Turns Out We’re Burned Out

Issue 1, Volume 113

By Juni Park, Ankita Saha 

Many high school students, especially at Stuyvesant, have horror stories of pulling all-nighters to study for exams, waking up at 3:00 a.m. to finish homework, and living off of instant ramen instead of cooking just to save time and energy. We’ve all been there. However, this lifestyle can become extremely overwhelming and damaging to our physical and mental health. Often, this builds up to something quite common among Stuyvesant students: burnout.

Stuyvesant is known for its rigorous and competitive atmosphere, so for many students, the root of this issue stems from an excessive amount of work and studying. As sophomore Josephine Gunawan explained in an e-mail interview, the intense workload from school can take a toll on our physical and mental health. “I had gotten sick the week before, so I had a bunch of tests and assignments to make up, along with more upcoming exams and the task of perfecting my unfinished MET project,” she said. “I started feeling more irritated and tired, having more headaches, and getting very little amounts of sleep each night.”

Other students shared the same sentiment, viewing burnout as something formed from a snowball effect. “I think burnout is a combination of new responsibilities and not enough time or space to reflect [on] how to move forward,” explained Katherine Lake (‘22). “We get very tunnel-visioned—we can only see the next test, the next quiz, and before you know it, we’ve been doing that for eight months and we’re absolutely exhausted.”

Burnout can hit students when there is a sudden increase in workload. For junior Charlotte Peterson, the burnout started to kick in post-AP season. “Especially because it was near the end of the year and all the stress that I had accumulated over the year really started weighing down on me,” she said. “At that point, I was so tired of studying that I just wanted to give up a few times.”

For others, like sophomore Kaileen So, burnout can start closer to the end of the year. “During finals week, the last second-semester finals week, there are a bunch of finals and then regents like the week after that,” she said. “There’s just so much more to do.”

Sophomore Judy Namkoong explained that she felt the most burned out by the end of the first semester for similar reasons, as well as new semester schedules. “Definitely January to February—in between those months, because we have finals, and we’re also switching classes,” Namkoong explained.

But burnout doesn’t stem just from academics; some high-commitment extracurriculars can be just as draining as classes. Senior Eugene Guo shared his experience with the club Science Olympiad, which held daily attendance with meetings lasting until 6 p.m. “By November, I started feeling so tired of it and started skipping,” he said. “The way I learned to cope with it is I stopped going as much. I realized I was taking it too seriously, and if I just thought of it as something that was more fun, it would be easier and I would be able to not get burned out as much.” While maintaining this mindset, Guo managed to successfully avoid burnout for the majority of his sophomore year. “I didn’t feel much burnout academically,” he admitted.

Other students also expressed that a way to avoid burnout was to take time off of work to have fun. “I reward myself by doing something I love,” Namkoong said. “Like doing a hobby, spending time with family, or just talking to my friends after I finish everything else.”

Lake shared that one hobby she found particularly therapeutic was art. “My goal is not to be a great artist, my goal is to do something that I genuinely have fun doing just to do it,” she explained. “It’s not for a grade, it’s not for other people, it’s so I could stare at it and be like, ‘That was cool.’”

As commendable as it is to work exceedingly hard to keep up your grades and participate in your extracurriculars, doing this on a daily basis will inevitably lead to burnout. That is why it is so important to take a moment to simply relax, and to take care of yourself. Fighting the infamous Stuyvesant sleep schedule, for example, is likely to help prevent exhaustion and burnout. “[Try] to make sure that you can get enough sleep, even if that means eliminating some of the scrolling through stuff so that you can sleep, because sleep is important,” said So.

Others use organizational tactics to combat the issue of constantly overworking themselves. “What works for me is doing a to-do list each day,” said Namkoong. She explained that at times, to-do lists can become sources of stress in and of themselves, but she has a strategy to prevent this. “I know if I put a lot of things on my to do list, I won't do any of them because I feel overwhelmed. So I just put like three main things that have to get done every day.”

Like Namkoong, So also finds it helpful to come up with a organized plan to complete her daily tasks. “Trying to come up with like a schedule, and have it this day, it’ll just be bio and then come up with a plan of what I’m going to study for bio,” So said.

While most students hope to avoid burnout completely, Lake found it to be something that should be accepted. “The key is knowing that you’ll have it at some point, and it’s just a matter of getting through it, moving on, and not being afraid to do that with support,” she said. “I feel like the thing that we like to say is, ‘Oh if you do just this and this, you won’t have it. If you just have a good schedule, study in advance enough, or find a routine that works for you, [you] can escape burnout.’ Yes, you can mitigate a lot of the worst forms of it. But in the end, there’s going to be a point where you sit there and think ‘Wow I just want to sleep,’” Lake explained.

While academics and extracurriculars are certainly important, mental and physical health should be prioritized. Stuyvesant students often fall into a loophole of constantly working to the point of breaking the balance between our stress and ourselves, and getting burned out as a result. Though sources of burnout vary amongst students, whether it’s finals week or high-commitment extracurriculars, there are many ways to overcome the issue. At the end of the day, we’re all kids in an intense, work-filled environment. Burnout can happen to any of us at any time. So, though our stories of burnout are all different, we can all get through it.