With the first semester coming to an end, students are experiencing an increased workload as the grading period wraps up. This time of year is notorious for loads of assignments, and a lack of motivation as some students are more focused on and excited about winter break while others put an excessive amount of time and energy into exam preparation. Regardless of which approach a student takes, these milestones in the school year often lead to experiencing burnout: a state of mental exhaustion caused by long periods of stress.
More than ever, the school is feeling the slump. After two years online, this is the first real midterms that underclassmen are experiencing. With many members of the community having never taken these infamous and often stressful assessments, many feel underprepared and overwhelmed, leading many students to procrastinate or simply not do their work entirely to avoid facing their dreaded to-do lists. While running away from exam stress and not giving full effort feels like a temporary solution, it won’t help in the long run and there are more constructive ways to deal with the workload.
First, it is important to recognize that you are feeling burnt out. Upper school counselor Emily Barbee said, “If you notice yourself rereading the same paragraph for the third time if your mind is continually wandering if you feel frustrated, overwhelmed or hopeless, [or] if you’re confused and stuck, you may be experiencing burnout.” This recognition will help you identify what you feel like mentally and physically as you experience burnout, which can help you properly cope with its impacts.
Next, it is important to validate your feelings, whatever they may be, and fully assess them. “Your overall well-being is the ship that helps you navigate this journey, so prioritize taking care of yourself! Your go-to coping strategies will come with sharp relief, so intentionally schedule activities that are healthy and restorative,” Barbee said. Whether you unwind with alone time, listening to music, moving your body, or getting outdoors, you have to make space for yourself and take the time necessary to do activities that you know will boost your mood and help you reset.
If possible, it is always best to plan ahead for an overwhelming time and as finals are approaching, upperclassmen shared some tips and recommendations on how to prevent finals burnout and relieve stress.
“You should take time to yourself and find ways to meditate and not only focus on school,” said senior Levi Smetana. Smetana recommends taking time away from school to refresh, so you can come back with a fresh mind to tackle the work. Taking breaks and finding time to keep up with hobbies can provide a satisfying and much-needed rest during a long study session.
Senior Olivia Szaj said, “Don’t worry about the tiny details because everything is gonna be fine.” Keeping things in perspective around midterms is important, this means not stressing about the little details because they will not help long term. Szaj’s uplifting reminder that “everything will be fine,” is simple but important for the community to remember as they prepare for their tests and projects.
Lastly, always remember that grades and test scores are not everything. There are a wide variety of ways for students to demonstrate their learning in lower-stake settings throughout the semester, and the faculty understands that test scores may not always reflect the passion, time, and energy that students dedicate to each of their classes.
If you are in need of inspiration for creating your own burnout prevention plan, Barbee recommends these additional tips to help maintain a healthy school-life balance.
1. Plan Ahead: Using this week and weekend to plan ahead for next week is an important proactive step to taking care of yourself during finals next week. Using a calendar or piece of paper, estimate how much time you’ll need to study for each subject, block off getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, time for breakfast and dinner and then plug in your estimated study times for each subject.
2. Reward yourself: Make sure you have time left in the day to block off time for rewards, breaks, and snacks. List the activities you’ll do during break time, so you have something to look forward to and don’t default to just scrolling mindlessly through your phone.
3. Ask for help: It’s important to give yourself enough time to ask your teachers questions and review with peers. If you wait until the last minute, or 1 a.m., it’s much harder to access help.
4. Have a positive attitude for finals: Work on “right-sizing” finals. Think of them as an opportunity to reflect on your learning and growth in each class and celebrate your hard work this semester. They don’t define you, and they won’t matter five years from now
5. Develop a support system: Surround yourself with people who will help you keep a healthy perspective and stay on track with your schedule.