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So You’re Burnt Out. Now What?

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Burnout is something that affects many students, especially those who are driven and academically motivated. It can be overwhelming and stressful to have to handle burnout, and a lot of students don’t really know how to manage it. 

But what even is burnout? Burnout is a term used to describe when someone is under a large load of stress and succumbs to exhaustion in all aspects of their life. There can be many symptoms, including headaches, changes in sleep/appetite, detachment, loss of motivation, procrastination, and feelings of isolation. 

Kate, an honors student and an athlete, spoke of the difficulty of academics, specifically around the end of the first semester. Only first names are used to protect student privacy. 

“It’s really easy to get overwhelmed, and it’s really easy to feel like ‘oh my goodness, I have so many things to do.’ “ Kate said. “And it’s not necessarily big things, it’s just very daunting; it’s just very hard to face.” 

For a lot of students, burnout can seem to creep up on you. It can be especially difficult if you simultaneously have a large academic and extracurricular workload and a full schedule. 

When asked about how she experiences burnout, Josie said, “I have very little joy in extracurricular activities going on. Or a social life. I have, like, no social life.” 

It can be incredibly difficult for a student to maintain things such as good grades, a social life, and continue to perform well in sports and clubs. Sometimes burnout can prevent students from being able to do their best.

Sam spoke with me about how burnout during his junior year affected his grades. “It’s definitely decreased my grades… I’m just more antisocial, in my room, and I sleep more.” 

Chloe, a student who has to maintain a work-school balance, discussed having similar issues. “I just stopped turning in schoolwork and then my grade went down significantly… At work, I do less at work. I hate everything at work. At home, I just lay in bed and I don’t do anything.” 

It took her enjoyment away from what she usually loved to do, just like it does to so many high school students. 

A large part of burnout can be feeling stuck in this feeling of exhaustion. Sometimes you feel tired, alone, and don’t know what to do. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone, and there are things you can do to help. Kate suggests some sort of system for organization to help with that feeling of being behind that burnout can give you. 

“Personally for me, I really do good with lists. I just lay out what I need to do, kind of come out with a timeline of when I’ll be able to get things done. I sometimes go to help with teachers and maybe even ask coaches for help. They’re a really good resource and I think we’re very hesitant to go ask people for help because we’re supposed to be very self-reliant. But, I think that’s very important for people, because you need outside support for that.” 

Reaching out for help is so important when considering mental health. A lot of people worry about how others may view them and fear judgment when the support they need is just a text or phone call or conversation away. Another thing that can be really helpful is an outlet of some sort. When I asked Josie what helped her with burnout, her reply was instant.

“Soccer! I don’t know, it’s like my little escape during the day.” 

Being able to focus on something other than school and exercise and take care of your body is definitely a way that can help with burnout. While sports in some cases are attributed to burnout, some people like Josie need sports as a built-in break into their days. 

If you have a friend who you think may be experiencing burnout, try to reach out to them and help them out. You never know what they’re dealing with and just having someone to support them can be helpful. Overall, the management of mental health—and in this case specifically burnout–is highly important in the lives of students. Not only does emotional stability improve overall performance, but also fostering positive mental health and healthy ways to manage stress in youth can help continue those habits into adulthood. Managing stress can be difficult for all people, but as high school students are in a season of change and discovery, burnout can be especially frequent. Hopefully, with increased awareness and the support of others, students struggling with burnout can manage and overcome it and work to help others also struggling with it. 

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Lara Waldrop, Staff Writer
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