Student Burnout | How Academic Pressure Causes High-Level Anxiety

Parents Beware: “If You Are Not Ahead, You Are Behind” Is Not a Good Mental Health Strategy

When it comes to high school, nowadays, students struggle to cope with their daily schedule. Recently, I had a parent orientation meeting at the start of a new school term. One of my student’s parents shares that her kid has fallen behind on other assigned projects due to her pending physics assignments. Although she has given up her summer holidays to finish the pending class tasks, she still lagged behind. All this havoc in her academic life made her less engaged with family and friends. She is not getting her timely sleep and even having anxiety attacks over small matters. However, her parents are still adamant that if they set her up extra home tuitions for physics in the evening, she might be able to compete with the class flow. Unfortunately, this kind of situation is becoming more and more common nowadays, and students feel less motivated than usual and more exhausted and irritable due to academic burnout.

What is Academic or Student Burnout?

Academic burnout happens when your academic work and home life seem overwhelming, and you think you can’t cope anymore. You might feel tired, anxious and like you can’t focus on anything. However, burnout wasn’t an official term until recently, despite being experienced by thousands worldwide. Burnout was officially recognised in 2019 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a work-related phenomenon and was added to their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

How do I know that I have School Burnout?

With classwork piling up and the rocky transition from physical to hybrid learning (blended learning), burnout is prevalent amongst students. The problem with burnout is that not everyone recognises it in themselves. Professor Craig Jackson, a health psychologist at Birmingham City University, says, “It’s the flatmates or relatives who say, ‘you’ve been on edge lately’ or ‘you’ve been short-tempered…. Listen to people if they’re telling you that you seem to have a problem.”

Some common ways you can know if you have academic burnout are:

  • Feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get, resulting in fatigue and insomnia
  • Lacking the motivation to attend classes or start assignments
  • Lashing out at others and increased irritability due to frustration
  • Lacking inspiration and creativity to bring to projects and class discussions
  • Loss of confidence in academic abilities
  • Incapability to meet critical deadlines
  • Increased pain and tension in your body, which can be manifested as headaches, sore muscle aches, or jaw tension
  • Higher frequency of illness due to stress and exhaustion
  • Increase in bad habits such as overeating, staying up too late, nail-biting, or any other pattern you tend to acquire when you are stressed or not taking care of yourself
  • Inability to concentrate on school work or lectures
  • Feeling bored or uninterested in aspects of school or areas of leisure that you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression

How to Prevent Academic Burnout?

The following are the five tips that will possibly help you recover from academic burnout: (Source: NOVORESUME)

Create a daily routine. Developing time management skills can speed up your student burnout recovery, so follow a routine. Having some structure in your life can make you feel more in control, organised, and motivated.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Student burnout wears out your body AND your mind. As such, you might benefit from adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of rest, nutritious meals, eight glasses of water, and at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Learn to say ‘no.’ This is the skill that I am also in a learning process of learning. As a college student, you have plenty of academic and social opportunities. However, it’s essential to learn to prioritise your activities. Sometimes, it’s worth declining activity for the sake of recharging.

Get your priorities straight. Of course, college is essential. But, let’s be honest, being productive is nearly impossible when you’re burned out. So, prioritise your health, relationships, and overall well-being until you fully recover from student burnout.

Practice sleep hygiene. Being well-rested facilitates student burnout recovery. So, aim to develop healthy sleep habits, such as turning off all devices at least an hour before sleep, ventilating your bedroom, and using blackout curtains.

Parental Involvement

The future of a child is the biggest concern to a parent. Parents nowadays are too concerned about how the world would perceive their students, resulting in parental pressure. Parents often generalise the idea of excellence and success based on how others perform. Apart from academics, children are also bogged down by rising expectations in various areas where they have interests like sports, music, arts, etc. Hence, without caring for a student’s healthy development, parents keep pushing the boundaries, leading to stress, disappointment, anxiety and suicide.

Also Read: Teen Depression | Are You Feeling Suicidal?

Parents set limits all the time to protect adolescents from lousy decision-making. Restrictions are protective because they provide necessary limits teens cannot provide for themselves. Using this same perspective, I encourage parental mistakes in prioritising a balanced schedule that challenges but doesn’t overload.

Every parent should ask this common question: What if my limits are why my child doesn’t get into their dream school? The answer should be: How one performs at college is much more important than the college the person attends. If your child is energised and psychologically stable when they go to college, they are more likely to succeed in every area of life.

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