High School Burnout


As a student, you’ve probably felt burnt out before- facing high amounts of stress without any time to recharge for a prolonged period of time. High school and adolescence as a whole is one of the most developmentally challenging eras of our lives. We’re balancing school, sports, and jobs with social changes, pressure from our parents, all the while in the back of our minds screaming the questions of doom. What the heck am I going to do with my life? Where am I going to go to college? What if I fail?

Burnout is often thought of by adults as an excessive amount of homework, adjustment to a new schedule, or can even be interpreted as tiredness from staying up too late or “being on that phone for too long.” But burnout can also be a result of complicated or hectic daily schedules, such as trying to balance sports, a part-time job, or other clubs or activities with an already rigorous class schedule. Sometimes it feels like an endless cycle- wake up, go to school, go to work, eat, sleep, repeat. There’s no time to have a social life, spend time with family, have alone time to relax, or even do homework. We’re taught by society that this is normal, maybe even healthy, and that it demonstrates a “good work ethic” or “perseverance.” But this high level of stress is not normal; it’s ridiculous.

We live in a world, and more specifically in a community, where the majority would agree that anything above a B is the standard and anything below a B- is automatically a failure. We take classes whose tests require six plus hours of studying and are encouraged to enroll in dual-credit classes because “it saves money” no matter the workload. In a study done by NYU, students reported that these demands did not feel attainable for their development level and that they felt as if they were expected to perform as adults rather than as adolescents. 

Academic burnout in youth can have serious consequences, not only to their academic success but also to their mental health and to their behavior. It can linger and follow the student into college and even further into their adult lives. In the Pella School system we are taught throughout grade school that there is such a thing as “healthy stress”: stress that motivates you to step out of your comfort zone, to go that extra mile. And while I agree, it gives the feeling that stress has been glorified. That headache you get from staring at your screen too long. The stomach ache or loss of appetite you experience before your West Civ test. Getting six or less hours of sleep every night because school and extracurricular activities have officially trumped sleeping. None of that is healthy.

If there’s anything that you get from this, hopefully it’s this: you are not alone. It’s okay if you don’t know where you want to go to college, if you want to go to college, or what you want to do with your life. You’re trying your best and that’s enough. You’re not lazy for having struggles; you’re human, just like the rest of us.