5 easy ways to avoid winter burnout

Between long, cold days, the pressures of school work, and life in general, this time of year can be brutal. Here's how I've learned to get through the dreaded burnout.

People walking along a snow-covered path in a forest Photo: Travis Price

Before the start of Winter Break, I was feeling especially tired and generally unmotivated. I found it hard to be productive when writing my final papers and making it to the end of semester was difficult. That inefficiency bred feelings of guilt and stress, which no doubt affected my attitude towards things outside of academics. While being away on break certainly helped, there are other things that can be done daily to avoid burnout. Here are some ways to keep yourself energized throughout the rest of the semester.



You can’t control the weather. Gloomy and damp days are inevitable in the Nova Scotia winter and learning how to thrive in this environment can be challenging. In contrast to the warmer months, it’s tempting to stay inside. Unfortunately, for many students that can quickly turn into a cycle of only going between home and class. But it’s important to get outside, even just for a little bit every day.

Last semester my roommates and I started going on night walks around the neighbourhood. I found that getting outside and moving for as little as 20 minutes made a difference in my wellbeing. If the weather is too unbearable, and it often can be, going for a workout at the gym can definitely work. Still, as cliché as it may sound, there isn’t a perfect substitute for going outside.


Get away from the screen

As students, we spend a lot of our days on laptops and phones doing work. Especially when I’m working on an assignment, I can sometimes feel my eyes start to strain and I know I’ve been on the computer for too long. Unfortunately, that isn’t something we can fully control. The majority of schoolwork is assigned online now, so going offline isn’t a viable option. We can, however, control how we use technology outside of school.

My default form of relaxation, like a lot of people, is watching shows on my computer. But I found that I got into the rhythm of doing schoolwork on my laptop for hours and followed that with watching Netflix. There’s no doubt that amount of screen time impacted my sleep and my ability to focus during the day. It’s challenging but lowering your overall screen time can only be a good thing. Maybe try reading.


Introverts need to be social too

I consider myself to be fairly introverted, so living in a house with a lot of roommates can easily wear me out if I never take time to be alone. But if I’m locked up in my room all day, that starts to get old quickly too. I don’t think people should be alone with their thoughts for that long. Even though I sometimes have to force myself to leave that comfort space, finding time to be social every day—even if only briefly—often brings me out of that negative space. The good thing about living with roommates is that somebody is always home for me to bother. Social lives thrive on balance, and for people prone to isolating themselves, making an active effort to be with others is important.


Try something new

Having a loose routine is essential to my wellbeing, but a routine can also be constraining—especially in the winter. It’s good to get out and try new things, and not to get too caught up in a cycle. That can be as small as finding a new place to study, or as big as venturing out to a new beach outside the city. There are tons of day trips around Halifax and Truro that are worth taking advantage of while living here. We all have these familiar environments like home, school, and work. Escaping those every once in a while will help keep you out of an exhausting cycle that leaves you vulnerable to burning out.


Recognize that it’s OK not to be productive sometimes

It’s harder to accomplish tasks in the shorter days of winter. While it’s important to recognize damaging trends in your productivity, it’s also OK to do less in the winter. It’s OK if you don’t finish an assignment when you wanted to, or if you didn’t get a particular chore done during the day.

Putting that guilt and pressure on yourself is unhealthy. It accumulates. If you carry that stress with you, it’ll only make accomplishing tasks more overwhelming and difficult in the coming days. When it comes to an assignment, the worst-case scenario is needing an extension, and professors are usually understanding and will give you a few extra days. Be patient with yourself and trust that everything will get done.