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.
- 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?
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.
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
- 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.
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.
CALL TO ACTION
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!