High school students are busier than ever these days, and downtime is infrequent. Test prep tutors often struggle to fit tutoring in around a student’s packed activity schedule. The time pressure of a tight schedule can be productive; students learn to juggle calendars and deadlines, and let’s admit that a bit of a kick in the butt can motivate anyone to action.
But when does it all get to be too much? Then, according to blogger Kieran Tie, burnout occurs:
“Burnout is a cunning thief. It feeds on your passion, your energy, and your enthusiasm, taking these positive qualities and turning them into exhaustion, frustration, and self-doubt. It’s way more than just having a bad day, or being tired and worn out.”
Tie identifies the factors which can lead to burnout in the workplace. But we can readily agree that these factors, including lack of control over our environment, unfair treatment, insufficient reward for our efforts, and breakdown of community, can easily insert themselves into the life of a high schooler.
According to MindTools.com, burnout occurs when “passionate, committed people become deeply disillusioned with a path from which they have previously derived much of their identity and meaning.” Mindtools offers a survey which helps to determine the indicators of burnout in the workplace. I have adapted it here to help determine if a high school student might be suffering from academic burnout. A student whose grades or motivation for test prep has slipped might be suffering from one or more of the following symptoms, so the questions which must be asked are:
- Do you feel rundown, and drained of physical or emotional energy?
- Do you have negative thoughts about school?
- Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?
- Do you try too hard for too little result?
- Are you easily upset by small problems?
- Do you feel misunderstood or unappreciated?
- Do you feel you have no one to talk to?
- Do you feel you are achieving less than you should?
- Are you under an uncomfortable level of pressure to succeed?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed?
- Are you sleeping too much or too little?
- Are you eating too much or too little?
Answering “yes” to these questions can indicate that your high schooler (or you) might be suffering from burnout. It’s important to note that burnout doesn’t automatically go away on its own or get better over time, because students might try many “fixes” to the symptoms which only make the overall problem worse. The first step, Tie asserts, is to recognize there’s a problem. “In some situations, the problem will be pretty obvious. In others, it might take a bit of time and introspection to discover the cause.” He goes on to suggest that the answers to burnout lie in finding support, taking time for self-care, going back to the basics, and reassessing personal values and goals.
The pathway back can offer unexpected rewards. “Burnout offers a hidden silver lining, Tie says. “It’s a chance to rediscover yourself and make changes that might otherwise be ignored”. In the life of a high school student, this rediscovery couldn’t happen at a better time. In finding a way through burnout now, a student can prioritize life goals and learn important coping skills to pack and bring to college.