October 4th, 2020 / Source: The Bizz USA
By Isabelle Sitchon; Edited by Pallavi Vemuri and Haarika Kalahasti
My junior year of high school was, without a doubt, one of the most stressful times of my life. My phone alarm would go off at 6:15 am, deafening my ears with its horrendous ringtone. I trudged my way through the hallways and attended classes, extracurriculars and review sessions almost everyday. By 4:30 pm, I would come home with a backpack full of homework. I became accustomed to 11:59 pm deadlines and spent hours late night balancing chemistry equations. There wasn’t any balance in my life; at the end of the day, I felt completely drained.
At that time, I knew that there were signs of burn-out in my life, but I didn’t want to accept it. I kept pushing forward, telling myself that I would take a long deserved break after I finished my assignments. However, my deadlines kept rushing at me at 100 mph, and there was no end in sight. I was a waiter in a restaurant with too many orders, too many people, and not enough hands to carry all the plates.
My experience isn’t unique; many students have experienced burn-out and may still be struggling to cope with it today. Looking back now, ignoring my burn-out disrupted my mental health and left me physically exhausted. Placing your problems aside can leave disastrous consequences for your future and well-being, and is counterintuitive towards a satisfying life.
Here are some signs that you may be experiencing burn-out:
Decreased Motivation, Increased Procrastination
When faced with an action or decision to make, we tend to rely on our willpower and motivation in order to complete it. However, we sometimes procrastinate until the time is absolutely necessary. A common reason for this is that our brain’s instinct responds to a stressful situation with a “fight or flight” instinct; oftentimes, we will choose “flight” as to avoid failure or pain. When you’re in a stage of burn-out, you may notice yourself procrastinating more than usual due to the lack of motivation. You’ll feel less enthusiastic about your work and more compelled to put it off for later. The stress in your life has built up to a point where it’s too much to handle, causing a lack of motivation and a frequent habit of procrastination. This can result in increased stress in the future, creating a vicious cycle of procrastination and burnout.
As you’re going through a burn-out, you’ll notice that you’re always mentally exhausted. This doesn’t mean just a physical sort of tiredness, but an emotional sort of tiredness as well. You might find yourself having difficulty getting up in the morning or accidentally sleeping through your classes. There are many reasons for this, but an unhealthy sleep schedule is one of the most common. Mental fatigue can also be a result of increased stress over a long period of time.
Lack of Focus
After hours of procrastination, you’ve finally settled down to finish your schoolwork. “If I don’t get this finished now, I’ll be even more stressed tomorrow,” you think. All of your materials are lined up in preparation for a night’s worth of assignments, but as soon as you glance over the first algebra problem, your mind goes blank. As a result of exhaustion and decreased motivation, you might find yourself spacing out more often than not. This is because burn-out intrudes on your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. When we experience burn-out, we tend to direct all our attention to all the stress built up.
“Stress helps us face whatever the challenge is and be appropriately energized and focused,” says Dr. David Ballard, a director at the American Psychological Association. “But the problem is, in most of our day-to-day lives now, we’re facing a constant, chronic degree of stress, so you never come back down to normal.”
Detachment From Your Relationships
Because you feel under-pressure almost all the time, you might find yourself struggling to properly maintain many relationships in your life. You might feel bombarded by the amount of stress on your plate, or have zero energy to hang out with your friends. For example, your friend is hosting a birthday party on Saturday, but you can’t go because you have to finish that U.S. history project! Ironically, you might even end up procrastinating on that project on Saturday too. Burn-out doesn’t just affect your relationships with your friends/family, but also your relationship with yourself. In the past, I channeled my stress and worries into food, eating my worries away. I would also sacrifice my beauty sleep for late night study sessions. As time passed by, I distanced myself away from my friends and my well-being because of the effects of my burn-out.
Burn-out isn’t always easy to come to terms with. In fact, ignoring your situation will worsen it even more.
Here are a few tips on dealing with burn-out:
Burn-out may affect our lives extremely, but we shouldn’t let it control how we live. Recognize the signs of burn-out before they come to you, and don’t let it slide amongst the several other stressors clustering your mental space.
“It’s important to know yourself and how you experience stress,” says Dr. David Ballard, “Some people, they ruminate, and they worry. Other people start to get muscle tension and backaches or more physiological kinds of symptoms. Do something about it before it snowballs.”