#Academicburnout has become a norm; school activities, assignments, and managing the impacts of the #pandemic have started to take a larger toll on #students. This is my experience of surviving #CovidSchoolyear.
"Every Day Feels the Same to Me"
When the COVID pandemic first hit I was right in the middle of my grade 9 school year. We were forced to do school online and I struggled with it a lot. The notes were boring, there were always technical difficulties, and I wasn't learning anything. I was only learning to sit and copy notes off of a slide that I would never look at again. I found it challenging to find the motivation to get up every day only to stare at my laptop screen for 8 hours at a time. Every day felt the same, they were all blurred together. On top of that, leaving the house was not an option. The weather would be getting warmer and I would spend the day inside, writing an essay. At the end of the year, the teachers told us that these grades wouldn't even fully count, meaning that all the time and energy that I had put into my work wasn't worth it. Summer went by really fast with nothing memorable in particular and then we were back to school. COVID made it so that we weren't able to go to anyone's houses or even be able to participate in school functions that would occur during a 'normal' year. I would constantly hear people say that I should just get used to things like this, which is the new normal. No matter how hard I tried to accept it, I knew that I was missing out on all of the fun things about school.
“Burnout occurs when an individual has experienced prolonged demands, chronic stress, fatigue, a lack of support, and a decrease satisfaction in what they are doing.”
-Asa Don Brown
Self Compassion: Why is it so difficult?
Maybe 3 months into my grade 10 year and we were back online. This time it was harder, instead of being able to work at my own pace we had to be on calls all day, it was so difficult to stay focused when I would have much rather been sleeping. The majority of my that year was spent online, and once again, every day felt the same; wake up, join the call, listen to the lecture, switch calls for my different classes and repeat. Nothing about this was fun, no matter how hard the teachers tried to engage us, I was not having a good time. It was hard to tell at the time if the people around me were also going through the same thing, at some points I felt as though I was the only person who was struggling to find the motivation to keep doing my work. When I started to feel that I wasn't able to get up and do my work, I made the connection that this was burnout, and not me just being lazy or not wanting to do my work. For as long as I can remember, I have always tried to do my best in school; get my assignments finished on time, get good grades, and have no problems with it. This meant that when I wasn't able to find the motivation to work, I concluded that I was just being lazy. Instead of addressing my "laziness" I pushed through it and continued to hand in mediocre assignments.
A research study conducted by the University of Milano-Bicocca, in Milan, Italy on school-related burnout talks about the effects of school stress on students. "School burnout may be defined as a response to school-related stress, which becomes chronic when students stably perceive a discrepancy between their individual resources and their personal expectations of success." My inability to complete my work to its full potential would reflect in the grades that I received. Not only was I lacking the motivation to do the work in general, but my grades also were not where I wanted them to be. My expectations were set too high in relation to what I was able to achieve.
Strategies to manage & overcome burnout
Experiencing academic-related burnout is not something I had ever gone through until that year. Due to being on my computer all day, and then doing the extra homework after the school day had officially ended, I never gave myself time to catch a break. To me, giving myself a break was a waste of time, "There are too many things that I need to get done, there's no time to sit and relax." I still struggle with this from time to time, but I learned the hard way that pushing myself to my limit is not going to make my work get done any faster or of better quality. This school year I have tried to change that by hanging out with my friends after school, even for just a bit. It helps me come home with a fresh mind and I can get my homework done faster and be better.
Going to school through COVID has greatly impacted my mental health, even though there is a greater amount of negative impacts, it has also helped me learn more about myself, finding the things that work as well as the things that definitely don't work. Learning to manage my burnout took time and a lot of trial and error. Strategies will differ from person to person, but some things that I have found to help me are: fully taking a break and disconnecting from school, listening to music, calling my friends, painting or drawing, and watching my favourite show or movie. I will continue to learn ways that help me, as well as ways that definitely won't help. I feel as though it is difficult to fully avoid getting burnout, especially with the academic workload I have, but being able to prevent it at least for most of the time will allow for me to be happier and more relaxed.