Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: Self-Care for College Students to Alleviate Burnout

By: Azriele Harris, Well-Being Program Coordinator, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and a Mason graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Forensic Science

“You will burn and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

College students can experience burnout as their academic journey progresses, due to the immense stress that comes with undergoing that journey. Thankfully, self-care for college students can relieve stress in ways that lead to greater well-being. There are a multitude of self-care strategies to alleviate college burnout.

Undergraduate students are vulnerable to burnout, and graduate students are especially vulnerable, from the stress of continuing their education along with starting their careers. A majority of students in U.S. colleges – about 8 in 10 – often experience stress, and many of them seek counseling for stress management, this American Institute of Stress article reveals.

Symptoms of burnout can range from mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion to a continued lack of motivation. However, while burnout feels overwhelming, there’s no need to fear it or despair over it. Instead, burnout can indicate that the journey to well-being is worth fighting for.

If you’re a college student who is dealing with burnout, try some of these self-care strategies to recover and boost your well-being.

Physical Fitness

Researchers have indicated that physical fitness is imperative when it comes to handling academic burnout – specifically because it assists with emotional exhaustion and low personal achievement. Other studies have found similar trends showing that engaging in physical activity lowers burnout symptoms.

There are multiple ways to reduce burnout through physical fitness. For instance, you can practice yoga, lift weights, walk, run, or do aerobics or Pilates. As a student at Mason, there are opportunities for physical activity through the free gym facilities membership program on campus for full-time students, as well as BurnAlong, which is also free and offers many diverse online fitness classes.

Enjoyable Activities

A consistent self-care practice is one of the most effective ways to alleviate burnout, a Spring Health survey revealed. Finding self-care activities you enjoy will give you valuable tools for stopping yourself from falling into the menacing spiral that is burnout. By doing activities that make you feel happy throughout the week, you can become more motivated to accomplish academic tasks. Fostering your happiness shifts the balance between stressful activities and pleasurable activities in your life.

So, when you’re experiencing burnout, try to set aside time for enjoyable activities to relieve your mind of stressful tasks.

Those activities can include:

  • eating at your favorite restaurant
  • watching a movie or TV show
  • getting adequate sleep
  • walking in nature
  • journaling
  • reading a book
  • painting
  • drawing
  • listening to music

Find which activities work best for you. Once you find which specific activities bring you happiness and peace, plan well-being breaks to enjoy those activities on a regular basis.


Burnout occurs for everyone – and especially for college students – due to high levels of stress. However, if you begin to prioritize self-care practices in your life, then the effects of burnout become less overwhelming. While the journey to finding your own successful self-care lifestyle may be challenging, the journey is also fulfilling. So, don’t wait until tomorrow to begin your self-care journey. Start today!

Additional Resources

This YouTube video explains burnout symptoms and strategies.

This Thrive Global article explains some healthy ways to deal with academic burnout.

This University of Toledo webpage explains what self-care is, and provides some examples of self-care.

This Better Up article lists some easy self-care practices.

This Health Worker Burnout article discusses the benefits of physical fitness for burnout.

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