Two months into my first year of sixth-form college, I began experiencing slight aches on my right side that occasionally turned into numbness. On top of that, I was already extraordinarily tired that day, my head feeling like it was filled with cotton. Nothing seemed coherent to me.
Being the sort to worry, my family thought I was having a stroke. So did I. Mercifully, it wasn't that, but what I was going through was still something that required immediate attention - burnout.
The bone-deep exhaustion and lack of motivation that comes with pushing yourself too hard can and will present itself in physical symptoms, including headaches, cramps and insomnia. On the surface, these ailments are nothing some panadol or melatonin can't solve, but it's much better to nip burnout in the bud to prevent them from showing in the first place. Here are some anti-burnout measures I've found most helpful:
The best way to avoid burnout is simply to stop over-exerting yourself. Whether it's studying, practising or otherwise fulfilling any sort of duty, it's important to recognise and work within your limits. As unexpected as the results may be (for better or for worse), stepping outside your comfort zone isn't the best idea when it comes to working. Stopping every once in a while to rest is a simple and effective but easy-to-forget tip to keep you well-rested. Forcing yourself to take a breather when you've just got a surge of motivation is difficult, but don't put your well-being at risk just to stay in the zone. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Don't let yourself stagnate
Repetition can kill motivation very quickly, even when burnout isn't in the equation. Putting 110% into the same piece of work for hours at a time, day after day while neglecting your health? That's a surefire way to make yourself sick of doing anything at all. To combat this, alternate between assignments at a comfortable pace - once every other day is a good rate to keep yourself refreshed but not overwhelmed.
Avoid sensory overload
If every little noise is starting to irk you and you want to close your eyes but don't feel like sleeping, what you might be experiencing is sensory overload. This usually comes from being bombarded with too much sensory input in all aspects, whether that be sight, smell or touch. Some ways this might manifest while studying or working are doing so in an overly loud environment or being faced with too-bright colours in the form of highlights or captions. Try refraining from playing loud, distracting music in the background while working, and use pastel highlighters and coloured pens, which are easier on the eye.
Burnout can be difficult to deal with, since it comes with toeing the delicate balance between work and rest. But a general rule of thumb for mitigating it is putting yourself first - after all, lowered academic performance is easier to recover from compared to damaged health.