that if you find yourself feeling irritable or negative then there is a good chance your body is being taken beyond its usual limits.  This may look different for different people, however. According to the researchers you may be annoyed or apathetic. In the most extreme cases, you may feel unappreciated, like nothing you do makes a difference or even start questioning whether life is worth living. Taking a weekend off is surely better than feeling like that?


You may think you are putting on the weight because you have been eating badly, drinking too much or simply sitting still too long studying, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that putting on weight can also be linked to stress. The answer lies in the stress hormone cortisol, which is generated when we are going through more than our bodies can handle. Cortisol encourages the body to go into a state where it is prepared for tough times ahead, and you will start to cling on to every calorie. Heightened levels of cortisol have been definitively linked with increased waist circumferences and through that added risk of heart disease and strokes.

Bad skin

If you find yourself in a situation where it doesn’t matter how well you are eating, or how many products you buy, your skin still looks terrible, there’s a chance you are suffering from burnout. Studies have shown our bodies boost blood flow to the skin while we sleep, meaning our skin is actually getting the nutrients it needs to look its best. People who are well rested literally look healthier than those who aren’t. Skimp on sleep and your complexion can look drab, ashen, or lifeless or even develop health concerns.

Muscle Pain

An aching body can also be a sign you are headed for a burnout. During periods of high stress muscles tense up to prepare them for fighting or running away. It’s not an ideal response in a world where stress is not fleeting but rather sustained. Remain stressed too long and your body may lock you permanently into this state causing tension headaches, and chronic pain usually in the shoulders, neck, back and stomach aches.

Regular illness

Being stressed can also lead to your immune system becoming compromised. If you find yourself catching regular colds or being sick more than normal, it could be because stress has set off your body’s inflammatory response, and chronic inflammation has compromised the immune system and damaged tissue in the body. When sick, rather take a weekend off. Not only will this help your body overcome the illness, but it will also likely give you all the rest you actually need anyway.

At The Fields you will have all of the resources to take proper care of your health right around the corner. The amenities on hand include a Virgin Active, Woolfson’s pharmacy, Tree of Life, Dr Lawal, an optometrist, physiotherapist and a medical centre. Don’t let your stress, burnout or sickness become the reason you don’t complete your degree.

The Fields is still running our incredible competition where both existing and new residents can win a R500 electricity voucher. JOIN THE FIELDS TODAY and WIN!

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