The Perils of Burnout

Academic overexertion affects the mental and physical state of students

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Yaritzza Montenegro

Getting high marks is important to some students, however the overload of work and overexertion have resulted in the burnout of certain individuals.

Yaritzza Montenegro, Staff Writer

To wake up after only sleeping only a few hours, to go to school and receive strenuous assignments that have a significant impact on grades, and to come back home and race to complete all the assignments that are due at 11:59 pm that night would seem like an unreasonable schedule for students. But, this continues to be the norm for many students and is resulting in academic burnout.  

“Lacking in motivation after exerting yourself in previous times is how I would describe academic burnout,” junior Sophia Ornelas-Saldivar said. “I realized I had academic burnout around the third week of junior year. I have to put in a lot of work, and it’s not so much of natural intelligence as they have taught us growing up with the G.A.T.E. programs and accelerated courses. It felt like no one really taught us to put in the work.”

For example, 84% of generation Z experience burnout. Three key signs of burnout are cynicism, exhaustion, and lack of self-efficiency. As burnout persists, it may lead to insomnia, headaches, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, muscle tension and pain.

“I started becoming overly stressed that I could feel my under eye twitching [a possible symptom of stress and fatigue],” Ornelas-Saldivar said. “I also had a loss in appetite and overall lots of stress. On top of these, I was also becoming a very negative person which is unlike me.”

For many, a consequence of burnout is defeat. Individuals lose their motivation to continue trying on their assignments, resulting in poor quality work and the desire to quit. 

“If I have homework I need to do I can not allow myself to do anything else before I do that,” junior Justice Sidney said. “There are a lot of days where school just feels so soul sucking, upsetting, and useless. I feel like dropping out is the only way to preserve my mental health.”

Feelings of irritability, distancing oneself from others, loss in areas of interest, and anxiety can all occur with burnout.

“When there is burnout present, kids don’t like education as much,” counselor Elizabeth Hare said. “Grades then go down and behavior issues increase. These feelings cause missing work, a drop in IQ, and impact how well someone learns the information. This adds to the problem because they then have to catch up even though they are already behind. Sleep can be impacted and when people are tired, they cannot think clearly. It is a vicious cycle.”

Depending on when the burnout begins, it can continue to grow, resulting in negative habits that can make the problem worse.

“Gifted programs gave me so much pressure to stay on top,” Sidney said. “This made me fear failure and prioritize perfection over my mental health. I am at the top of my class, all because I am afraid of letting my grades slip.”

Burnout is nothing new. Two-thirds of full time employees have reported experiencing burnout at some point in their careers, meaning that students are likely to see burnout in the future if they aren’t already facing it. Teachers can also experience burnout in their working conditions.

“My burnout from stressful working conditions led me to leave my old school and find a new job,” teacher Rachel Guichard said. “I was teaching around 48 students, 6 times a day, as well as dealing with terrible behavior issues among my students. I did not have enough energy to be present with my family, husband, things at home, or go to the gym because of how tired I was at the end of the day. I did my best to stay positive and realize that this is only a temporary situation. I found that it really ended up in the best way possible since I really like this school and I am happy I am here.”

Using healthy coping skills, as well as highlighting the issue, can combat burnout safely.

“Determine what your biggest stressors are and why,” Hare said. “Figure out how the stressors can be fixed. Coping skills are great, but people often forget that tackling your stressors are often the required coping skills to help ease stress. You can’t change your classes, but you can change how you study, how you prioritize your time, and how you view school.”

Exhaustion can also be restored by putting oneself in the right mindset. By means of reflection, some students were able to learn from the experience and resolve the problem.

“Looking back, I wish I took a second to breathe and realize that I am missing a lot because I decided to stress over an assignment,” senior Alyssa Miguel said. “I no longer experience burn out, and I think a part of why that is the case is because it dawned on me that I do not want to spend my last year of high school worrying about classes that I won’t even remember five years from now.”

Speaking with a counselor or contacting teachers can help assist students in troubleshooting areas where efficiency could be increased. If you or someone you know is struggling with burnout, encourage them to speak to someone about it.

If people are willing to learn from the experience, it can definitely be a positive thing,” Hare said. “I always hope people learn before it gets terrible, but sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to go to the top. People need to be able to self-reflect and truly evaluate what they could do differently.”