Why does burn out happen?
Once teens reach High School they often feel an invisible pressure called burn out. We’ve all experienced getting burned out at work, or even in our home life when the sink is full of dishes over and over again. But what does burn out look like for a teenager and how can we help them get out of it?
If you’re not familiar with the signs, then a burned out teen is very likely to happen before you even realize it. One day our teen is communicating with us about his/her/their feelings and the next they won’t leave their room. Late nights spent catching up on studying invade on quality family time. While we may feel proud of our teen for taking on the extracurricular and advanced courses that are necessary for getting into a good college, we also have to realize that there can be repercussions for too much activity and not enough rest.
Our Upper School Academic Director Kaye Jacob’s understands this better than most, “This is a high-stakes time for many kids, but we do need to try to reason with them that they need to find a balance, that “more” is not always “better.”
3 signs your teen is heading towards burn out
1. Heightened anxiety and/or overwhelm. Anxiety can look different in everyone, especially teenagers. It can manifest as moodiness or unusual behavior when before there was a calm demeanor. Anxiety can also look like immune system fatigue, causing the teen to get sick more often or even start to have migraine headaches.
2. Not sleeping at night. Burned out teens can get so wired from all of their “to do” lists, extra courses, or/and after school activities throughout the week that when it’s finally time to rest, they can’t. Lack of sleep can spiral into a dependency on coffee or energy drinks so that they can be alert enough to make it through the school day.
3. Saying “no” to socializing with family and friends. Teens who experience burn out can’t relax enough to have downtime. They stop participating in family events or socializing with friends because they simply have nothing extra to give, or are trying to preserve their energy.
Burn out isn’t black and white
Burn out can manifest in our teens in so many ways. Maybe you see your teen taking on more honors courses than he/she/they can handle, or perhaps your teen feels overwhelmed with social stresses and wants to hide. There’s another even more subtle aspects of burn out, such as having a lack of support at home, and poor self care. Here are three ways you can help your teen normalize again.
3 ways you can help
- Teach stress management tools. According to the American Physiological Association’s survey showed that teens report their stress level during the school year far exceeds that of an average adult. At Maharishi School we have a tool for our students to manage stress built into their schedules every day, twice a day. It’s called Transcendental Meditation.
- Adopt new self care practices. Talk to your teen about what you do for self care. Self care practices can be a conscious time-out away from their daily life that helps them go inward and tune into their bodily needs. Some popular self care practices include; journaling, yoga, creative expression, exercising, spending time in nature, cooking/baking, reading, swimming, camping, watching a funny movie, etc. While it’s nice for them to have some alone time you can also come up with a list of self care practices that you and your teen can do together.
- Talk about mental health. Establish regular check ins with your teen so you can track to see if they’re moving in the direction of burn out. Don’t be afraid to tell them, “why don’t you take some time off school work tonight, I want you to be primed for a long life and I would like to see you pace yourself now.” Make them aware of therapy services that can be a private outlet just for them.
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