The Mid-Semester Burnout Is Real And It Has Hit Me Hard

The Mid-Semester Burnout Is Real And It Has Hit Me Hard

During midterm season, there is no such thing as too much coffee.
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As my midterms draw to a close and I start packing for fall break, I've come to realize that I am downright exhausted. Not just that I've not gotten enough sleep or that I am feeling physically sluggish, but that my brain has disintegrated into a pile of ashes from the amount of work I have put it through. This is not my first encounter with a burnout, but it hasn't been this severe or as taxing on me as in the past. These past couple weeks I have felt like a zombie and the only thing that can being me back to a state of normalcy is two cups of coffee, at least.

I know I am not the only student who feels this way. During midterm week, you see all the extremes that people go through: staying up into the library till 1 a.m., drinking 10+ cups of coffee throughout the day, isolating themselves in their rooms for days on end just to be able to focus on studying without distractions; all of which I have fell victim to over the semester. And the after effects of these routines become more devastating as the semester goes on. I've seen fellow classmates come out of midterms with bags under their eyes, holding a cup of delicious caffeinated liquid in their cold hands all while dragging their feet back to their dorm rooms in hopes of a nap to sleep away the pain.

On the other hand, I have seen other students who can actually function and go on with their lives as if midterms are not crashing down on them yet and are able to keep up such good grades in the classroom. The fact that I am not one of those students makes me wonder how I can't be that way. It wasn't till actually talking to one of the university councilors that I finally got my answer. I ended up making an appointment with the university's free counseling service during midterms week because I just felt so upset, scared, and overall anxious about my studies that I decided I need to rant to someone about it. When I arrived for my appointment, the counselor simply asked me why I suddenly decided to make an appointment. It was then I opened the flood gates. For a solid fifteen minutes, I ranted on how much I had to do in so little time, the amount of homework I had to do over break, my exhaustion, and the fact that I felt like I had a twenty-five pound load just resting on my shoulder and there was nothing I could do about it. All and all, I felt as if I wanted to give up because it felt too much for me to handle and it was only midterms.

She then asked me a simple question: "Why are you stressing out so much about something that is going to be irrelevant in less than three years time?"

Well. Dang. She got me there. As I sat back in the chair and looked outside to see the leaves fall from the tree right by the window, I honestly felt like an idiot. The answer itself was right in front of me the entire time: I was worrying over something irrelevant to my future self. I'm no stranger to stress and what it does to me, but this time it was really different. Going through my sophomore year of college, a lot is at stake when it comes to choosing what major I want to pursue for the rest of my life. With everything around me solidifying, the one thing that I feel like I have control over in my life at the moment is time and how I spend it. To me, seeing an A on my midterm grade was all that mattered. I pushed myself beyond my limits in order to extend beyond my own expectations, which in the end lead to my own deterioration.

But as she said, will it really matter later? Will my grades on these midterms, or even this semester's finals make me happy down the road? Am I going to look back on my sophomore year of college and say "I'm so glad I spent my college life cooped up in a library cubicle with my nose in a book?" No. The difference between me and those functioning students was the aspect of balance. Balance in social life, mental health, self care and studies all of what make up a rounded person in college. It's personally something that I am going to force myself to learn in order to make my college life a little more enjoyable. I want to make memories here; to go to school events with friends, to take a break, to enjoy being independent before I am forced out into the world of adulting on my own.

So hear it from me: never let your studies be worth more than your college experience. You only get one shot with the same people and opportunities, so make the most out of it. Time may not always be on our side, but we can sure do our best to make the best of it while we still have it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have four midterms worth of sleeping to catch up on.

Cover Image Credit: Rand Corporation

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Not My Michigan

A Michigan student-athlete turned Registered Nurse on the Michigan Medicine contract negotiations in 2018.

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It's May 1st, 2016. I'm bright-eyed, eager, and graduating from the University of Michigan as a Nursing Student and Student-Athlete.

I am ready to take on the world the way that Michigan taught me how: fearlessly, compassionately, and wholeheartedly. I bleed blue. I know what it means to be a Wolverine and to represent the Michigan Difference in everything I do. I wear the block M on my School of Nursing scrubs and my Michigan Dance Team uniform well aware that it represents goodness, tradition, and excellence. I am determined. I am inspired. I am ready.

It's Monday, September 17th, 2018. What does Michigan mean to me now? I used to be so sure. Now, I simply don't know. So, what's the deal? How did my view on an institution become so indifferent in recent months?

I chose U of M to start my nursing career because it had the widely known reputation of putting its patients first, respecting its nurses, and providing the best care to patients in the state (5th in the country, to be exact). In my first year, as I was clumsily learning how to push patient stretchers, titrate intravenous vasopressors, and to communicate with the medical team, I proudly participated in our hospital's effort to achieve Magnet status.

When Nursing earned Magnet Status, an award given by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center and indicator of the strength and quality of Nursing at Michigan, I felt that same pride as I did in May of 2016.

I knew in my heart that I picked the best institution to develop my nursing practice and to give high quality, patient-centered care to anyone who walked, rolled, or was carried through the doors of Adult Emergency Services. The hospital's goals were aligned with mine and those around me. We put patients first, and more specifically, we put patients over profits.

I am lucky enough to work at a hospital that has been unionized for more than four decades. When I started working, the concept of a union was foreign to me. For those who may need a refresher, unions promote and protect the interests of all employees. They collectively bargain with employers to secure written agreements for employees regarding pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts holding employers and employees to mutually agreed-to workplace rules and process to provide a fair and just workplace. The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, has been working diligently since January to bargain with the University of Michigan to protect me, the 5,700 nurses who work within the institution, and our patients. I'd like to think they're the good guys in this story.

Here's where things get sticky: David Spahlinger, president of our prestigious U of M health system, has publicly stated that Michigan is "committed to maintaining current staffing levels," but will not make this commitment in writing. Common sense is reflected in the most high-quality research on the topic of nurse-patient ratios and its direct effect on patient care.

Appropriate staffing allows me and my coworkers to give the quality of care that I know we have the ability to provide. High staffing levels are associated with reduced mortality, falls, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use and infections. Unregulated staffing is a significant barrier to nurses' abilities to provide optimal patient care and prevents Nursing at Michigan from providing what we know to be the Michigan Difference in healthcare.

UMPNC held voting on a work stoppage for unfair labor practices last week. Out of 4,000 votes cast by nurses at the U, 94% authorized a work stoppage in protest of the University's unfair labor practices. No date is set, but our elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action.

Thank you to Katie Oppenheim, who chairs our union, for reiterating in an article to the Detroit Free Press that a work stoppage is not our goal. "Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing. The university can remedy this situation immediately by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

I am proud to be a nurse and I hope that our efforts to keep Michigan a patients-over-profits institution are recognized at the community, state, and national level. Anne McGinity, David Spahlinger, and those who have the power to make Michigan the magical place I once thought it was, make like Nike and just do it. For the love of patients, nurses, and our great University. I know we are better than this.

(Stay Tuned, folks).

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Thinking About Your Future Is Hard

College is where you really have to start planning your future.

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Since I'm still an undergrad, I have some time to plan my life after college - that is my life once I graduate and get my Bachelor's.

When I first came to college, I didn't expect much out of what I'd do once I received my Bachelor's in Animal Science. I just assumed that I was going to go straight into vet school, become a veterinarian, and open my own practice.

Nope. Not today.

I, of course, switched my major to English so I could concentrate my skills in creative writing. I didn't know what I could do as a creative writer and everyone assumed I wanted to be a teacher. During my panic, I took several career assessments and found some similar career paths that appealed to me and now I have a plan. I'm not saying it's full proof but it's a plan nonetheless.

It's nerve-wracking trying to make sure you're on the correct path. So I'm planning to go to grad school and get a masters and then a Ph.D. It's just the process of applying and funding grad school makes me want to curl into a ball, in a corner, on my bed, and under the covers. My mind freezes whenever I have to think about the fact that I, Jacqulea Anderson, will be going to grad school once I graduate. Me. ME! It's mind-blowing because I have a clue as to what I want to pursue relating to my Master's but not for my Doctorate's. Creative writing has a master's program, but to get my Ph.D., I would have to just get it in English if I want to stay that route. Which adds to the stress of planning my life after college.

Everything changes: your mind, tastes, and wants change. They develop the older you get and once you realize you don't want to pursue your dream major, then it's back to the drawing board. While you can change your degree in grad school, it's also a good idea to have a slight clue as to what program you want to apply for.

Along the way, you figure out the adult part of life. Such as taxes, insurance, rent/mortgage, random bills, credit scores, and everything else under the sun because who actually taught us what we needed to know about adult living? You have to figure out where you want to live and if it's convenient enough distance wise from your job or school. There's just so much to factor in once you leave undergrad and you have a support system (hopefully) that will help guide you, but in the end, it's still you. You have to be the one to make the decisions on what you want to do with your life based on the choices you were given. If you can make your own choice then more power to you.

Life is hard. College is hard. Learning to be a functioning adult that has 85% of their life together is a dream I'm just trying to make come true.

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