Student Burnout is Real: Here’s How to Avoid It


Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Photo : Tara Winstead from Pexels

Even the highest achieving students at the secondary level who are dedicated to getting accepted into the university of their choice struggle to stay motivated consistently. They have their ups and downs. In many cases, it's how students keep on top of their schoolwork during down periods that separate them from the pack. 

There are a variety of reasons that secondary students struggle with down periods-periods when they're not as motivated as usual-when working on getting the grades they need to get accepted into the university they most want to attend. These reasons include life events and changes to their health. They also include working too hard. 

Students who excel when they take an in-person or online high school course typically study for more time than students who don't. But when students study too much to get the grades they need to go to the university of their dreams they risk wearing themselves thin. Excessive studying, in other words, increases the chances of burnout. 

Although there's nothing students can do to entirely avoid the possibility of burning out, they can decrease their chances of experiencing it. 

What Is Burnout? 

Burnout is a colloquial term we use all the time, but what exactly does it mean? 

Burnout is a kind of exhaustion brought on by prolonged mental or physical stress. As a result of burnout, students may: 

  • Cease feeling motivated

  • Struggle to stay productive 

  • Lose hope

  • Become cynical or apathetic 

  • Feel embarrassed for setting such high standards

  • Become resentful of others, particularly high achievers who are not burnt out 

Burnout is not the same as what we colloquially call a nervous breakdown, a term which brings to mind people fainting on the street and being carried off to a mental hospital. (Medical professionals no longer use the term nervous breakdown.)Burnout and nervous breakdowns are both responses to stress, but a nervous breakdown is sudden whereas burnout is gradual. 

Types of Burnout

High school students can burn out in different ways. Generally speaking, however, there are three types of burnout:

#1 Under-Challenged Burnout 

Not all burnout is the result of work overload. Some people can burn out from being too bored by what they work on, whether at school or at their jobs. When you feel under-challenged and bored by what you do, you might become cynical, apathetic, or avoidant. 

#2 Helpless Burnout

When, for whatever reason, you feel that you are not good enough for your schooling or job, you put yourself at risk of burning out. Helpless burnout can be a result of imposter syndrome, which is common among high-achieving students and perfectionists. A student with imposter syndrome may believe they don't deserve their high grades and accolades, that they are frauds, or that they have somehow duped other people into believing they are good students when in reality they are not. 

#3 Overwork Burnout 

Overwork burnout is what most people think of when they think of burnout. When a student takes on too much work or sets increasingly impossible standards and goals, they may grow overwhelmed by stress and burnout. 

How Students Can Avoid Burnout 

Fortunately, there are things students can do to avoid burnout. Students can: 

  • Learn to say "no" 

  • Practice self-care

  • Set realistic standards and goals 

  • Reward themselves 

  • Take breaks

  • Exercise and eat well 

Ultimately, the best way for university-bound students to reduce the chances of burning out while still getting the grades they need is to find what Aristotle would call "the golden mean," with too much studying on one end of the spectrum and not enough studying on the other. In other words, moderation is essential. 

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