Managing Academics without Burn Out

The spring semester is here. This is the home stretch to the end of the school year. The majority of your friends talk about how they have upcoming AP exams and finals to review for. However, as the days get closer to the Regents, most students start to gradually feel more stressed and frustrated. It may seem harmless to stay up a little later than your usual sleep time to study more, but that may not be a playful matter when you start pulling all-nighters, juggling multiple assignments at once, and eventually feel burned out.

“Students get anxious sometimes,” guidance counselor Ms. Spatafore said. “What happens is there are times you fixate. You tell yourself there’s not enough time to get everything done, and you come up with all these scenarios, all the negatives.”

“There are certain signs as they’ll come into me, they’ll be a little upset, or maybe something happened,” Ms. Spatafore added. “It really is such a wide range of what it could be, so there’s no right or wrong answer since everyone is their own individual.”

With all the different types of projects and assessments being posted for students to work on, AP Research teacher Mr. Felder shared his tips on the best techniques to cope with stress during the spring semester through “time management” and “prioritizing tasks and due dates.”

“Time management is important, coping with stress has to do with prioritizing tasks, looking at due dates, making sure that you’ve tackled what’s coming up first, versus what’s coming up last,” Mr. Felder said. “Devoting time to not just studying and making sure the tasks are done, but also making sure that you have time to take good care of yourself.”

According to University of South Florida statistics, “More than 70 percent of college students say they get less than eight hours of sleep daily.” Junior Venus Chin believes that it is worth it to sacrifice sleep and stress because she’s taking three AP exams this semester. 

“Yes, I think it is worth sacrificing sleep and stress for that high score,” Chin said.  “I believe that if you’re willing to put in the effort for high scores, life in the future will be easier. I try to organize myself in a system so in a way, I am able to do things on my own schedule despite the circumstances of heavy deadlines and distractions.”

According to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “Factors leading to study burnout are piles of school work, lack of sleep, and unrealistic goals.” One piece of helpful information Mr. Felder shares is to take good care of yourself. He states that “test scores do not equate to self-worth” and that tests are a “one shot kind of thing.” He believes students shouldn’t stress too much on exams.

“Self-care is super important, as it is a way of rejuvenating as well as a way of processing the information you need,” Mr. Felder said. “You also kinda got to realize that test scores do not equate to self-worth. A test is a one-shot kind of thing, it only measures how well you did on that exam during that time. I feel like students put way too much stress when they really shouldn’t.”

As explained by the Understood Organization, “Some stress is necessary for kids to achieve. It can motivate them to set goals and then reach them.” Ms. Spatafore expressed her concern about the topic of burnout and how it should be considered “unhealthy”. She believes that it’s okay to have at least some competition, but if a student is experiencing burnout, she states that it’s “beyond” a friendly competition. 

“It’s always good to have some competition, but when you’d say ‘burn out,’ you’re saying it’s beyond competition,” Ms. Spatafore said.  “If someone’s really burnt out, I don’t really see it as healthy. Don’t forget when you apply to college, you’re competing against your peers to get into the school.  Overall it’s healthy to have some competition.”

Sophomore Amanda Chen, who is taking AP Seminar and AP World this year, discussed how she thinks sacrificing studies for sleep is not worth.  She says that she feels “stressed” daily and it’s “a lot to handle”. 

“No, it really isn’t worth sacrificing studies for sleep because you can have the highest averages but there’s no guarantee your college might accept you, so it’s not worth it to sacrifice,” Chen shared. “Every day I feel stressed since I am a sophomore and because it’s my first year taking AP classes.  It’s a lot to handle, especially along with my other classes because all my classes are honors, so I suffer a lot from it.”

According to Mr. Felder, “School is a main factor in stress and burnout.” Mr. Felder believes that besides school, there are external factors such as “rough home lives, responsibilities, jobs,” so he believes he can sympathize with the students. 

“I think that for students, school is a main factor in stress and burnout due to the fact you all spend so much time here, a good 6-7 hours per day, which is practically a third of your day,” Mr. Felder said. “Aside from school, there are some students with rough home lives, responsibilities, jobs, taking care of family members, even something like a long commute to school, that could also be stressful to students.”

Ms. Spatafore finds it “difficult to separate” grades and mental health as well as how frustrating it’s going to be for an individual if they don’t feel like themselves due to the conflict of burnout. 

“We’re so aware now of mental health and mental capacity so it’s important to be in a pretty good state, I mean nothing’s perfect,” Ms. Spatafore mentioned. “If you’re a very high achieving student, it’s difficult to separate those because you know you’re so obsessed with the grades.  We want people to feel centered and calm and able to cope. If you don’t have coping skills, how are you going to succeed because you’re not going to achieve much since you’re not feeling like yourself.”

As the American Psychological Association states, “Teens report that their stress level during the school year far exceeds what they believe to be healthy.” Furthermore, Mr. Felder thinks that students are not “benefiting from an excessive amount of work” as he personally dislikes giving his students a lot of assignments. He believes students don’t have to be perfect since he’s aware it’s not “humanly possible.”

“I don’t think students are benefiting from an excessive amount of work. I personally don’t give my students that many assignments because I’m aware they’ve got other assessments to study from other classes,” Mr. Felder elucidated. “You need to perform your best. I believe that students do feel that they just always have to be “perfect,” which we know is not humanly possible.”