Juggling Books & Dodging Burnout

High school can be difficult to navigate. You are expected to juggle so many things at once towards achieving good grades. But it doesn’t only come down to managing your stress before exams and carving out time to work on assignments and homework, there are other contributing factors that influence scholars’ anxiety levels every day. They face multiple stressors and pressures from schoolwork, parents, peers, social media, and engaging in extracurricular activities towards becoming well-rounded individuals. Managing relationships with family and friends, surviving the social challenges that accompany being a scholar, and planning that all-too-imminent-future all play a role. These common stressors can result in scholars feeling overwhelmed and not dealing with them can, over time, manifest both emotionally and physically. We often refer to this as feeling ‘burned out’. 

Think of it as your cellphone’s battery running on 15% at 7am in the morning as you head off to school. With you forgetting to charge it in between all the chaos of the previous day’s events, it’ll just have to make do. However, it doesn’t stop you from using it throughout the day, your phone starts shutting down access to a couple of apps and it functions frustratingly slow as it attempts to reserve energy. So, it’s safe to assume your phone has reached its limits and is in critical need of a recharge. The same can be said about our minds and bodies. They too have limited functionality when we’ve pushed the boundaries for too long, and we experience feeling worn out and are in desperate need of a recharge.

Firstly, how do we define ‘burnout’? 

According to Understood, it stems from an ongoing build up of chronic stress and frustration with no time put aside to recharge. Not only can burnouts arise due to being overworked, but it can also come from prolonged periods of not feeling challenged anymore and feeling stuck as the days pass you by with no fulfilment. It can also rise from too much socialising that leaves you exhausted at times. 

These days, scholars experience an overload of information every single day through social media, world events and social issues which demand your input, to family and friends, homework and, extramurals and clubs. This leaves little space for introspection.

If all of these were to take a physical form and we were required to carry it around with us everyday, we would eventually need to put it down. So, why do we expect our minds and bodies to not feel tired from all the weight it’s expected to carry? This mental burden, just like lugging items around, needs to be put down now and again for a break. 

According to Healthline research, burnout could have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Unexplainable physical pain and fatigue 
  • Unable to fall asleep
  • Forgetting easily
  • Struggling to concentrate 
  • Feeling disconnected from your school work
  • Easily irritated 
  • Outbursts towards loved ones
  • Neglecting your own needs
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Feeling numb and empty 

For someone experiencing a burnout, even the simplest tasks can seem daunting and the mere thought of completing it seems impossible. Being aware of these signs and symptoms can make it easier to recognise them within yourself.

So I feel burnt out: how do I reset and recharge?

  • Set boundaries for yourself. 
  • Before committing to something, take a breather.
  • Think of what is needed from you, if it benefits you and whether or not you have time and energy to commit.  
  • Try getting some an hour or so of extra sleep.
  • Prioritise tasks by making a ‘to-do’ list.
  • Share your thoughts and emotions with someone you trust.
  • Unplug from the internet and social media: you can use this time doing something light hearted and fun that you never had the time before to do. 

You can avoid experiencing a burnout by changing a few things in your routine, especially the one that led you down that path in the first place. Regularly including a fun workout throughout your week helps you sweat the stress out. Try new relaxation methods such as meditation and yoga which do wonders to decrease your stress and anxiety. Downloading an app or watching a YouTube tutorial can help to hold yourself accountable for making self-care a priority in your life. 

Go offline for a few minutes every day and over time add more minutes to it until you’ve established a routine that works for you. Attempt these screen timeouts before sleeping or investing in power naps. Plan social activities outside of school with friends and family in advance. It’ll give you something to look forward to and will help you feel connected and break the regular school routine. 

Identifying and recognising that self-care is important is the first step towards a healthier you. Take that 5 minute break and get up from the desk. It’s the small things that add up to great rewards and go a long way in preventing burnout in the first place.