Breaking free from the chains of burnout: navigating mental health resources at UCLA

by Gayane Khachatryan

From high-achieving career professionals to college students, feelings of burnout are highly common in a world where the pursuit of perfectionism and excellence is interconnected with high demands and never-ending responsibilities. The term “burnout” was first introduced in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, a German-born American psychologist who described it as “becoming exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources.” The World Health Organization includes burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and defines it as the feeling of mental and physical exhaustion due to work overload leading to increased mental distance and feelings of negativity related to one’s job and a decrease in productivity.

When asked about their encounters with burnout, UCLA students often mention a consistent theme that resonates with many: “feelings of fatigue, restlessness and anxiety.” Reflecting on this, Xiaoyu Ma, a fourth-year PhD student studying geography at UCLA, shared: “Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed by project deadlines, I recognize the signs of burnout which often manifest as the inability to fall asleep until 3-4 a.m., a lack of motivation and productivity and a persistent anxiety about my progress.” Additionally, she mentioned that if she were to give advice to someone struggling with burnout, she would recommend identifying the root cause of the anxiety, prioritizing critical tasks, getting enough rest by spending time alone or with friends and, most importantly, not giving up and “keep working.”

Burnout is a vastly common occurrence. According to the American Health Association Spring National survey of undergraduate students (2023), 76% of undergraduate students reported experiencing high levels of psychological distress. Moreover, the same study reported that 79% of students in the US had encountered moderate to high levels of stress within the past 30 days of being surveyed, providing further evidence of the commonality of the issue at hand.

Burnout is often a truly daunting experience. Nevertheless, there are always resources available to help manage the sensations of burnout and reignite motivation. UCLA is known for its exceptional education and career opportunities and also with its dedication and commitment for student well being through a wide range of mental health resources provided on campus.

One of the most prominent mental health resources available on campus is the UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS), which offers a blend of in-person and remote services. CAPS provides individual or group therapy, psychiatric care and specialized services, and students can also take advantage of CAPS’ drop-in hours and diverse workshops focused on enhancing mental well-being and resilience. In navigating the various resources available at UCLA, individuals can use Be Well Bruin as a comprehensive guide. Alternatively, they can use the UCLA Stress and Resilience (STAR) Wellness Check, an interactive survey that provides mental health resource recommendations upon completion, ensuring personalized assistance.

Another invaluable resource that can be very helpful for students is the Resilience in Your Student Experiences Center (RISE), an extension of UCLA CAPS. Located on campus, RISE offers a peaceful and serene environment to foster integral wellbeing. The center offers convenient drop-in hours available weekly from Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during which all students have access to a supportive space whenever needed. Additionally, RISE offers a diverse array of events and workshops aimed at empowering and encouraging students in every aspect of their personal journey, guiding them with the tools needed to thrive academically and enhance their mental wellness.

Within every individual lies a flame of creativity illuminating the path to achieving their most sacred goals. By taking care of our physical and mental health we not only protect that inner light, but also nurture it. With resources available on campus we can ensure that our wellbeing remains a top priority, helping us flourish both personally and academically.

Featured Illustration via Adobe Stock

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