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Apr 25, 2024 | Blog

Everyone knows a Tyler. Star athlete, outgoing, National Honor Society in high school and graduated Summa Cum Laude in college with an accounting degree. He is driven, ambitious and determined to succeed at his dream of becoming successful in international business finance. But to get there, Tyler needs an MBA. He started his program motivated and enthusiastic, just like he is in nearly every area of his life. 

Tyler was no stranger to success and no stranger to the rigors of academia. But to pile an MBA course onto his demanding job in sales at a national insurance company was asking a lot of this high performer. Juggling coursework, sales quotas and personal obligations meant he was stretched pretty thin. He sacrificed sleep and taking time for himself because he was going after his goal with a vengeance. And it worked…at first. The adrenaline he got from being productive masked any sign of stress or fatigue, so he pushed through, convinced that his grit would pay off. After all, it always had before…

Before long Tyler was struggling to concentrate at work and at school. He wasn’t motivated, and he felt like his goal had become a burden. He didn’t sleep well either, tossing and turning, with restless thoughts and worries about his future swirling around in his head. No amount of self-talk could keep him from feeling overwhelmed, and he became trapped in a vicious cycle of exhaustion and self-doubt. 

His breaking point came during a particularly challenging week chock full of deadlines and pressure. His mind and body said, “Enough!!!” and Tyler was completely depleted. He was officially burned out. 

Tyler’s story is more common than we like to think. Graduate school, especially when it’s combined with a demanding job and personal responsibilities, is stressful. Fortunately, there are tools to help you navigate this season of life. Here are a few of our best strategies to help you avoid burnout. 

Establish Clear Boundaries

Your academic, professional and personal life are distinct areas of your life, and all bring expectations and responsibilities with them. Open communication with family, your boss and your professors will help keep you in balance. This doesn’t mean you are neglecting one area and replacing it with another, but it does mean finding time for all. This will vary from week to week. Communicating with all parties will go a long way toward building understanding and trust. You also must carve out time for recreation, whatever that looks like for you. (At first, Tyler insisted that recreation just meant working on his next paper. Fortunately, he had a supportive family that demanded they go on a hike every weekend to help him put his mind in a different place.) Do things that bring you joy every week, make them priorities and savor them. They should become a non-negotiable part of your routine.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to call an audible when you need it. Get support through your university’s counseling center, an objective and wise friend or professional counseling. Reaching out in times of stress is a sign of strength, not weakness. Everyone struggles from time to time. What matters is how you deal with it. (PS: sucking it up for an extended period of time is never the right strategy!)

Be Mindful

It’s popular right now to talk about mindfulness and self-care. And it may not feel like “your thing.” But, these practices are grounded in research. In 2020, studies proved that participating in mindfulness and self-care were indispensable in promoting mental wellness and bolstering resilience amidst the rigors of academic and personal pursuits. Make these practices a priority, not an afterthought. 

What about our friend, Tyler? Well, he recognized he was on the brink, so he reached out for help. With the right support, he confronted his burnout head-on and began to rebuild with a healthier mindset and healthier practices. He adopted a balanced approach to his work, family life and academics and prioritized his well-being. Today, he has a renewed sense of purpose and resilience and is an advocate for prioritizing mental health in all aspects of life. Oh, and he has his MBA and a career in global finance—just what he wanted.

Burnout can creep up on anyone, regardless of how successful you are. Let Tyler’s story inform your own and let his journey inspire you to make time for yourself among the madness. 

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