Burnout and its Effect on University Students

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the education system forever. Since September 2020, students from elementary to university students have experienced a complete shift in their regular learning style.

This sudden shift away from the classroom has led to many students feeling overwhelmed and burnt out from an additional heavy workload and the inability to connect with classmates and teachers. 

A survey conducted by student housing development company Core Spaces reports that between 75 and 85 per cent of university students are experiencing stress and anxiety during the pandemic and campus closures. 

“When schools switched to online, I felt the workload got significantly larger and with more assignments to do each week, I had trouble keeping up to date with the workload,” said Joshua Snow, a third-year Journalism student at the University of Toronto. 

One of the leading symptoms many are facing is Zoom fatigue. Zoom fatigue, associated with burnout, is the result of exhaustion from Zoom classes. An excessive amount of close-up eye contact, view of personal video screens and reduced mobility are some of the leading causes, according to Stanford News

Sometimes it’s difficult when you have to stay up so late or you have group projects. It’ll be five AM but you still have to do it because other people are in Toronto.

Along with the change in learning style, there has been a change in pace when it comes to the workload students are now taking on. 

“I think the main reason students are burning out would be too much work all at one time,” Snow said. “Too many assignments to do in such a short amount of time would cause anyone to burn out.”

Besides feeling isolated and overworked, international students have also struggled to manage their time across continents. 

Carolina Chen, a third-year Bachelor of Information student at the University of Toronto, had to learn to adjust to her strange new schedule. She moved back to Taipei, Taiwan after the school shut down. 

“I basically had to go to bed around five or six AM and then I have to wake up around noon,” Chen said. “It’s a weird schedule compared to my family and friends and it was a bit difficult.”

According to Core Spaces, 76 per cent of students reported changes in sleep patterns and 12 per cent reached out for mental and physical health treatment. 

Assignments, tests, and especially group projects, are some of the most difficult components of online learning. Students have to settle for personally scheduled group Zoom meetings or communicate through social media. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult when you have to stay up so late or you have group projects,” Chen said, “It’ll be five AM but you still have to do it because other people are in Toronto.”

Some university students use typical coping strategies to deal with the stress, such as taking short breaks throughout the day or socializing with friends and family. Finding healthy coping strategies can help decrease stress and aid in avoiding burnout.

“I would just write down how I’m feeling and randomly write down anything that goes through my mind,” said Chen. “And then when I’m calmer I can think about how I would solve the thing that stresses me out.” 

With Ontario in stage three of the three-step reopening plan, college and university students are hopeful that campuses will begin to open up. 

“I think the schools did a good job with the switch to online but some students just work better in-person,” Snow said.  Many university and college campuses plan to reopen with Covid safety restrictions in place. The Unversity of Toronto announced that those who plan to live in residence should have at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. It will offer a hybrid model of both online and in-person classes. Likewise, the University of Guelph will partially reopen. Across Canada, most campuses plan to fully open by 2022. 

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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