Combat burnout by minimizing stress and focusing on joy


Isa Quilter

A student slumps over on their desk. This sense of disinterest is a common symptom of burnout.

Elizabeth Atanosian, Staff Writer

As students enter the second semester of their school year, pressure can begin to build. Whether it is related to end of year exams, college applications and decisions, or just an increase in workload, students can become quickly overwhelmed.
According to University of the People, academic burnout can be defined as “a negative emotional, physical and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced ability in school.”
It can be caused by the build up of several weeks or months of studying the same or similar material.
Though symptoms may vary between students, burnout can cause psychosomatic problems such as headaches, insomnia and depression. More symptoms students can notice due to burnout include mental symptoms such as lack of motivation, loss of concentration, lashing out due to frustration, loss of interest and academic abilities, procrastination and feelings of anxiety.
Physical symptoms can be noticed too, such as increased pain and tension in the body, higher frequency of illness, overeating, lack of sleep and nervous habits such as nail biting. Taking action against these symptoms, such as taking a break and spending time on oneself, is important to reverse mental burnout.
In order to help combat burnout, it is important to focus on the things that bring one joy and make them feel good about themselves.
Time needs to be made for enjoyable activities and physical exercise in order to help relax the mind and focus energy on something that one enjoys doing.
Research shows that going outside can reduce stress levels along with spending time with friends and family, or a strong and positive support system.
Avoiding procrastination and working on time management is also a good way to help prevent a rise in stress levels resulting in burnout.
Putting off work, which may sound like the better option at the time, results in spiked stress levels in the future. This can end in a wave of feeling overwhelmed, making what may have once been an easy assignment, into a longer and more stressful one.
According to Understood, the stress that a student feels can turn to anxiety. If the anxiety becomes bad enough, it can lead to exhaustion and can affect how well they may perform certain tasks.
Ultimately, their motivation and interest level may drop, however if teachers and parents encourage students to take work breaks, burnout in school may be avoided.
As parents notice that a child’s burnout might be due to issues with anxiety or depression, it is incredibly important to talk with their school nurse or with their health care provider, who may recommend speaking with a mental health professional.
According to Florida National University, one of the most important ways to avoid burnout is by students taking time for themselves. Focusing on what they need to do to make themselves feel good should be just as important and encouraged as doing well in school.
One thing that is recommended by professionals is “going dark,” or participating in a social media shutdown.
As teenagers, the constant exposure to social media can add stress and a sense of overstimulation that can overwhelm them in life. It’s just as important to take a break from social media, as it is school.
Disconnecting from social media at least one hour before going to sleep has been proven to improve the time it takes to fall asleep and the quality of sleep that is acquired.
Not only can the information a student sees before bed run through their mind preventing them from relaxing, but the bright screens of computers, phones, and other devices can interfere with their circadian rhythms leaving them restless.
A social media shutdown can be taken one step further, meaning that a student cuts it out of their life almost completely. They keep in touch with their close friends, but remove themselves from all platforms and take time to focus on themselves without the pressure of the public.
In the end, if it is important to parents and teachers that their child does well in school, mental health should ultimately take precedence over education. In order for students to achieve their true potential, they need to take care of themselves and put their well being first.
Stress is a part of everyday life, there is no way to truly avoid it, but as teachers and parents, they are able to minimize the student’s stress as much as possible, allowing them to have a chance to reach their goals and accomplish what they are capable of.