Ask Emma: Coming back to school has made me exhausted

Emma recommends setting regular sleep schedule, focusing only on things you can control

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Many students are feeling exhausted now that school is back in person. This week, Ask Emma has some useful tips to get back to feeling energized.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen deputy news editor

Dear Emma,

I am exhausted. I forgot how much effort it takes to go to school and interact with people all day, not to mention all the hills I have to walk up every time I go to class. I’m used to watching lectures from my bed and only having to walk down the hall when I’m hungry. 

Everything post-pandemic feels like it requires way more energy than I have to give. How do I stay alert and awake when I feel a little bit dead inside?

Thanks for your advice,

Sleepy Student


Dear Sleepy Student,

I think we’re all feeling a little exhausted at this point in the semester. I know I am. 

First of all, I think it’s important to validate what you’re feeling right now. We just lived through a very harrowing experience — we’re still living through it. I once heard someone describe the pandemic as “psychological whiplash.” That in and of itself should be exhausting, not to mention adding college courses on top of that.

I think a good first step for you is to identify the causes of your exhaustion right now. You identified talking to people and walking up hills as two of the major causes. Is there anything else contributing to how you’re feeling right now? It could be anything from your backpack being heavy to checking the news too frequently for the latest COVID-19 updates.

Whatever is causing you to feel tired, you need to take steps to reduce that. It would be more effective to attack the root cause, but you cannot control the outcome of the pandemic beyond your personal actions, and I doubt you want to drop out of college. 

With that being said, consider what is within your control. A heavy backpack is within your control. Bring only the notebooks and textbooks you need for that day, or bring all of them and leave some in your car or another secure location. Similarly, checking the news frequently is something you can control.

If you spend your time taking steps to reduce the energy you spend on things you can control, you’ll be better off. Don’t even bother spending energy thinking about all the things outside your control. That might be hard to do, so consider talking about it with a trusted friend or mental health professional to identify what is within your control and what is not.

In your case, talking to people and walking up WSU’s many hills are things you might not be able to control. You have to work in groups for class, and you have to walk up the hills to get to class. So, how do you address that?

Make a plan for how you are going to “cope” with these energy-sucking activities. If you are an introvert, that might mean building in time for yourself later in the day, so you can recover from all the peopling you just did. (Yes, I just coined that term.) Maybe it means scheduling a power nap between classes. Do what you need to do to recover from the energy you’re expending.

Finally, check your daily habits. It’s important to take care of yourself. Are you sleeping enough at night? And perhaps more importantly, do you have a regular sleep schedule? Similarly, are you eating healthy meals at regular times? If you are not doing any of these things, you could interfere with your circadian rhythm, which could definitely make you feel more tired than normal.

I hope some of these tips will help you feel more energetic! However, if you have tried these and continue to feel exhausted, I recommend consulting a healthcare professional — they’ll be able to help you more than I can. 

Best of luck,

Emma