One of the most challenging aspects of being a fieldwork student or unpaid intern is the continuous pressure to be “proving yourself.” I found that during my level 2 fieldwork experiences, I would constantly be pushing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I wanted to prove to my clinical instructors and other members of the staff that I wasn’t just an incompetent student. So, I pushed myself to the limits every day, multitasking between documenting progress notes, providing care to patients, planning treatment sessions, and educating families. I would wake up at 5 in the morning, get to the facility early to plan out my day, and often work during lunch.

So, while I was totally kicking butt at my fieldwork, I would be too exhausted to put much effort into other dimensions of my life. The typical routine after work would be driving home, getting stuck in traffic, venting to my parents about the trials of the day, shoving food down my throat, heading upstairs to wash off today’s grime, and then collapsing in my bed for the remainder of the evening. I didn’t have the energy to go out, spend time with my family, or hang out with friends. As you can all imagine, this lifestyle did not do anything for my happiness, motivation, of feelings of fulfillment.

I found my tale eerily similar to my classmates and other newly hired young professionals. We would work ourselves to the bone to compensate for our lack of experience and need for approval. Then, we would be too burnt out to participate in any other aspects of our lives. To avoid the feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, I asked students and young professionals their best tips to beat burnout. Here’s what they said:

  1. Make your friends and family hold you accountable

Before I started my fieldwork, I sat down with my two close friends Elizabeth and Lydia and told them if I was ever acting flaky or skimping out on hanging out with them, they need to -gently- call me out on my behavior.

While it’s important to take time for yourself and relax when starting a new career opportunity, you also need to be careful that you’re not withdrawing yourself too much. If it’s been weeks without seeing your friends, that’s not good for your well-being. Using this gentle form of peer pressure ensures that you don’t isolate yourself. Remember, not every moment hanging out with friends needs to be something draining. Sometimes the best moments with friends are those simply shared in front of a TV binging Netflix.

2. Schedule one non-work related thing a week

My brother’s fiance, Sarah, spent A LOT of time in school completing clinicals to earn her doctorate of pharmacy from the University of Toledo. She’s an expert on managing burnout and work-related stress as a student in the health professions. She advises that you always plan something fun for the end of your week. It can be going out to eat, scheduling coffee with a friend, or as simple as taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon. This gives you something to look forward to and work toward as you complete your work week.

3. Mix up your routine

Ted Hallowell ’15 has been out working in his field for close to two years since graduating from Gannon University. He works as the Assistant Promotions Director at Erie’s own Connoisseur Media. He advises to avoid getting stuck into a rut once you start your new job.

Something as simple as shaking up your typical lunch routine can prevent you from a creative block. He also is a big fan of using exercise as a means to blow off steam. Use that free pass to the rec while you still can!

4. Relax guilt free

As mentioned before, Elizabeth is a good friend of mine as well as being a college student at Cleveland State University. Like most stressed-out college kids, she sometimes feels guilty taking time to herself, thinking that she could be utilizing that time to work on school projects. Eventually, Elizabeth learned the importance of self-care without guilt. Any time spent taking care of yourself is not time wasted. Elizabeth also stresses the importance of decompressing by spending time with her dog, Darbi. If you don’t have access to a furry friend, you can get your own pet therapy by looking up cute animal videos!

Burnout can sometimes be an inevitable part of the workforce. However, there are ways to prevent or manage it! If you find yourself seriously feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone you trust or contact GU’s Counseling Services at 814-871-7622.