Students recount experiences with winter burnout, lack of motivation

As the short days drag on and the freezing weather continues, there is no question that many students have started to reach the point of burnout—schoolwork piles up, motivation decreases and the months feel endless. As students continue to encounter emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, school becomes more and more of a chore. 

“In the winter, it’s just dark and gross out […] and there are a lot of other factors that come into play with stress,” junior Lizzie Mertz says. “There also aren’t as many breaks to look forward to, so you’re kind of in this place where there is not that much to do without having goals; it just feels like a very awkward middle place which is why there’s a lot of burnout.” 

During this time of year, winter sports are ending and spring sports are starting, which may spark some anxiety or relief for student athletes. While some athletics can build on the stress of school, Mertz suggests that sports and activities could play a role in decreasing stressors. 

“In athletics or hobbies, you are kind of able to escape the stress of school. I feel like [these activities] can be kind of like a scapegoat for some people,” Mertz says.  

While the start of spring sports can create a new burst of motivation, they also coincide with many college’s decisions being released. With post-highschool plans already underway, senior Aaron Martin believes that it is especially hard for seniors to stay motivated and avoid burnout during the second semester. 

“I think [in the winter] it is especially easy to notice burnout. Because me and some other people know where we are going [for college] and there’s not too much of an emphasis on the second semester, there isn’t really that much motivation,” Martin says. 

As college decisions roll in and seniors begin to commit, their thoughts tend to stray away from high school and more towards their future. The excitement of going to college is wide spread for seniors and can coincide with, if not cause, burnout. The effects of senioritis, feeling the excitement of graduation but the seemingly endless road to get there, can spark a serious decrease in motivation. Senior Jasmine Wright explains how she’s seen this in her own life.

“I am definitely very excited, but it’s also a little bit sad knowing that I am not going to be doing this regular high school thing anymore. However, at the same time that translates into burnout because I know that I already have something to go to next year. I kind of have less motivation now, knowing that I have something lined up for later,” Wright explains.  

Feelings of burnout can also stem from procrastination. Some students during this time of year push their work off to the end of the week, convincing themselves they’ll end up doing it later. To many students, the sheer exhaustion may seem inevitable and hard to overcome. Mertz gives some advice for those who struggle with these feelings. 

“A lot of people tend to push things off until the last minute, because they know they will be able to come back towards the end of the quarter, but having the mindset that that may not be a possibility may help,” Mertz adds. “Worry about getting past that moment of not wanting to do anything, because once you are able to do it once, it becomes a habit.”

As soon as students start to suffer from a lack of motivation, teachers also notice it within their own classes. Chemistry teacher and TeamASAP coordinator Tina Lulla touched on what burnout can look like in her classes.

“I think sometimes [students] experience [burnout] and then work themselves into exhaustion, but then keep pushing and putting pressure on themselves. But, I also see the type where a student gets burnt out and then just takes a break for a while. Sometimes that might mean a whole unit goes by and they haven’t been able to turn in any homework assignments and then consequently haven’t been able to do as well on the tests,” Lulla explains. 

Nonetheless, Lulla believes there are ways to conquer burnout and finish the year off strong.

“First I think that there is definitely time and space for taking a break. I think scheduling those breaks in is important, especially on weekends or when we have free time from school,” Lulla explains. “I also think reaching out to your teachers and asking them for help to make a plan is very helpful. Having a plan and being able to stick to it can get you back on track, and then having that feeling of accomplishment can rejuvenate you instead of burn you out.”