Do you find yourself overwhelmed, moody, unable to concentrate or emotionally drained? Is constant stress keeping you in a total fog, making you frustrated, nervous or feeling like a failure? If this sounds familiar, you might be heading toward burnout — a state of chronic mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Just as it happens with adults, teens can be affected by stress, lack of sleep and constant emotional and physical overexertion.
A recent American Psychological Association survey found that during the school year, teens’ stress mirrors that of adults, with 31 percent of teenagers reporting feeling overwhelmed and 23 percent saying they skipped meals because of stress. At the college level, the National College Health Assessment listed stress as the highest factor to negatively influence a student’s performance.
Stress-related burnout can affect our ability to make healthy choices and result in making easier but unhealthy choices such as “vegging” on the couch for hours, eating junk food or staying up to cram for an exam instead of sleeping. It becomes a destructive cycle.
Crashing or burning out limits what we can accomplish, affects our relationships, health and even our spiritual well-being. It can also lead to — or worsen — serious health problems that include high blood pressure, autoimmune illnesses, digestive issues, depression or anxiety and might lead to adopting risky behaviors to cope.
An important step to prevent burnout is to identify what is causing the stress. If the problem comes from pressure to perform well or from overloaded schedules, there are simple ways to try to restore our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
These include integrating healthy diets, exercise, managing time, focusing on helping others and carving out moments to connect with your faith. It seems like common sense, but we often don’t do these things, either because we don’t consider them important or because they fall by the wayside once we get too busy.
When we focus our energies on many projects, we can quickly push aside time with family, sleep or time with God. This might work for some time, but using all of your energy or “fuel” without practicing self-care will eventually catch up with you.
You don’t have to reach your breaking point to create boundaries and habits to better deal with the challenges of life. If you notice a pattern that is unhealthy, you can try to switch gears to replenish your energy or ask for help.
You can try to prioritize your physical health by eating healthy and exercising often (it is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week).
To prioritize your mental health, you can take real breaks from studying and working, rethink the way you manage your time, include a creative outlet that allows your mind to relax and talk to people you love.
Likewise, prioritizing your spirituality and faith by setting some time to talk to God throughout the day can restore your trust in him and help to decrease stress.
It is easy to let our well-being become secondary to work, studies, sports or friends. But being mindful and intentional about the stressors in our lives can guide us to practice healthy habits that will lead to a more balanced life.