Avoiding Burnout

Feb 13, 2023

Louis Tay

We often start the new year bursting with energy and take on new commitments and goals. Pushing to better ourselves is terrific and praiseworthy. Yet, for many high-achieving Boilermakers, we can take things a little too far. Personally, I have noticed that many Purdue students are starting to show symptoms of burnout. 

There are several symptoms that mark burnout. See if any of the following matches what you experience: 

  • Emotional exhaustion. Do you feel chronically drained? Have little energy – whether mental or physical to perform your obligations?  
  • Depersonalization. Are you coping by trying to escape from doing the basics of your work? Or do negative emotions arise whenever you think of work, or someone even mentions work? 
  • Lack of personal accomplishment. Do you have a negative self-image of how you are performing? Do you feel like you are failing at your work? 

​​If you have answered ‘yes’ to some of those questions, you may be experiencing burnout. But – you are not alone. Burnout is increasingly common and even regarded as a public health concern. Regardless it is a significant problem, and essential that we address it. 

One practical way to avoid burnout is to reduce the load you are carrying – whether at work, school, or in relationships. 

For work, before you say “yes” to new work commitments, it may be wise to drop something off your plate before taking it on. One way to navigate this is to let your supervisor know how full your work is. You could say, “I feel like I’m taking on quite a bit now. For me to successfully complete these tasks and the new one you are assigning, is there something you think can be dropped?” This creates a constructive situation where you are doing your best to succeed and asking your supervisor for input on balancing your load. 

In school, burnout can create a domino effect of doing poorly in all your courses and having to retake them. If possible, I encourage you to consider dropping a course to complete your core requirements successfully. Or if you have set extremely high goals for yourself, let off the pedal on having to achieve As on all your courses. In the long run, it matters less than you think. Trust me, I had my “worst” grade in my undergraduate Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology class, and I still ended up being an I-O professor here at Purdue. 

And in your relationships, let your family and friends know what is happening. Too often, we attempt to carry all of this load by ourselves instead of sharing it or asking for help. You may be surprised that others are so willing and able to help in different ways. Others can also give you the time and space needed to recuperate from your load. 

I hope these ideas are helpful as you navigate the ever-growing demands of school and life. 

Be well, 


Louis Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

Well-Being Resources:

Office of the Dean of Students, Student Support Services

Counseling and Psychological Services


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