Guys, I have to admit that I am burnt out. Post grad school burnout has hit me hard and it is not fun. I know this is a pretty common occurrence with most graduates, but I was hoping that I was not the case, unfortunately (like most of my hypotheses in grad school), I was wrong. So, today I am going to go over what I am feeling, what I have done already to overcome the burnout, and possibly things that I will do in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I will also provide some tips for dealing with the end of your grad school experience so you don’t experience/limit the experience of post grad school burnout.
How I know it’s burnout
First off, I have been working non-stop since I started my PhD. Heck, I was basically working prior to that as well and never really took much time off while in grad school or before going back. So, I am fairly certain, just based on that, that I am burned out.
However, grad school, in the beginning, was a bit slow and a peaceful time, especially during covid, so I was able to relax most days, put in maybe like 25-30 hours of work a week, and then just enjoy the rest of the time. Because of this, I didn’t really get burnt out. Unfortunately, as one goes along with their doctorate, you start to get busier and busier, until eventually you are running full force for 8-16 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week. Yes, that was me towards the end.
I knew I was burnt out because there were times where I would have to drink 2 energy drinks and about 2 or 3 coffees to stay awake and my energy level was beyond low. I pushed myself way beyond what I should have and I honestly regret it. It is not worth my health.
What people say about working hard and how that affects burnout
In grad school and even now, I would read articles about hustle culture and constantly being “on”. Working late nights each night and putting in overtime are just things that “successful people do”. I took that to heart. Yes, it is one of the dumbest possible things that I could do. I was submersing myself in YouTube videos on side hustles, working multiple jobs, blogging non-stop, as well as staying up late to finish projects. Sure, I was extremely productive, but it wasn’t worth it. It never is worth it.
People often say that you need to work hard to succeed. Sure, I believe that you need to put in some work, but they never tell you “how much work”. Think about it for a second. What is the definition of “hard work?” How do we even quantify hard work? Is it working 50 hour weeks? 100 hour weeks? or are they saying work hard and produce maybe one or two things a week? I really don’t know what that statement means and it means alot to different people.
Working hard in grad school could mean producing one manuscript each semester or just waking up to do one experiment. For me, I didn’t know what was meant by hard work and had no metric to go off of so I pushed myself harder and harder. I think that is what society and our jobs want us to do. Work until you literally can’t anymore.
How it’s going
Because I had no way to really compare myself to what hard work was or what was enough, I just kept going. Now I am tired, depressed, anxious, happy, sad, exhausted, energized, and everything in between. I have a hard time really doing anything that I love at night because I am drained. Coffee doesn’t help, energy drinks just make me jittery, and my workouts have suffered. Post grad school burnout has hit me hard… but I won’t let it stop me.
What I am going to do to prevent post grad school burnout
Ok, so the first thing that I will do and what you need to do if you are experiencing this is to take a break. At first, it might just have to be just taking a weekend at a time to just sit inside, watch movies, or possibly just sleep a ton. For me, I am cutting back on going out and planning to do a ton of things over the weekend and just vegging. I still workout on the weekends and do some small activities such as walking the bridge by my place or fishing, but that’s it.
You need to start with small things like that. I was going on trips every weekend and the past few weekends I have been driving long distances to do stuff. I am reducing that big time. If I don’t then my body will definitely stop me. But start with just slowing down. That’s the first step.
Take a vacation or a sabbatical
This is where I messed up. When you finish grad school, take a vacation. Take a very long vacation and do not start a job right away. You may not realize how stressed and overworked you were towards the end! Trust me on this one, take time off, go on a trip to another country, enjoy the time away from work and go do something you’ve been putting off because you were working all of the time. Life is not about work so stop listening to people when they tell you that you need to get a job right away! You just completed one of the most stressful things in life and now it’s time to rest.
I honestly think this is the most important thing you can do. I know too many people that did not do this and they are in terrible situations dealing with burnout. Life is meant to be enjoyed and experienced. A job can wait. And if you are overly burnt out, you might be out of a job sooner than later due to low performance. Take a bleeping vacation.
I have a few trips that are planned for this year to take some time off and enjoy this life. Luckily I make a good salary compared to grad school so I can afford better trips. Unfortunately, my trips are at the end of the year, so I have to rely on taking it easy to reduce post grad school burnout.
Seek help for post grad school burnout
One thing that I have noticed with this burnout is I am fairly depressed. I am worn down, anxious, and not having a great mental state most days. I am fine talking about this subject, in fact, if you are new to this blog, that is what it’s all about, mental health. But lately, the burnout has ramped up these emotions and feelings and I actually decided that I need help. I am on Talkspace again (check out my blogs about it). I just started and was match with a therapist. We will see how it goes and if it can help because I need it.
When you get burnt out after grad school, you’ll probably sink into a depression. Heck, you may just have a case of post grad school depression. Please, please, please get help. It is not worth suffering alone and it is totally fine to admit that you need a bit of a push to get better. Getting help can really make a huge difference and get you back in the game. I’m sure my therapist will also help to come up with ways to help me reduce post grad school burnout.
Don’t take things so seriously
You have done it. You have proven to yourself and others that you work hard, you’re intelligent, and you’re awesome. So stop caring about it all (care a tiny bit but not a lot). Take time to enjoy life and take things slower. If you do this then burnout will never come, I promise you that. For me, I am putting in enough effort to show that I am a good person, but I am not and will not over commit to my profession. I won’t put in those 60 hour weeks unless I absolutely have to and am paid and I won’t go the extra mile to take on work that robs me of my time with others. I will start taking it slow and smelling the flowers and enjoying the time off. No, I will not take a job that is high paying where I will have to give up my soul. It is not worth it and you will burn out. Heck, you might have a heart attack if you keep up how things were at the end of a doctorate.
The only thing you should ever take serious are your relationships with others and your interests. The best part about after grad school is being able to take those hobbies up again as well as developing deeper relationships with others. That’s where your effort needs to go. I promise you that spending your time doing what you love to do will never cause burnout..at least I hope not.
Guys, I have post grad school burnout but I am getting help. It is time to take control of my life and actually listen to my own advice. If you are in the same situation as me, please reach out to someone. You have my email so maybe I can provide some assistance. We are in this together and just know you are not alone.
I hope you enjoyed this post because I have plenty more coming in the next few weeks. Until next time, peace.