Losing the spark

Dealing with burnout in high school

Tired and slowly losing motivation, I typed “current events” into the search bar, and willed something to appear that would provide me with the new idea I so badly needed. The New York Times’ website appeared as the first result, and without wasting time, I clicked. 

Scrolling past updates on Russia and Ukraine, inflation rates and political stories that seemed never-ending, I became even more disheartened. Don’t get me wrong, those stories are all very important, but I wanted a story that would be relatable. 

Suddenly, I saw the title that was my saving grace: “19 Extremely Easy Recipes for When You’re Burned Out.”  The first sentence of the description read, “Tired of….everything?” I automatically responded in my head: Yes, yes I am.

As a SENIOR in the final quarter of her high school career, I can’t seem to find the motivation to do much of anything. After the first semester ended and my college applications had been sent out, all I had left to do was wait. With one acceptance and one rejection in my back pocket, I set my sights on life post-high school. Suddenly, worrying about AP exams seemed like a thing of past years, and relatively harmless (formal apology to all my AP teachers, I promise it’s nothing personal). 

Sydnie Barrett

Unfortunately, my “senioritis” affliction is actually a real thing and more than just a joke parents use to tease you. According to a 2017 survey done by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, the majority of seniors agreed that they would face a motivational drop-off in their second semester. In contrast, the majority of freshmen, sophomores and juniors believed they would be largely unaffected by “senioritis” in the future, despite the widely known fact of the second-semester-senior-year motivation dropoff.

What goes largely unrecognized is that similar effects of the infamous “senioritis” are present in the much larger, all-encompassing term: “burnout.” 

In 2019, the World Health Organization classified burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” or basically stress that keeps on building and building endlessly. 

Students of all grades experience this every year, as third quarter ends and spring break looms just out of reach. We grow impatient and ready for time away from schoolwork and messed-up sleep schedules. 

I was so convinced that I would only have to survive one week of fourth quarter and then be able to escape, but the school calendar proved me wrong. In case you thought the same, I understand your disappointment–but don’t be dismayed.

Remember to take time to breathe and decompress from what I know can be a very demanding schedule. Read a book (preferably not the one your English class assigned), take a walk outside and thank Cincinnati for finally deciding to stick to warmer weather, or even try your hand at making sheet-pan gnocchi or “Perfect Instant Ramen” courtesy of the New York Times. If you’re not into cooking (or if you’re currently exhausted and falling asleep at your desk like I am), I recommend a nap or an earlier bedtime. 

On a serious note, if you are struggling to keep up, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to place full responsibility on yourself all the time.