Understanding Academic Burnout

Ainoama Maiava, Reporter

Every day there seems to be another sob story of “The academic genius’ fall from grace.” The horror story of well-off students suddenly falling behind and giving up is seen too often. What is this concept, why is it becoming more common, and how do we fix it? This concept is academic, or student burnout. There are a few ways to remedy it.

This feeling of burning out can, and will happen to the majority of students during their high school years. “The first time I felt like burning out was sophomore year. It’s not that I hated school, I stopped caring. It was like all my motivation was gone,” said Layla Carter (real name withheld). This feeling of indifference towards academics is a lot more common than many think. There are also a few signs to look out for.

Dr. Shaan Patel, MD MBA describes burnout as “a feeling of chronic stress that creates emotional and physical exhaustion.” in High School Burnout Signs and Tips (October 16, 2019). A few associated feelings and signs are depression, detachment, cynicism, anxiety, insomnia, lack of accomplishment, and many more.

“My mental health was at a low, it was like I was always feeling stressed or on edge about school even when I was doing completely fine in my classes. And I thought that when that stopped everything would be fine, but then it felt like nothing. I felt exhausted.” said senior, Catherine Youngyen. 

So, how do we overcome burnout, and gain back our ambition? “I needed to allow my brain time to rest, and I needed to find other classes that I would enjoy doing,” said Sophomore Sina Bernard. Burnout is not forever, Dr. Patel discussed some of the many ways to allow your brain to regain its strength.

Carve out personal time

The feeling of exhaustion often comes when trying to keep up with schoolwork, work towards college, spend time with family and friends, and do extracurriculars all at the same time. It is important to set time apart meant for yourself. Even if it’s only an hour or two a day to read a book or go for a run or take a nap. It is crucial to practice self-care to avoid burning out.

Get comfortable with saying “No”

High school prepares students for adulthood, and it is common for these preparations to conflict with the present. For example, hanging out with friends may make it difficult to study thoroughly for exams. These kinds of conflicts often happen in school and can lead to stress. Responsibilities are a part of adolescent and adult life, but it is also important to know when to focus on your own needs above others.

Ask for help

Students often have trouble asking for help from adults out of pride or fear of feeling like a burden. But, it is important to remember that the adults in your life want to see you succeed in life. And is willing to help you, but only if you are willing to ask for help.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

Many students feel the need to do as much as possible to achieve the full “high school experience.” However, trying to balance school, extracurricular activities, friends, and family, and for some, a job, can lead to major burnout both academically and socially. It is better to instead focus on only a few things you are passionate about, freeing up time to allow your mind and body to rest.

However, before the problem can be fixed, it must first be understood. This is especially true for those who learn and think differently. In an article by Lexi Walter Wright titled, Burning Out in School: What it Means and How to Help they talk about the main factors of burnout. These factors are academic, emotional, and social. Those who learn differently may have to work harder or longer than their peers to understand the material, causing them to want to give up entirely, this is an academic factor. Things like this as well as emotional and social factors like self-esteem and feelings of isolation from your friends who can learn “normally” all can work together to lead to burnout.

This feeling of indifference towards academics after months, and sometimes years, of constant stress over school is completely normal. Luckily, taking effective breaks and reaching out for help from your teachers and counselors are a few ways burnout can be prevented. Burnout has been happening for years and will continue to happen, but with more knowledge and less negative stigma, it has become much easier for students to face and overcome it.