TIME OUT. Photo | Bart van Overbeeke

TIME OUT before we burnout

Burn-out and study stress: current issues for TU/e students when we ask around during TIME OUT, an interactive theater performance on this subject organized by Studium Generale last night. The performance at the Blauwe Zaal has been specifically adapted to situations at the TU/e which therefore provokes the necessary feedback for our university. The queues for student psychologists must decrease and the course Engineering Design gives a lot of stress to the majority of the visitors. But also the feeling to have to meet high expectations and the need to distinguish oneself to be good enough for a job later, put a lot of pressure on the students.

The hall is full with students and the show is opened by lifecoach Bert Bootsma who talks about his own burnout and his recurring motto: "If we think it's normal for athletes to be coached to perform better, why not all people, with the dearest thing they have; their life?"

"Live as you wish, darling ..."

... is sung as an accompanying melody in the performance. But nobody actually lives life that way, judging from the response in the hall. The students can vote through the Kahoot! app on the different statements presented in the show, such as 'I think it's normal to work until twelve o'clock at night if necessary'. Computer Science student Vincent Bolta is positive about the performance: “It’s light and interactive and supports you in the idea that you are not alone with this problem. Enough students struggle with this but you just don’t hear many people talk about it. There are many prejudices about people with a burnout, like that they are weak or give up quickly. That’s nonsense. Here are all these very smart people who do a lot and work very hard."

Yoram Meijaard, chairman of the student fraction Groep-één, thinks it’s a good thing that this performance is happening at TU/e: "As a student fraction you’re close to the students and you see these issues. Tonight's performance is important for awareness, which is step one towards a healthier study climate." Computer Science student Ava Swevels attends TIME OUT for some awareness: "I always want to do a lot of things and often find out half way that it’s not all feasible. That can feel like failure."

Mathematics student Jealy van den Aker works, studies, is involved in committees and also wants to do fun things with her friends. "That is not always easy. You feel pressure. The abolition of student grants did not help either." Bolta adds: "In the past, taking seven years to finish a bachelor was quite normal. You did not have to worry about money at the time. Now you have to borrow money, you have no choice. That also gives pressure. Then you want to finish your studies quickly to limit the financial damage."

Shame and taboo

Frederiek Voskens, creative director of PodiumT, the producer of TIME OUT. The aim of the performance is to tackle the taboo about stress and burnouts and to create awareness. Voskens: "In order to get an equal conversation between the involved parties from the universities, the caretakers, the employers and the students it’s important that every group feels heard and all opinions are discussed." She has done thorough research beforehand. "I have spoken with universities, student psychologists, doctors, students and employers. I always want to get the thing into the open that no one says but everyone thinks of", says Voskens.

During the evening there are several students who have already struggled with a burnout or serious symptoms of overwork. Many of them are hesitant to give their name out of shame or fear to be found online by potential employers. A student of Applied Physics who also wants to remain anonymous, indicates how gradually it can go: "In the first year of my studies it was not too bad. But then in the second and third year, more factors come along. Work, committees, the dispute. The feeling you have to meet expectations. The feeling you have to leave school as a perfectly experienced professional. The feeling you have to always be accessible through WhatsApp and social media. That really gets to me. I only saw afterwards how overworked I was."

Do you also struggle with study stress, a burnout or do you have other challenges that you would like to discuss with someone? The student psychologist can help you with that.

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