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Overbooking continues to plague Otterbein students

College offers innumerable opportunities - how can students handle taking them all on at once?

Student burnout has become an academic epidemic in recent years. With midterms approaching, many students are struggling to balance their academic and extracurricular commitments with their mental and physical wellbeing. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines burnout as the “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others” resulting from a person overexerting themselves.

Within the past several years, burnout amongst college students has risen steadily. A recent study conducted by the Office of the Chief Wellness Officer at The Ohio State University showed that 40% of students reported feeling burnout in August 2020. In April of 2021, the survey found that 71% of students reported experiencing burnout. The study revealed that the rates of depression and burnout are still on the rise even though society is returning to a new state of normal from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given these statistics, perhaps student burnout has always been an issue - one that was only revealed and exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Junior Kenzie Prickett, a marketing and global studies double major, said that her desire to have a high level of involvement originated with societal pressures in high school. “I feel like being in high school, and being surrounded by people who [were] extremely involved, I was like ‘I should be doing that too,’ so I got very involved in high school. [In] college it was the same thing, so I guess I was kind of used to it. But, also, I was like ‘I don’t want to be someone who’s not doing anything.’”

Prickett, who is also a member of Epsilon Kappa Tau, a peer tutor and a Girl Scout Troop leader (among many other things), reflected that her academic and extracurricular commitments often contribute to her burnout.

“I would say the amount of stuff I’m doing contributes a lot to my burnout. I’m always busy. There’s not much time to take a breather, and when I feel like I’m taking a breather [I feel] like I should be doing something.”

And yet, she is happy with her high level of involvement.

“I wouldn’t sign up to do these things if I didn’t like it,” Prickett said. “So, it’s a good amount [of involvement] even though it may be stressful at times and overwhelming.”

Junior equine business and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS) double major Jules Richter said, “I like where I am now, and I think all of the choices I’ve made in the past few years, even if I struggled a bit, they’ve lead me to where I am. With a lot of the student organizations you could get involved with, for me, it’s almost helped me be able to balance everything because it gives you this support system.”

With the pressures to have a high level of involvement, other students reflected on the struggles of balancing commitments with their wellbeing, such as eating proper and timely meals. 

Senior equine pre-veterinary major Lindsey Payton noted that she is so overcommitted that she doesn’t know when she’ll have time to eat her next meal. “On a weekly basis I am so busy and have to go to so many places, or have [so many] responsibilities—I really don’t know when each meal is gonna be, and there are some days where I do not eat until the evening time. [I] just roll with it and hope it works out.”

Sophomore English literary studies, film studies, and WGSS triple major Taylor Miller, who is also working to save money for an apartment next year, said that her burnout results from work commitments with school rather than extracurriculars. “I am currently triple majoring, taking 6 classes this semester, working four days outside of school, two days inside of school, and I am dying inside… I can’t live the college life of going to events through Otterbein that I want to go to and am interested in because I am at work or I am just exhausted and don’t have the energy to go.”

Overcommitment and its inherent burnout, whether by choice or necessity, affects numerous college students and showcases the missteps in not prioritizing wellbeing. The APA recommends topical strategies like surveying and prioritizing tasks, avoiding last-minute commitments, and learning to say no to opportunities to avoid overcommitment.

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