Your teen can only work so hard before burnout
Balancing success and burnout puts teens in a difficult situation. School and extracurriculars are more competitive than ever. When applying to an elite university a 4.0 isn’t special anymore. A varsity letter on a jacket is no more than a nice to have. The best universities are packed with valedictorians, young entrepreneurs, and state champions. Your teen needs to produce results to be competitive.
This all equates to lots of hard work and stress. These ingredients for burnout are widespread. The APA reported nearly a third of all teens (31%) in the US reported they feel overwhelmed.
Why is burnout bad?
Once burnout occurs, it can be difficult to get going again. The consequences go beyond just becoming unproductive for a short period of time.
It can create a negative connotation with hard work. It can also be demoralizing. Progress simply grinds to a halt despite having time or resources to get tasks done.
Isn’t burnout inevitable when working hard?
Burnout often seems like a natural consequence of high achievement. However, it doesn’t t have to be.
While it may seem counterproductive, some downtime, when used appropriately, can help your teen achieve sustained success. Pit stops don’t prevent race car drivers from winning a race, however, running out of gas or a blown tire certainly will.
The key here is a balance. We don’t want our teens living in absolutes.
The good news is that minimizing burnout is simple to do with a few of these exercises and planned breaks in their schedule, burnout can be put in its place. Teens can help develop a healthy relationship with hard work by yielding more traction from their efforts.
3 Practices for Managing Burnout
WebMD has a great article on minimizing stress in teens that provides several effective exercises and practices. Most importantly, this article doesn’t advocate choosing less achievement. Instead, the focus is really on longevity. Here are some of the key messages that we found the most useful:
1. DOWN time
This is simple and applies to everyone in your family, not just your teen. You need power DOWN time. Downtime does not mean sitting on the couch watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly on social media. It means a true detox for your brain. It can involve time outside, but a rigorous hike might not be ideal if your teen just had two hours of soccer practice. Books, a family dinner, or a gentle stroll outdoors are a great place to start.
2. Regular exercise, eat healthy, and plenty of sleep
This is probably not the first time you’ve read that these are important. I’m sure you work hard to help your teen live a healthy and well-rested lifestyle. However, as I learned while leading a summer camp, no matter your intentions, it’s simply impossible to have sustained improvement for something you don’t track.
Try recording your teen’s hours of sleep and meals for a week. Take a moment to review at the end of the week and make sure your perceptions match reality.
Don’t simply look at your teen’s schedule as evidence. Try writing down what actually happened for each day. You might agree that SOMETIMES teens are running late, and they don’t need the full 45 minutes for dinner. It’s POSSIBLE that they forgot a homework assignment that had to stay up late to finish. An honest audit of your teen’s meals and sleep can help identify an unrealistic schedule.
3. Focus on activities that are a real passion
Encourage your teen to focus on a few activities they are passionate about, and cut out commitments that are contributing to stress and don’t directly advance a goal.
For example, an athlete who plays year-round sports like tennis might benefit from focusing on doing that year-round. If they’re trying to fit in schoolwork, and tennis practices, and maybe golf and cross country running, well you can imagine how it could be difficult to have any time off, and at the same time make progress in any of their goals for each sport. Instead, they can take advantage of their limited time to make sure they can excel at the sport that brings them the most joy by fitting in daily practices, workouts, and tournaments.
They can continue to play other sports they enjoy, but don’t have them commit to a school affiliated team in which they are obligated to attend regular practices. Newly freed time can be used for school work, relaxing with friends, or true downtime.
Back to Basics
I’m sure at a high level these steps weren’t a shocking revelation, but that should be reassuring. This issue is straightforward to tackle, it just takes creating some new simple habits. Start with a conversation with your teen to get their take on stress and feelings of burnout. You can try these activities with your teen to minimize burnout and increase their emotional wellbeing.Connect with Teen SMART Goals on social media!