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How I Write and Learn

In this blog series, “Ask a Coach!” our Writing and Learning Center coaches answer our UNC-CH undergrads’ burning questions! Check back every month to see what our coaches have to say about everything from taking breaks to utilizing office hours! 

How do I avoid burnout?

Learning Coach Jacob stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "How I Write and Learn Blog" and at the bottom "Jacob - Anthropology PhD Student and S. Club 7's Biggest Fan." The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dashesJacob: Burnout (aka senioritis……though it can happen at any time!) is something I definitely experienced back in the day and I was most certainly not alone! For me, it was making sure that my identity was more than just “Jacob the student.” I did this by finding friends and activities that were completely separate from my institution. This allowed me to be able to step away from my work and do things that I enjoyed as “Jacob the person.” I accomplished this by joining a local trivia team that met every week! It was always so relieving to be in a space where I didn’t have to think about an upcoming exam or tricky homework problem. (Side note: petting dogs also helps prevent burnout)

Learning Coach Yi-Hsuan stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "Yi-Hsuan - Political Science PhD Student I LOVE Fries (even cold) " The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dashesYi-Husan: Burnout usually happens when you consistently overwork yourself. Be aware: our ability to focus is limited. My magic number is 6 hours (and I think the average is 6-8). I know it sounds short, but even if you can squeeze a lot of tasks into one day and succeed in finishing them, you are most likely not being able to do it consistently. I find it is like borrowing money from a bank: you will still need to pay it back someday! Burnout is a status that you’re awfully indebted! I find that setting a realistic work limit each day is essential for me to keep going and avoid exhaustion. 


Learning Coach Michael stands with his thumbs up in a frame that says "Michael - School of Edu PhD student I've watched indoor skiing (in-person) while dining at a cheesecake factory” The frame has a blue background with yellow and red dashes

Michael: I typically try to keep a day completely free of academic commitments or at least as limited as possible. Typically, that’s a Saturday for me and I’ll spend time with family, friends, and do something fun in order to recharge for the week ahead. I feel like the standing structure is helpful because when that nagging voice of “you should be doing this” pops up, I know that this is my day and let the voice know that it can shove off until Sunday. 


Aiden has a headshot with the frame around them.Aiden: If things that used to be easy or interesting suddenly feel impossible and draining, it’s probably time to take a step back and evaluate recent habits. I ask myself if I’ve been getting a good amount of sleep, engaging with my friends, and doing things I like solely for my enjoyment. Additionally, I try and let my friends encourage me to take time to exist in a way that’s calming and fulfilling to me, whether that’s hanging out with people to watch a TV show or being by myself to listen to music or read a book. If I do the same for them, it creates a community of care and support for each other’s well being. Involving my friends is also helpful in that it can give me more examples of how they avoid burnout and take care of themselves through whatever work or school commitments they are involved in.



This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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