Beating Burnout: The 411 on Chronic Stress


With the end of the school year on the horizon, students, teachers, and even counselors may find themselves running out of steam. It can be hard to keep going, especially when feeling exhausted, drained, and downright unmotivated. Burnout is common and can be difficult to deal with, but it can be easier to manage if you know what it is, what to look out for, what to do when experiencing burnout, and ways to prevent it.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a type of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by feeling overwhelmed, usually with school or work. Some things that can contribute to the development of burnout are prolonged stress, too many tasks to handle, or an overly-heavy workload.

According to Integris Health, a “honeymoon phase” can precede the onset of burnout, making one feel motivated and productive and distracting attention away from the mounting workload and stressors

What are the symptoms?

When developing burnout, it is important to know that burnout symptoms aren’t just mental – they can also be physical.

Emotional signs and symptoms can include heightened anxiety, feeling down,  detachment, and lowered productivity.

Physical signs and symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, problems sleeping, muscle tension, and increased susceptibility to illnesses such as a cold or the flu.

Students and staff at Cypress Creek High School shared their experiences with burnout symptoms.

“For me, burnout is the result of losing motivation and inspiration, usually because I have grown bored of something,” said English teacher Leah Basconi. “Usually, I feel burned out when I am doing too much of something, even if it’s something I like.”

“When I’m experiencing burnout, I typically have to battle exhaustion and an inability to focus,” said counselor Kelly Coxe said.

However, burnout symptoms aren’t always mild; sometimes, effects can be severe and have serious consequences. Junior Nikki Nguyen shared her experience with burnout symptoms and how it impacted her.

“I got sick from overexertion,” Nguyen said. “Burnout is no joke. As I’ve seen in myself and others, burnout can leave you utterly exhausted emotionally and physically.”

What to Do if You’re Experiencing Burnout

There are several things you can do to help relieve your stress when experiencing burnout. One of those things is reaching out to people you trust for help. Family and friends can help you come up with ways to handle the extreme stress felt during burnout. Dealing with burnout with their love and support can make it easier and feel less daunting.

Taking care of yourself and focusing on your mental health is crucial as well. Getting at least eight hours of sleep is important. Practicing mindfulness, which is being aware of your emotions and what’s around you, can also help. It is also important to stay hydrated, eat healthily, and try to get some physical activity each day, as your physical health can also affect your mental health.

“Dedicate yourself to your health as much as you dedicate to your work,” Nguyen said.

Remember, if you are struggling, it is always okay to reach out for professional help. It is never something you should be ashamed of. If you have a mental health professional, you can discuss how you are feeling with them and develop a plan for handling stress. If you don’t have one, you can reach out to your school counselor for help. Utilizing the mental health resources around you is important, especially in times of need.

How to Avoid Burnout

Burnout can be draining and have physical and emotional effects, but don’t worry; there are ways to prevent it and reduce its severity.

Balancing responsibilities can help with burnout. Instead of focusing solely on work or school, try to make sure you make time for other things like socializing, doing something you love, or even just alone time. Doing this will prevent all of your energy being spent on one thing (in this case, school and work), which is something that causes burnout.

“What you need to address first is your mindset,” Nguyen said. “Instead of trying to commit to everything like I did, prioritize the most important things. ”

Speaking of time, it’s always important to make time for breaks. It isn’t good to keep pushing and overworking yourself for long periods of time; this can lead to exhaustion. Something you can do is set a timer for a certain amount of time to spend focused solely on work. When the timer is up, reward yourself with a break – grab a snack , watch fifteen minutes of your favorite show, or just lay down for a few minutes.

“I think it’s helpful to put some space and time between me and the thing that is giving me burn out,” Basconi said. “Taking a break – a real break – where I don’t think about, talk about, or do anything related to the cause of burnout for at least one full day really helps.”

“When I’m feeling burnt out, it helps to focus on the positive aspects of my job,” Coxe said. “You have to keep your eyes on the prize. Forms of self care that I practice include getting outside, making sure I don’t isolate myself, and doing cross-stitch.”

The last and perhaps most important thing is to set work and school boundaries. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and swamped with work and deadlines, it’s always okay to step back and take a bit of time for yourself. You can take a day off or ask your boss or professor for a deadline extension. If you keep pushing yourself, it’ll affect your productivity more in the long run than when you’re burnt out.

In Conclusion…

Burnout can be physically and emotionally draining, but having the proper education and tools when experiencing it can make handling it all the more easier. Remember that it’s always okay to reach out for help and to put yourself first. Summer break is just a couple of weeks away, so don’t give up! The Cougar Connection believes in you!