On a daily basis, University of Connecticut students are tasked with various responsibilities and obligations. Classes, homework, clubs, sports, off-campus organizations and more contribute to aspects of daily life for students which some say can feel never-ending at times.
Juggling all these activities while also leaving time for a healthy social life, some students say they are left feeling excessive amounts of stress and burnout.
Caitlin Daddona, a seventh-semester environmental science major, is the president of the EcoHusky Student Organization, the founder of UConn’s Clothing Reuse Initiative, a campus director for the United Nations Millennium Fellowship and a member of the RubyFruit acapella group. She said she understands the impact of student burnout because of her extensive involvement on campus.
“Balance is a very difficult thing. As a student attempting to learn day in and out, it seems to require a strategic organization of time, careful prioritization of oneself, and all in a way that you can remain open to change,” Daddona said in an email interview.
Outside of clubs and organizations, Daddona said she feels burnout academically as well.
“This semester, coming back in-person, being a senior taking courses in my major for the first time in-person, I felt immense pressure to try everything,” Daddona said. “I had forgotten who I was as a student, who I wanted to be.”
Sena Wazer, a seventh-semester environmental studies major, also feels the effects of student burnout in her daily life. She said she feels her schoolwork alone does not result in burnout, but the combination of school and extracurricular activities results in overstress.
“BALANCE IS A VERY DIFFICULT THING. AS A STUDENT ATTEMPTING TO LEARN DAY IN AND OUT, IT SEEMS TO REQUIRE A STRATEGIC ORGANIZATION OF TIME, CAREFUL PRIORITIZATION OF ONESELF, AND ALL IN A WAY THAT YOU CAN REMAIN OPEN TO CHANGE.”Caitlin Daddona
“The combination of school, activism, work and trying to have some sort of personal/social life definitely takes a toll,” Wazer said in an email interview. “When I do begin to burn out because of the combination of these factors, it certainly impacts my coursework, and how able I am to complete assignments to the best of my ability.”
Wazer is the co-director of Sunrise CT. She described the organization as “A hub of the national youth-led organizations working to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” Earlier this month, Wazer published an article in Yes Magazine where she talked about the stress that her activism work has caused. Wazer felt that her passion for climate activism would triumph over the stress her position holds.
She highlighted how the toll of the burnout she experienced with climate activism affected her and how that burnout extended to other young students.
“I used to think burnout wouldn’t affect me, that I could push so hard, invest so much, and be OK. I thought because I was fighting for something bigger than me, because I believed so strongly in our ability to pull ourselves out of the climate crisis, that I could keep burnout at bay. Turns out I was wrong. And it’s not just me.” Wazer said in the article.
On top of natural stresses arising from school and life in general, Daddona said COVID-19 and the way it has changed the schooling process has negatively affected student burnout.
“I was expected to magically revive the motivation to learn despite being isolated for nearly a year and a half, remembering how to balance commitments I couldn’t even imagine,” Daddona said.
While some have argued that a fall break would help combat student burnout, others, like Daddona, have argued against the extent of its effectiveness.
“I think a fall break would be helpful but I think small breaks are not always the solution we wish they were. It seems to be a culture of overworking that we are preached in our classes, by advisors, the culture of doing more for greater success,” Daddona said.
Some students, like Wazer, believe that mental health-driven programs and attention from universities can work to help alleviate student burnout.
“To combat general stress and burnout I think that distress programs are really important. In one of my classes we were lucky enough to be able to have a yoga instructor come in and do a couple sessions with us,” Wazer said. “Those sessions were really helpful in not only destressing in that moment, but also in learning techniques that we are now able to use in the rest of our lives.”