Breaking Burnout

How to prevent the dreaded ‘back- to- school burnout’


Feeling empty and exhausted? Beyond caring and past motivation? These are signs of burnout.

The start of a new school year comes with the stress of a sudden switch from a relaxing summer to suddenly fast-paced weeks, packed with tests, sports, and clubs. Without time management and organization, it’s easy to burnout within the first couple months of school.

Burnout comes from continuous stress with no time to relax and recharge. When you fall behind on classwork and have the added stress of extracurriculars, burnout can become common among students.

According to Professor Craig Jackson, an occupational health psychologist at Birmingham City University, a common symptom of burnout is feeling unable to keep up.

“You can’t get started on anything because you think there’s so much to do and that whatever you do won’t be enough. If you’re getting irritable, if you’re crabby or you can’t sleep because you’re worrying about your work, these are clear signs that burnout is on its way,” Professor Jackson said in an interview conducted through Top Universities.

The basis for preventing burnout comes from your class schedule. Counselor Christy Bryant emphasizes the importance of enrolling in classes you’re interested in to help with the pressure and balance of school work.

“High school is definitely a time to explore. We want you guys to check out different fields and try out different things. Diving deeper into whatever subject area interests you should be at the top of your priorities for class selection,” Ms. Bryant said.

Along with following a class schedule that aligns with her interests, senior Mara Wolff balances her time studying by working in 40- minute intervals with a 20- minute no screen time break. This type of studying habit is effective in that she’s able to work without overwhelming herself.

Along with finding study habits that work for you, it’s also important to make relationships with teachers at the beginning of the school year as they are here to support students throughout the year.

“Teachers understand your stress. They understand that you are scared and unsure of how to approach the course. Teachers are here to help you, not fail you, and if your mental health gets to the point where it is interfering with your school day, reach out to your counselor. They’re the nicest people ever and only want to help you,” Wolff said.

During AP exam season, balancing school and sports can be overwhelming. Managing and focusing your energy into the task at hand allows you to be productive while not becoming overwhelmed. As a varsity tennis player, Wolff struggled with her state tournament around finals week, as well as the fragile balance between school and sports.

“I’ve learned that when you’re at a practice or match, put everything you have into it. Focus only on the sport instead of worrying about all the work you have to do. If you worry, you lose the chance to enjoy yourself. Make sure to be productive while not overstressing. If you choose to stress and overwhelm yourself during sports, then you lose the enjoyment and you heighten any feelings you may have towards school,” Wolff said.

Another important factor in balancing your time is prioritizing what you choose to spend the most of your time and energy on. Take the time to find a few extracurriculars that you care about and are interesting to you; it will lead to a more meaningful and impactful experience.

“A lot of students are hanging by a thread, and one little thing can snip that thread. To find that stability, you need to make sure that you have extra time after school. Even if you have a schedule full of eight classes, you want to make sure you’re not taking on too many activities. Some things have to be your priority, whether it’s school or extracurriculars,” Ms. Bryant said.

Judge which courses to take based on different factors such as sports and activities, how well you handle your time, and manage stress, judge the classes you take within the first two weeks of school.

“The level of your classes won’t make or break you. It’s important to push yourself as much as possible without sacrificing your well-being for a grade. The last thing you want to do is push yourself too hard and then burn out at the beginning of the year,” Wolff said.