There isn’t a simple recipe to life and much of what occurs is unexpected and can be stressful at times. Finding balance can be one of the secrets of living a fulfilling life that leaves time for work, play, and happiness. While some readers may be in their teens and some may be a just smidgen older, it can be easy to forget the stress of being a teenager. While most teens aren’t responsible for paying bills or working full-time jobs, there are very real stressors that occur during this time. There is great growth, increased independence, and a focus on identity and connection that occurs. There are also new and unexpected external situations to navigate, all while brains are maturing and bodies are still changing.
School itself is a huge time commitment, both while in school and at home (these may be synonymous if going down an alternative schooling route). Extracurriculars, such as dance or sports, can be fulfilling, but also all-consuming. Friendships and relationships have the potential to be positive influencers and help develop personalities and worldviews, but they can also stir up emotions and be difficult to navigate. School is often seen as a teen’s “job” and this is something that holds great truth, but it should also be considered that adults are able to leave their jobs and decompress at home. Teens often have homework and studying to plan out once they clock out from their jobs. This can make finding balance difficult, which can often lead to burnout and the inability to keep up with the demands of completing assignments, studying for tests, and showing up to classes each day.
Burnout can look different for everyone, but it is increasingly common in teens and does not indicate that someone isn’t accomplished, intelligent, and able to get back on track. There may just need to be some focus on prioritizing mental health, practicing healthy time management, and tweaking study habits.
Listed below are some suggestions that may help prevent burnout or help get back to a peaceful balance if currently in a burnout:
1. Set aside a “day of rest” from any schoolwork or tutoring to decompress (a weekend day is typically ideal if on a standard M-F school schedule).
2. Utilize a physical or electronic planner to plan out study days, stay on track with due dates, and help combat procrastination (the little dopamine reward from crossing off or putting a check next to a completed assignment is an added bonus). Procrastination is a tempting siren, who promises that playing video games or scrolling on a phone is so much more appealing than sitting down to study. If there isn’t a solid plan put in place to tackle more complex assignments, such as writing a paper or studying for a unit test, these tasks can be daunting and seem impossible to accomplish.
3. Take breaks while in the midst of a lengthy assignment. This may look like studying for an hour, having a reward of a decompressing activity, such as an episode of a show or taking a walk, and then returning to the second half of studying (setting a timer during the decompression time can ensure that there is less temptation to put off returning to work).
4. Be honest with others when feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes just being able to express feelings to another human being can lessen the load of stress. Selecting a trusted human is also an important component since healthy communication involves validation that there is no wrong emotion to be feeling (pets can be first confidants if there isn’t a trusted human around, but their validation may only consist of a comforting purr or slobbery kiss). Sometimes, professional mental health services, such as a therapist, are needed to help with learning healthy coping mechanisms, addressing any underlying mental health issues, and ensuring that there is a stable starting point.
5. Consider hiring a tutor who can provide one-on-one tutoring on a regular basis. Tutors are able to do far more outside of simply working through assignments and they can be a source of connection, support, and accountability.
6. Have self-empathy and practice taking time to enjoy life. Being a teen can be difficult, with trying to find a place in the world, but also still not having total freedom. Taking time to acknowledge that and focus on doing enjoyable activities can be a nice reset for mental health that leaves more capacity for dealing with stress.
No matter someone’s age, life can be full of challenges and stressors, but taking time to find balance can be the key to success. Setting up healthy routines and skills can be challenging at first, but the magic happens once these actions become habits that are integrated into daily life. It’s not an easy feat, but discovering that balance is attainable and taking the steps to get there will pay off in the long run and extend far beyond succeeding in school.
By Melinda Blain 08/19/2023