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Is this burnout?

  • Thread starter DukeofDuke
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I'm a third year undergraduate and I've noticed some very strange shifts in behavior from, say, a year ago. I actually study more than ever now, and my grades are higher. However, I absolutely can't bring myself to care about academics anymore. I never get stressed for exams. Studying and problem sets have become a mechanistic habit when necessary, nothing more. Which wouldn't be so bad except I have no idea where I'm going/ what field of physics I want to work in. I'm starting to worry about my lack of direction combined with my lack of worry, if that makes sense...

Or maybe I'm just finally used to a college workload? I don't know, any advice or perspective? I feel pretty drained of emotion nowadays in all academic contexts (feeling great socially but that's different). I don't care, emotionally, about academics anymore, though I'm aware of their necessity or maybe just habituated to them. But this doesn't feel like a man on a mind crusade anymore. It's like I'm chewing without tasting. Guidance?
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Or maybe I'm just finally used to a college workload? I don't know, any advice or perspective? I feel pretty drained of emotion nowadays in all academic contexts (feeling great socially but that's different). I don't care, emotionally, about academics before, though I'm aware of their necessity or maybe just habituated to them. But this doesn't feel like a man on a mind crusade anymore. Guidance?
It's pretty common. What is means is different from person to person, and you'll need to figure that out. A university is something of an idea factory and once you've been in the assembly line it's pretty easy to lose the magic.

What helps me when I'm in this sort of situation is to go to a bookstore or library and then find something intellectually interesting that helps me "recapture the feeling of wonder." Wander around, pick up a book at total random and then read it. Used book shops are really useful for this, and better yet are the book sellers in Greenwich Village.

The other thing that helps me is that in the rare moments when I do feel that I've learned something cool and I'm in a good mood, I take a mental snapshot and remember what I feel at that exact moment, so that I can have something to remember in the moments when everything goes pear-shaped. Reading and writing poetry helps with that sort of thing.
 
  • #3
Choppy
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Sometimes what happens is that you get very bogged down with the workload. You spend nearly all of your time chugging through problem sets and that leaves no time for personal inquiry such as independent reading and personal projects (or, if you still pursue such things, they cut into other personal time).

It's no wonder a lot of people lose the passion at this stage of the game. And when you think about it, those that slog through have a more difficult time later on when in graduate school or beyond they have to perform a certain amount of independent inquiry.

If you think this might be the case with you my advice would be to make sure that you take some independent time to 'play' with the physics. Read some review articles that have nothing to do with stuff you're covering in class, or meet up with some other undergrads and start some debates, or try to figure out how some science-fiction type technology might work in reality.
 

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