Asking for Help Doesn’t Make You Weak - Burning Out Doesn’t Make You a Hero

Picture this: it’s 9:00 PM and you’re in your bedroom. Your Google calendar is open with 7 to-do’s all scheduled for the next two days. You pulled an all-nighter last night to study for an exam you had at 9:25 this morning, and you’re still not too sure if you did well or not. You have back-to-back classes tomorrow and an event for your student org immediately after. You still haven’t rescheduled the physical that you were supposed to have a month ago. Your hours at work are getting in the way of completing assignments for class and you’re starting to panic.

You’re not alone.

You’re likely feeling burnt out. Burnout is defined as a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Overwork and stress plus not enough rest equal negative results.

Burnout is defined as a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

During my third year of undergrad, I went to a leadership training for executive board members across campus. We attended a seminar about burnout and we did an activity. We had 7 cups. 6 of those cups represented different commitments or time consumers in our lives; school, work, friends, self-care, involvement on campus, friends, family, sports, technology. The list is never-ending. The last cup was our cup. It represented all our energy.

The purpose of the activity was to visualize how much of our energy we’re putting into other things. We filled our “ME” cup to the top with water. Then, we started to pour water into our six commitment cups with the appropriate amount of water — or in reality’s case, energy — we felt we gave them every day. After, we looked at how much water we had left for ourselves. Most people had no water for themselves and some didn’t even have water for all their commitment cups. We had given all our energy to different commitments without leaving any energy for ourselves.

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

It really shows where our dedication lies. Most of the time while in college, we’re so focused on doing well in class, pleasing our bosses and professors, spending time with friends, and getting everything on our to-do list checked off that we forget to tend to ourselves.

Stop. Breathe. Count backward from ten. Ask for help.

Asking for help means you’re advocating for yourself. Self-advocacy is a strength, not a weakness.

Being transparent with the people around you is the best thing you can do. Rather than hide it, be upfront that you’re struggling. Most people have been in a position where managing school, work, activities, friends, and other things become challenging. Send your professor an e-mail letting them know you’re really struggling but you want to succeed; explain your situation to them and ask for assistance in rerouting your approach.

Burnout is a very real thing. But so is asking for help. As college students, there’s this notion that we asked to be treated like adults, so nobody is going to help us because we’re expected to figure everything out. No. Asking for help and receiving help is not a myth. It’s a reality very few people take advantage of.

If you’re struggling in class, ask for help at the Center for Academic Excellence in the Library after emailing your professor. They’re open Monday through Friday, 9–5, and have peer tutors that work there.

At the end of the day, the important thing is that you have water left in your cup. Don’t pour all your energy into everything you’re doing without making sure you’ll have energy left for yourself.

Boston, MA • Graduate Student