Under Stress-ure: Notes on College Burnout

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When I was 14, I had a mental breakdown.Here’s what happened: I embraced the pressure from sources all around me and internalized it to the point that I based my whole life on my educational achievements. I became the epitome of the perfect student through sleep deprivation, long hours of studying and ditching any hobby that didn’t contribute to my success. My drug was recognition and accolades and, like a drug, the high couldn’t be sustained.Rather than slowing down a little, I came to a stop. I stopped running cross country, writing poetry, singing in the choir and watching dumb reality shows with my family. My vivid and fulfilling life gradually faded into a cyclic grayness filled with a rinse-and-repeat of school and sleep. Everything depended on my next test, my next paper, my next grade. Finally, it became too much. Cue the breakdown and me sitting in my room unable to move, overwhelmed by my life.
Burnout, especially for college students, is a serious issue. It’s defined as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” This was what I experienced due to my pressure to achieve, and I’m not alone. The American Freshman Survey reported that 30 percent of U.S. college students experienced burnout symptoms in 2017.The tipping point is usually not a single large event like finals week or a huge project, but the buildup of consistent stressors like late-night homework binges or juggling club meetings with sports practices. Like me, many students are not trained to handle these stressors properly and managing the pressure becomes too much. The result is a collapse that creates emptiness, an indifference toward school and life and more serious issues like depression.I associated the apathy of my burnout with school itself rather than my perspective on it and this crippled my education. I …


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