‘Overworked, under-supported’: Why 91 per cent of Lancs students feel burnt-out

‘It feels like I’m just moving from assignment to assignment’

As the Government announced its third national lockdown until at least the 8th of March, nearing an entire year since we’ve been in a global pandemic, it’s not surprising students are burnt-out. Choosing between moving back to Lancaster for no on-campus teaching, or staying at home with no access to university facilities, has left many students feeling disadvantaged in their studies; leaving first-year students with an underwhelming university experience that should have been full of bad decisions related to alcohol, partners, and money-spending habits.

Because of this, we reached out to Lancs students to get a better understanding on whether they’re feeling burnt-out, and the results shocked us. A staggering 91 per cent of students voted on our Instagram poll that they are burnt-out studying within the pandemic. This is extremely concerning, as many students will be in the crucial stages of their degree, and are expected to be working to the best of their abilities. But how can you possibly be performing best within a global pandemic?

“Not everyone can thrive in their home environment”

Katherine, a first-year County student, struggles finding motivation working at home, told us: “Lecturers are expecting a lot from students… and not everyone can thrive in their home environment.”

Katherine said: “It’s a case of dragging myself to the end of term hoping I can keep up despite mental burnout.” This mentality seems to be shared by a vast majority of the student body, and is likely to be damaging their mental health further as they don’t believe they have a right to ask for help, or question the standard of work expected of them.

“I’m burnt out because it’s hard to escape from my study space during lockdown”

Emily, a third-year student from Cartmel, told us of the frustration she feels towards her study-space environment. She said: “Even when I’m not actively working I’m in that same environment and it makes it difficult to relax”. Many people will be forced to work at desks in their room, which therefore makes their room a study space, rather than one of well-needed rest. Some might not even be lucky enough to have a study-space of their own, and have to work with incessant background noise of family members and pets.

She also talked about the obvious impact on her coursework, massively important for a final year student, and said: “It’s incredibly demoralizing and frustrating because I know under different circumstances I could be doing better!” High expectations for uni work are still in place, with no feasible means of achieving them.

‘Overworked, under-supported’

Jack, a first-year student, shared Katherine’s concerns, and voiced his annoyance at the apparent educational double-standards. As a Physics student, he said: “The department is setting fairly challenging assessments which (in some cases) have no teaching material preceding them.”

There have been many complaints by students at the expectation that we should still be producing high quality work whilst trying to navigate the stresses of a global pandemic. Whilst, yes, we are all suffering as one under this pandemic, but some students are going to have a harder time than others, and need the additional support.

“It feels like I’m just moving from assignment to assignment”

Jasmine, a first-year student, described the monotony of studying within a pandemic, which impacts her burn-out. She said: “It just feels like my entire life is revolving around work because there’s nothing else going on.”

For many students, their flat was their main source of socialization and down-time, but with lockdown, students that have stayed home have nothing to do apart from work. This is impacting Jasmine’s ability to engage in her hobbies, as “even if it’s something I find really interesting there’s always an element of forcing myself to do it.” She perfectly highlights how students can’t enjoy themselves, as they think they should be studying, rather than relaxing.

‘Feeling like I should be working all the time, feeling guilty when I take a break’

Abbi, a second-year student from Bowland, said: “I’ve felt like I’ve had so much to do and sometimes it gets quite overwhelming… I felt guilty over Christmas for taking a day off!”. The fact students are working themselves to the bone without being able to take breaks for fear of laziness is heart breaking.

Abbi expanded on this and said: “The weekends have blurred into the weekdays. It just feels never ending”. Students not being able to have a proper break and recharge is undoubtedly contributing to feelings of burn-out, as even when they have no work, they feel like they still need to be working.

“I’m unable to relax and I am on my laptop from 9 am to 10 pm”

Louise, a masters’ student from Graduate College, is frustrated as she said: “I can’t really seem to achieve much, besides a few random bursts of productivity throughout the day.”

She then talked about annoying technology problems. “I have to do my practicals from home, rather than a computer lab, but my laptop just isn’t powerful enough, a two hour workshop now takes me twice the time.”  We all understand how annoying it is to be stuck in buffering lectures with no quick fix in sight –  the truth is, some students just don’t have the technological means to keep up with the massive demand of high-quality work.

“I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety and restlessness”

Jessica bravely opened up about her anxiety in regards to being burnt out. Jessica told us: “I can’t concentrate and I have a nervous stomach all the time which makes me feel nauseous 24/7”.

Having to battle anxiety alongside being burnt-out is a vicious cycle, as your burn-out will make you more anxious, which will increase your feelings of being burnt out, and so on.

Some names have been changed for those who wish to remain anonymous.

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