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What is burnout?

As defined by the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic stress that is not managed properly. Typically, this is the result of workplace stress; however, psychologists are seeing an unprecedented increase in burnout in high school and college students.

Common symptoms:

  • Constant exhaustion
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Sleep issues
  • Deprived of motivation needed to perform previous work standard
  • Cynicism: feeling that work is pointless for future
  • Loss of enjoyment of current activities
  • Feeling of isolation

Common Causes of Burnout:

  • Chronic Stress
  • Taking on too much school work or work
  • Lack of social support
  • Poor self-care
  • Failure or setbacks


What are some common characteristics of high-achievers?

Infographic by Catherlin

What’s the connection?

With a combination of a hyper-competitive learning environment, pressures to succeed and stress, high school students who are high-achievers are shown to have higher rates of chronic stress and potential for burnout. The environment that these students are a part of only perpetuate this issue further: being surrounded by other high achievers, acceptances to selective universities are the expected and stellar grades are the norm. Combined, this makes high-achievers an “at risk” group for stress that can cause both burnout and health issues.


Over 80% of college students reported being overwhelmed by their work.

40% felt so overwhelmed that it was difficult to function.

Without properly addressing these issues early on, high-achieving students risk carrying dangerous behaviours later into their life as they head off to even more competitive and stressful universities and beyond.


Artwork based on the concept of Kintsukuroi. A broken heart is mended by gold.

What is resilience?

By the Positive Psychology definition, resilience is the psychological strength to cope with setbacks, stress and hardship. This is often described as the ability to “bounce back” from challenges in life.

The following is a description of the 5 pillars of building resilience:

Perspective: Stepping back and accepting negative situations

Emotional Awareness: Processing and being aware of your feelings

Purpose: Having a clear purpose of your work

Connections: Strengthening relationships with those around you

Physical Wellbeing: Keeping fit and caring properly for your body.

How does resilience help?

As high-achieving students may find themselves burning out due to unexpected failures and setbacks, resilience practices help students shift their mindset while allowing them to properly process their feelings. Furthermore, high-achieving students often burnout due to the intense amounts of work they need to complete each day and resilience activities aims to mentally strengthen these students so they don’t fall victim to the detriments of chronic stress. Studies have shown that those who practice resilience can actually combat against anxiety and depression – two concepts directly linked to burnout and stress.

Resilience Website and Resources

For my response, I plan to create a website that includes information on resilience (what is it, how does it help) and burnout. There will be an emphasis on resilience practices that students can use to build resilience and the resilience concept of Kintsukuroi. As many schools have a website or student portal that students have access to, I plan to place this website into a section of the website that will be easy for both educators and students to access.

Two Pronged Approach:

1. Resilience Quizzes and Activities

Based off of the Greater Good Magazine Quizzes from Berkeley University, this section of the website would have a quiz similar to a Buzzfeed Quiz that asks users about their resilience and burnout level. After completing this quiz, students will be able to get a recommendation about what resilience activity would be beneficial to them.

Examples of activities would include:

  • Changing the narrative
  • Self-compassion
  • Forgiveness exercises
  • Facing your fears

Questions on the quiz would be based off of 5 of the pillars of resilience – connection, purpose, emotional awareness, physical wellbeing and perspective.

This section of the website has potential to become a buddy system as well. If the form is able to pair you with a buddy that can benefit from similar practices of the user, it can help build community and connections. Connections and community building has been shown to reduce stress through caring for one another. A study has shown that caring behaviours actually cause the release of stress-reducing hormones.

The Greater Good Magazine

2. Kintsukuroi

Kintsukuroi – meaning mended by gold in Japanese – is an important resilience concept: accepting the setbacks and broken pieces of our life and building off of that with gold.

As many of these students often have a lot of stress and pressure on themselves, they feel worn out when they hit feelings of failure. The idea of Kintsukuroi can help these students accept those setbacks and piece themselves back together, building off of those flaws.

Therefore, I propose a webinar or in-person assembly activity where students are able to physically mend pieces of broken pieces of paper together into any shape of pottery they wish. On those broken pieces of paper, students can be encouraged to write flaws, setbacks and failures.

By writing it out and mending all the pieces back together, students are able to properly process their emotions and move on – growing alongside their challenges and setbacks.


What can you do?

If you identify with any of the above traits or are struggling with burnout, please take a look at some resilience practices below:


I would appreciate any feedback on my project and I thank you for taking the time to interact with my Catalyst Conference Project. If you could fill out the form below with any feedback or ideas (whether positive or negative) it would help me further develop this project.

Here are my works cited. Thank you again and feel free to comment and discuss in the comment section below!



  1. Wow, Catherlin your project is incredible! The structure and presentation of your project are so easy to follow and I feel like I am learning more even though I was in your class and learned about resilience too. I must say, my favorite part is the idea of Kintsukuroi. The concept of fixing broken cracks with gold is beautiful since so much of the stress comes from a reliance on self-worth on grades and academic excellence. I am definitely feeling burnout right now and am going to use that method of thought next time I get really stressed about failing. I hope you do create that website because I for one would use it. I think you also did a really good job of connecting the issues (symptoms and causes) of burnout to your solutions. How would you get the website to school populations? Would this also apply to America’s toxic work culture?

  2. Wow, Catherlin! This is a phenomenal project and I especially love the layout! I think that your topic of burnout and academic pressures is very relevant to students right now. You supported your solution quite well and your reasoning behind the need for a website and activities is very clear and strong. The idea of Kintsukuroi is quite beautiful and motivating and I completely agree with the importance of showing students that accepting and recovering from failures helps them to grow. Beyond coping with failures after they have happened, are there any ideas you suggest to combat the huge amounts of academic pressure and stress students feel?

  3. Hi! This is an amazing project, as a person who is a high achieving student burn out has been really tough, especially this year when I don’t have access to as many outlets for my stress. I really like the Kintsukuroi method, I would like to try it sometime.

  4. Hi Catherlin, I found your project really interesting, especially given the amount of pressure placed on students to perform right now – causes you mentioned like taking on too much work sometimes seems to be encouraged, if anything. The layout of the presentation was great as well. I especially enjoyed the infographic that you made yourself: I found it informative and visually appealing. However, when I tried looking for the Greater Good quiz on the website, I was not able to find it – perhaps the link was changed. I do also wonder if there are proactive ways for teachers or the education system to reduce the amount of stress that students take on as a preventative measure?

  5. Hi Catherlin!
    Your project is amazing! You are tackling such an important issue and I think you found a really good method for approaching the issue! I really love the Kintsukuroi activity you devised! And I think that could help a lot of people who struggle with a fear of failure which as you mentioned was a common trait in kids who burned out.

  6. Hi Catherlin! Thank you so much for your project. I think the importance of this project comes in an extremely timely manner—the pandemic has high school students burnt out! The priority of addressing burn-out in schools is often coupled with an additional mental health initiative for schools to tackle. Through this, it is difficult to achieve long-term change as many students don’t implement these practices into their daily lives. That being said, your solution of practicing kintsukuroi is super innovative. It’s a great mechanism to tie in art therapy, while also cultivating a positive experience. After reading through your project, I wonder how schools can better the long-term impact of mental health initiatives and address the competitive academic nature that many schools battle with.


  8. Hi Catherlin! This is such an important project that needs to be discussed. I found the Kintsukuroi approach really interesting and would have never thought of thinking this way. It’s kind of like the mentality of seeing mistakes as improvements because no one should be perfect! I also don’t think that mental health among teenagers is actually discussed or even touched upon properly in most schools and having these approaches taught would be very beneficial. High school is a time when a lot of students are at a high level of stress but students are still at a time where they’re trying to learn about themselves as well. Great work!

  9. Hi Catherlin! Your project is awesome! Your project is addressing such an important topic and it was super helpful to read about. I really like the layout of your project, especially the way you wrote the text. It was easy to read and follow. Great work!

  10. Hey Catherlin, cool project! I really liked how you included the piece about Kintsukuroi, I thought it was a very nice metaphor and piece of cultural connection! I loved the colour scheme, the pastels were very soothing and nice to read. One thing I’d caution about is using light greys against a white background as your headers– pastel headers can be very effective, the trick is just putting them against a background that makes them pop (like a black or darker shade). But besides that, I like that you went with the light grey, it’s a visual choice I don’t usually see, but I really liked that you took that leap! Anyways, great job!

  11. Hi Catherlin! I found your project very interesting and extremely personally relevant! I loved how you formatted your text and the infographic of common traits in high-achievers was extremely useful and effective. I found it very readable and informative for the audience. I left some feedback in your form. Amazing Job!

  12. Hey Catherlin! Nice work – I really enjoyed your presentation. I just have some feedback for you!

    I really enjoyed the infographics. They conveyed the key messages of your presentation and gave me a solid understanding of resilience. I think a few more images may make your project more visually appealing. I found myself getting a bit lost with all the text, and some people may skim your project or simply not read your valuable insight. I think your content is fantastic and can really benefit your audience, so if there’s a way you can make it more visually appealing I think that would be really beneficial to you!

    Last thought (and this is very minor) – I think some consistency with regards to font would make your project look cleaner. If you want to differentiate between headings, perhaps play with text size and boldness, but keep the font the same.

  13. Hi Catherlin,
    I thought that your topic and explanation for this project is outstanding. This is such a prevalent topic amongst students today and I think you did a great job explaining what burnout is and different ways to identify it. I particularly liked your infographic as it described each characteristic in detail. I also loved your incorporation of Kintsukuroi and its therapeutic benefits. In regards to the quiz, I think it’s a fun and convenient way for students (really all people) to assess themselves and find ways to improve their mental health. This said I think that another problem revolving around burnout is centralized in schools and how they should avoid academic pressure amongst students. To help this problem, I think that awareness around burnout and how to recognize it from the education system would be the first step to implement other practices amongst schools to prevent/aid burnout. One small recommendation I have is just to keep fonts semi-consistent and a little bit larger as I found it difficult to follow some of the information when it was much smaller and lighter than other sections. In all, I think you did a really great job and appreciated the creativity and importance of your project!

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