By Victoria Mejicanos, Oct. 18, 2022

We all know the feeling of being anxious to come back to campus. You’re ready to tackle another semester and get closer to meeting your educational goals. As the first week ends, you evaluate your professors, your courses and the workload for each. You decide which classes will take priority. You start the semester prepared and confident.

Then life happens. Assignments of all types start to pile up, and you begin to feel stressed. You realize that college was never supposed to be easy, but you get the hang of it. Suddenly, you open your eyes, and its week seven. You’re tired, but midterms are coming, so you “keep pushing through” because “you’re halfway there.”

Professors start to get familiar with the class and politely ask, “How’s everyone doing?” If your class is honest, there is silence, followed by a chuckle from the professor, or a sarcastic comment from another student. If your class is the opposite, you lie with the rest of your peers and say “good,” followed by “alright then let’s get started!”

Then everyone continues with their day as if none of us are tired or feeling stressed or sad. I’m tired of us pretending that we aren’t exhausted. It’s okay to be tired, and it’s okay to say it without a meme or gif in a class group chat.

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

There is so much more going on in everyone’s lives besides school. Some work a part time job, take care of children or their parents and have lives to live outside of what goes on at Cal Poly Pomona. Not only students, but faculty and staff as well. No one is immune to the stress that comes with campus life.

According to Psychology Today, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” Prolonged stress is not exclusive to school or work, it can appear in all of life’s situations.

Although the definition makes it seem as though it doesn’t happen constantly, it does. In fact, it’s happening across the country like never before. According to Harvard Business Review, “Google searches for ‘burnout symptoms’ hit an all-time high in May 2022.” This isn’t all that surprising, since we’re now in the third year of a pandemic with the way we work, live and study constantly changing. We have been under constant stress for years and expecting ourselves to feel normal and work normally is frankly unrealistic.

Furthermore, when you’re experiencing burnout, the stress can feel never-ending and uncontrollable. Even when there are resources at your disposal to help, it can feel exhausting to even begin the search for them. According to Harvard Business Publishing, this is common among students and staff: “When individuals suffer from burnout, many feel too overwhelmed to participate meaningfully in wellness initiatives.” And when they do, there is no guarantee that it works.

If wellness programming doesn’t work, then what does? According to the same source, it’s all about preventing it in the first place. This takes discussing mental health all year round, not just when midterms roll around, or another convenient time to discuss. Mental health doesn’t have a start and end date. Just like physical health, it’s critical to always be aware of your own unique symptoms.

As an institution that prides itself on the care and resources it provides for its students, CPP faculty and staff should lead by example. Instead of creating a campus community that encourages “pushing through,” they must practice genuine compassion for students. This goes beyond asking students how they’re doing without planning to do anything about the answer. According to Harvard Business Publishing, “Compassion is like a muscle: it can be depleted, but it can also be trained.” The campus as a whole practicing compassion more often can move our university towards even more success.

Feature image by Sharon Wu

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