A reminder to be weary of burnout in the era of ‘Zoom University’

Illustration of a person cleaning their room by sweeping dust off the floor.
Alexander Hong/File

Related Posts

The switch to online classes will certainly be a very interesting case study for historians, psychologists and sociologists in the future. In the blink of an eye, not only were our classes adapted to this strange, new online format, but so were all of our extracurricular activities. Everything, from the dance clubs that usually practice on Sproul Plaza to tutoring jobs, has made the leap into the online universe.

Our core human trait of adaptability is inspiring and important. I find myself fluctuating between feelings of awe and despair when I remember that every activity I used to scramble around campus and the city of Berkeley to do is now accessible from my bed.

Is this a blessing or a curse? Quite frankly, I think we can all agree it’s both. While there are many positives to being able to go to your class, job, club meeting, internship and workout class from the comfort of your home, you might feel tempted to pile on activities to fill every hour of your day because you no longer need to account for travel time.

As UC Berkeley students, we are all familiar with the omnipresent pressure to achieve. Not just to achieve something, but to achieve the most and to be the best. Honestly, I don’t believe it’s possible to juggle a million different responsibilities without sacrificing something necessary that keeps your happiness and life in balance. What was a good distraction or another thing to jot down on your resume can quickly become an unbearable burden.

I think now more than ever is a crucial time to really sit with this age-old adage: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

You can wake up at 6 a.m. and go to yoga, then go straight to five hours of class, then go to four club meetings, then go to work, then do your homework and sleep and repeat it all five days a week. But should you fill up every second of your day with activities? In the depressing times we live in, I’ve been tempted to use this coping mechanism to distract myself from thinking about the repercussions of the pandemic and climate change. But I’ve been there and done that already in high school, and so have many other people I hold dear to my heart. Guess what? We all regret it; we all believe our constant productivity and responsibilities caused more problems than they solved. Either our mental health deteriorated, our physical health suffered, the stress affected our sleep or our relationships decayed. It’s truly a self-destructive path to go down.

You might be sick of hearing about burnout, you might not think it’s real or you might just not care. And that’s fine. Regardless, I still advocate against working yourself past the point of exhaustion. As a coping mechanism, it should be considered just as detrimental as the more commonly mentioned ones, such as substance abuse. You can still be a hardworking person, accomplish your dreams and make a difference in the world without punishing your livelihood. By focusing on fewer things, you’ll be able to give your all to the activities you choose to participate in. Burnout is real, and it can destroy the passions that inspired the unsustainable work ethic to evolve in the first place.

No one is perfect, but if you feel the need to constantly work to keep your mind at bay, then maybe you should take some time to think more about this tendency and potentially discuss it further with a mental health professional. If you can take care of yourself, you can take care of your community.

Please pace yourselves, Bears, and hopefully, our virtual education and lives can go back to being in person soon.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].