Coping with Student Burnout


Untitled image by Felicity Jones, WHS Class of 2021

Kylee Steiger, senior, Staff Writer

People have told me many times before that “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” but I never really understood what that meant until I felt truly empty for the first time. It was the summer before my senior year that I first experienced burnout. Deciding that I wanted to have really good experiences my senior year, I got a job and joined my school’s cheer squad. I was also already enrolled in AP classes but I thought since I had a lot of free time, it wouldn’t be hard for me to manage all of these things simultaneously.

After I had already committed to each of these, my dad and my stepmom felt that it was best for them to get a divorce. With my stepmom gone it was just me, my twelve-year-old sister, and my six-year-old brother in the house. My dad worked hours away for two week periods and because I am the oldest, all of the sudden I had many responsibilities that I didn’t have before such as transportation to and from school for my younger brother, cooking dinner, making sure homework was done, and many more tasks that a teenager normally doesn’t have to even think about until many years later. 

On top of these new responsibilities, the new school year had just begun. So while I had to focus on my own grades, my job, and cheerleading, I also had to learn to manage taking care of my family at the same time. Not only did this become physically draining very quickly, but it was also mentally taxing. However, I wasn’t one to ask for help. I told myself that I could handle it and even take on more responsibilities. I didn’t realize the significant impact this was having on me until one day I decided to make a very out of character and spontaneous decision that resulted in my twelve-year-old sister having to take care of me.

According to WebMD, burnout is defined as “a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress” (Brennan, Burnout). Although the experience may be different for everyone, the feeling is very common; in fact, scientists say that 

“Nearly one-third of university students experience burnout.” (Kagawa, Prevalence of burnout among university students).

So how can you avoid this feeling? First, knowing your mind and body will help you realize when you need a break. Start by finding something you enjoy doing and take time for yourself to do things that make you feel good. Alone time is extremely important for you in order to relax and refresh.

Have you ever heard the phrase about biting off more than you can chew? Yeah, don’t do that. When taking on a workload that you can’t handle, you’re practically asking to become drained. Since you already took the time to understand yourself and the workload that you can handle, you’re now able to know when you need a break. Set boundaries, say no, and don’t do things that you know are going to exhaust you.

Featured TBird artist: Ngan Pham

And lastly, take breaks. Get away from your daily life for a while, whether that be taking a walk, listening to music, or actually going on vacation. Anything you can do to take your mind off of things for a while is very healthy. Many teenagers experience FOMO, the fear of missing out, and that’s okay, however, your friends, social media, and trends will still be there even after you’ve taken time for yourself to refresh. Plus, hanging out with your friends with a clear mind is much more enjoyable than doing it when you’re already exhausted mentally and physically. Just say no. It’s okay to take time for yourself.

Aedyn Smith, a senior at Wagner High School who juggles advanced classes, Cross Country, and his job all at once says that if he had to give advice to students going through something similar, he’d say to “communicate either to friends, family, partners, or even some random stranger if you have to. Sharing your story is a great way to make you feel better and there’s a bunch of stuff out there that you can explore to distract or bring ease to yourself. You don’t need to bottle those emotions up.”

All in all, you are not alone if you’re feeling drained or burned out. There are plenty of ways to not only avoid it but also to help you recover. Taking time to understand yourself and caring for your mind and body will help you to be healthy, which overall creates the best version of yourself in all that you do.