Overcoming Junior Year Burnout

⏱️  3 min read

written by

Brandon Wu

brandon wu

August 4, 2020

Walking into my third ‘first day’ of high school, I expected this year to be like any other.

My expectations couldn’t have been further from reality. Within the first few weeks of school, I had to juggle six AP courses along with a plethora of extracurricular activities. Thanks to the help of my planning app, Todoist, I managed to finish most of my work by their due dates and get to sleep at a reasonable time. This app helped manage my stress levels by delegating tasks on specific days in addition to assigning priority.

Yet, I reached my first low of junior year when given a “terms and tone” assignment in AP English Language. My teacher expected us to find examples of 20 different figurative devices in our book, In Cold Blood, and explain why the author used those devices. Because I underestimated how long the project would take, I was flipping through pages of the book trying to find idiomatic expressions and non-sequiturs at 3 am.

Even after submitting that assignment, I still had to compete at debate tournaments each weekend and work at a part-time job three or four days a week after school. Because my teachers happened to push their major grades to the last week of the grading period, it meant a week of late nights and early mornings to prepare for four straight days of testing.

With the help of friends who were always willing to pick up my calls, I had a strong support system that led to success in the first semester of my junior year. Qualifying to Debate state, earning a Tournament of Champions bid, and launching my Mock Trial & Model UN club were some of the happiest events that occurred in high school, and they all happened during my junior year.

The second semester was a different story, though. After two weeks of rest, I returned to school with projects and tests back to back. Unlike the first semester, however, I felt like I was completely alone, as other people had their own issues to deal with. Even though I still woke up and went to school, work, and club meetings, I felt invisible and not in control of my own actions.

This culminated into burnout around late March and early April. For a period of three weeks, I came home, left my backpack in a corner of my room, and did no homework after the school day ended. This was, by far, the lowest point of my junior year, as I felt completely exhausted even after sleeping seven to eight hours a night.

I finally snapped out of this haze of laziness with the help of my Calculus teacher Ms. Lindinger. After forcing all of her students to take a practice exam, I realized how I would likely fail all my AP exams unless I overcame my burnout and started to study. This completely changed me, as I understand today the importance of balancing relaxation and academic work in addition to taking care of mental health. Although it took me two months, this newfound energy made me feel confident taking each of my AP exams and finishing multiple major grade projects at the end of the school year.

As AP exam season and junior year finally come to an end, I now understand the importance of maintaining mental health and having a strong support system. Without the help of my friends and teachers, my junior year would have been a slippery slope of deterioration and unproductivity.

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