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Saying “No” Is a Form of Self-care

Top 3 signs you’re experiencing social burnout.

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Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

We’ve all been there: It’s finally Friday, and it’s been a full week of pulling heavily caffeinated all-nighters in the library, only to take your midterm in your clothes from the night before. Our first impulse after walking out of that last exam is to celebrate. We deserve a night out! We need to let loose, see our friends and have the best thrills $20 and a student ID can buy. But what happens when the little voice in your head says, “I’m tired”?

College is an environment in which having a healthy social life is a vital aspect to the overall experience. However, a large number of students find themselves facing burnout when they extend themselves too far in terms of their social interactions. Feeling an ingrained, impulsive need to form a solid group of friends or have the textbook college experience can lead to students participating in every activity, extracurricular group, or event that they can with little time to spare for downtime and personal care. 

It is important to understand that self-care does not always come in the form of a facial mask and Netflix binge; sometimes the greatest favor you can do for yourself is to say “no”. Here are some signs that you may need to take a much needed step back:

You feel that social events are almost mandatory 

When consumed with the fear of missing out, or FOMO, it can be all too easy to view social events as a mandatory occasion. If you begin to feel that there will be consequences to not going to every event, or that you’ll lose out on chances to build connections, you may lead yourself down a path directed towards immense burnout. Social events are never an obligation, and it’s okay to say “no” to things that won’t cause you any joy. 

Social interactions or group hangouts leave you feeling drained, when you normally feel energized 

A telltale sign of social burnout is when being with a group of friends makes you feel worse than you did before. These people, as much as you may love them, can pose as an overbearing presence if you are not making enough time for yourself, or if you are continually accepting their offers to hang out. Saying “no” to friends or group activities when you need time to recharge is a healthy habit to practice. 

You haven’t had the time to pursue your hobbies or do things by yourself 

Your time in college should, at the end of the day, be a positive experience in which you not only learn more about the world, but about yourself. Take the time to stay in tune with your needs and take care of yourself by saying “no” to the things that inhibit you from truly enjoying your time here, or from doing the things you love.

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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