There comes a time when the demanding rigors of school turns life into a cyclic spiral into madness. When exhaustion and stress just becomes too much, and each project, competition, and conference becomes a challenge rather than a task, your body starts to attack itself. Depression and anxiety kick in the fastest, triggering self-doubt and apathy. The world becomes a little fuzzier and sluggish, almost as if you are wading through a bog. Facts and details are impossible to grasp. With every passing moment, the same deadlines you have dealt with for months turn more imminent and impossible. Then comes the drug tolerance: the same sugar and caffeine you’ve relied on for months fails you, and the drowsiness triples. You try to overcome it, but realize that the odds are stacked against you. There’s no way up, but certainly a way down somewhere. It feels suffocating and limiting, and you feel lost.
Do these symptoms ring a bell? Chances are you’re experiencing burnout. Burnout, commonly known as “overachiever syndrome,” is neither a cry for attention nor an excuse for laziness. In fact, burnout happens to even the most focused students for an array of issues such as working in a stressful environment, feeling as if you are not appreciated for your work, or not getting enough sleep. Pain is relative: if you’re feeling distressed, you are distressed.
Sometimes, the easiest way to break out of such a loop is to simply talk to someone. Not only does it help vent your frustrations and shed self-doubt, but it also starts the process to understanding and analyzing the situation you are in. If you feel as though you are overburdening or inconveniencing your partners by venting to them, find a way to express your voice without involving them. Vent your worries and frustrations out online, or designate stuffed animals or journals designed to listen to you. You might feel silly, but voicing and compartmentalizing the factors that cause burnout is crucial to understanding your state of mind.
Additionally, indulge in the small things that make you happy, especially any that you’ve set aside to make room for your studies or activities. Pencil in a two hour nap right after school. Pick up a piece of cake you’ve been craving for days. Start a Netflix show you’ve been putting off until you finished your SATs. As constrained as the status quo may seem, you are capable and worthy of taking a break for a while. Fifteen minutes, twenty, or maybe an hour–it’s all worth it if it’ll keep you grounded. Pamper your body instead of sacrificing it in hopes of a better future. The future is now; you don’t have to suffer during the entirety of your journey to college.
Finally, take a moment to think: What makes you proud of yourself? Don’t just brush this question off–if you’ve come this far, you have achievements. You always have, and always will. With time, they will grow. Don’t just look towards the horizon, to a seemingly unattainable goal in the distance. Take the time once in a while to to look back on them.
Every day, you achieve something that others could only dream of. Every day, you challenge the world for a job or dream, no matter how petty they may seem. Whatever your goal may be, it’s out there; It’s waiting for you. The effort you make will stack up, and the results will pay off one day. For now, try not to overthink, and try not to doubt yourself. Remember: a smile a day keeps the burnout away.