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The end of the semester is here, and alas, I’m burned out.

I hear this from other people all the time. The feeling of burnout is unique — even if you get several hours of sleep to recover, the cumulative effects of pressure and stress carry over to each day.

That’s why Scientific American‘s recent coverage of burnout piqued my interest, mainly because I feel at the hands of such things.

Although burnout lacks a definition in the DSM-IV, the article reports that an increasing number of psychologists are distinguishing it from other disorders such as depression and proposing it be taken more seriously. The article highlights the research of Agneta Sandström, who focuses on burnout’s impact on cognitive functioning. She discovered that, in fact, feeling burned out has a negative effect on our cognitive processes, diminishing our memory and ability to concentrate.

This is probably why people who experience burnout feel like they are doing more and getting less done (stress: 1, Marianne: 0); why people have issues falling asleep (2-zip), and why there’s no line between work and personal life (three strikes, I’m out).

But before pity parties ensue, I should note how fortunate I am to be able to attend grad school and still work as a freelancer. Time management is tough, but my largest inconvenience is missing the bus. Yeah… That’s about it.

I researched the man who coined “burnout” to find out that, well, his life was plagued with far more serious troubles than missing the bus. Herbert Freudenberger, the psychologist who conceptualized the term, grew up in Nazi Germany and witnessed his Jewish family being hauled away. After escaping, he moved in with his aunt, who forced him to live in her attic without a bed, according to Freudenberger’s obituary in The New York Times.

I can’t say I’ve experienced anything as heart-breaking as that, but I can relate to the small stressors that make Freudenberger’s concept so real to most.

Although there are many ways to cope with feeling burned out (most relate to stress management), I always find comfort in revisiting things that inspire me; things that make me feel good about what I’m trying to do with my writing.

One such thing is the video below. Discovery Communications, a company I routinely work for, couldn’t say it better: The world is just awesome.


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About Me

Marianne is a science communicator working in Madison, Wis.

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