The end of the school year is always a struggle.
Work piles up but college applications are finished. Motivation dwindles. Students have an excess of activity and squander relaxation time. Many show symptoms of burnout, anxiety, or depression.
Seniors have it worst: in a single month, they face finals, prom, graduation, the end of education they have come to understand, the beginning of a career, college, adulthood. Let’s just say it is a little stressful.
And seniors are certainly not the only ones stressed out. From 9th to 12th grade, kids start slacking, fighting, losing interest, losing focus, struggling to find time, failing to find joy.
This ending should be bittersweet–filled with sentiment rather than hostility. The events at the end of the year are meant to be fun. Stress makes students forget that.
Although it is not possible to avoid them completely, many factors of stress and burnout can be eliminated with a little effort. Finding effort, that’s the real battle. And that’s where parents, guardians, friends, and family come to the rescue. Heroic motivators, these figures can completely change a high schooler’s attitude. They can help a high schooler motivate, act, and enjoy the last few weeks of the school year.
My tips for cutting excess stress from a student’s diet:
Create massive amounts of time with one word: NO
Free time is a necessity. Without it we cannot relax, sleep, or enjoy our lives. But when students get bogged down by AP tests and finals and awards ceremonies and college visits and college paperwork and summer jobs and prom and graduation, time disappears in a puff of smoke. In other words, there is a pileup at RAHS–the once steady flow of traffic has screeched to a halt and angry, distracted students roam the halls.
Many events are musts–graduation, for instance–but many can be turned down without consequence. Many small things add up and are often much more work than they originally seem to be. By politely declining invitations for small, unimportant matters, students can create more time and relieve themselves of a lot of stress
Don’t delay–face stress head on
High schoolers love to put things on the backburner. We love to say “don’t worry, it’ll be fine” when inside we’re wondering how in the world we’re going to graduate and work in the same night (I don’t think it’s possible). Without straightforward planning, events can end in many different ways. For some, things somehow work themselves out. For others, things never do. For everyone, they cause stress. Instead of putting off prom plans, testing arrangements, and study time, find solutions now. The time and consequence of putting them off far exceeds the time spent finishing them.
Talk about it
As a student who has experienced extreme burnout firsthand, I have to admit that I could never have gotten through it without help. For whatever reason, talking through things has almost always made me feel better. Probably because I–along with my peers–find it difficult to work things out myself.
However, many high schoolers do not ever talk about their problems. They let them build and build and build until they grow into a constant inundation of stressful, negative, overwhelming thoughts. And despite what they show on the outside, many teens are anything but happy.
If you can be there for your child–whether they seem to want it or not, whether they seem sad or depressed, whether it’s for a short amount of time or a long amount–it will make their life much easier.
Burnout is only temporary
Finding perspective is essential. It forces you to see the blue on the horizon and realize that nothing lasts forever. It is easy to focus on the day to day, but sometimes we get so sucked up in it that, in our heads, we let today become our entire life. Without an end in sight, working is not rewarding.
For this year’s high schoolers, the end comes in less than a month. When that’s not evident, work is consistent, backbreaking, unrewarding, never-ending. Keep eyes on the horizon. With perspective, what seemed to be too much may soon seem fleeting.
I mention the most important point last. You can follow every piece of advice I’ve outlined above and you still may see no immediate results. And that’s not because the advice is bad, it’s because, more than anything else, healing takes time. An extreme amount of stress over an extended period sticks around. It may only take weeks, it may take months, it make take years. Recovery is slow. Regardless, it is completely possible. In the short run, the rewards are slim–small victories followed by long pauses…
Look ahead, the future is bright.