Hitting a wall.

WSHS alum look back on how they recovered from burnout.

Isabelle Greenberg

West Seattle High School – Winter break gave students two weeks to recharge from an intense four months; but how will they maintain that recharge? More importantly, how long will that new energy last?

When asked to rate their stress level on a scale of one to ten, 60% of WSHS students rated themselves a 7 or above.

61% of teenagers experience burnout during their high school careers. With only up to 17 years of life experience, managing that burnout can be almost impossible. WSHS alumni have lived through these intense four years and are back to share how they coped with academic and social stress.

Burnout syndrome is a mental and physical reaction to the combination of consecutive stress, sleep deprivation, and exposure to cynicism; the three pillars of a heavy course schedule. It can also decrease your productivity, leaving even more work left to do.

“The worst times would be when tests or big assignments were all due on the same day or week, after which I just wouldn’t be able to do anything for a few days because I put so much time and effort into both school and my extracurricular activities,” said class of 2022 alum and current Bard College freshman Lucy Gerston.

WSHS students experienced this before holiday break, with many students experiencing up to 4 unit tests within one day. With only 26 days between the end of break and the end of the semester, students are in for another intensely packed month.

Gerston maintained a 4.0 GPA while participating in theater three shows a year. She described it as a time-consuming life that left little room or time for her mental health.

Gerston said, “usually, I plan super far ahead and make sure that I give myself one day a week where I only make plans that I can cancel without feeling guilty.”

2021 alum and current LA resident Henry Parker said studying or doing homework with peers made him not feel as alone in the pressure, saying, “something that has always saved me is how to make academia social. I sometimes dreaded it but going to those Saturday study sessions held in the library helped. There was always food and someone to commiserate with. The hard stuff is always easier when you know other people are dealing with the same things you are too.”

Parker spent the better half of high school in distanced learning, pushing him to become self-sufficient in planning social breaks. “Finding time to separate yourself from the schoolwork. Even when I felt crazy amounts of overwhelm during that time. I would still make sure to call my friends nearly every day during Covid. My friends, Lachlan and Jonah, and I would get on a call nearly every day sometimes only for about a half hour and we would work on a script,” said Parker.

Although Parker acknowledged that writing a script is not everyone’s way of decompressing. He emphasized that what made the calls so important was their complete and total separation from academic work.

Parker said, “I recently reread that script my friends and I made almost 3 years ago, and it stinks! It was our first shot at decent screenplay writing, and it has moments that are good, but looking back, I realize how much more important just the time with my friends was, and having the total freedom to laugh, and escape was the most important part.”

Getting tunnel vision is a major effect of burnout. It can cause you to feel like there is nothing you can do other than schoolwork. However, after you recharge from a burnout, it is imperative that you take those moments to step back and breathe.

These little recharge moments can be anything that works for you. 2022 alum Jessie Stone described exercising as a huge outlet to get away from school stress.

Stone starred on the soccer team all four years at WSHS, making her decompress time a built-in part of her schedule.

“It’s not realistic to expect to be able to hang out with people and have an exhilarating experience or escape every day. High school is challenging and complex but squeezing in those small moments where you and your friends all agree to call and completely ignore the anxiety and the burn out for just a second can be a game changer.”