We’ve all heard about “burnout,” but have you thought about this term in relation to our tweens and teens? Although we might think that our children are too young to experience true burnout, you might be surprised to know that it seems to be prevalent in teens now more than ever.
Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a board certified cognitive specialist for Brain Balance, has a wealth of knowledge to share with parents about burnout in relation to tweens and teens.
Have you noticed an increase in burnout in tweens and teens?
Yes, I am definitely noticing increased rates of burnout — in all ages. Middle school and high school students face social, school and family pressures, in addition to often juggling schedules that are non-stop. Knowing what to watch for, and strategies to impact burnout, can help.
What are some signs of burnout?
Signs of burnout include feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and out of control with areas of life. You can also experience an increase in irritability, distractibility, and negative emotions. Feeling burned out can make it harder to start and finish tasks, which can result in feeling unprepared and falling behind. A stressed brain will have a greater tendency to focus on the negatives and worry, which will amplify the bad feelings.
How do parents address burnout with their kids?
Acknowledge how your child may be feeling, and let them know you are there to help. Share about a time when you were feeling the same way.
Work together to create two lists: a to-do list, and a list of helpful tips and techniques to keep the brain and body feeling good and focused.
With the to-do list, write everything down that needs to be accomplished. Go back and code that list by priority. What needs to be done now, and what can wait? Assign due dates and an order to tackle the list. Sometimes, the simple act of writing everything down can start to provide a better sense of control.
Brainstorm a strategy list that includes everything you think of that can impact mood, focus and energy in a positive way. Let your child select tems they think would help. It’s important to let your child select which items they want to do — otherwise, it can become one more thing for them to have to do.
Items to consider on the strategy list: Are they getting enough sleep? A tired brain has a harder time focusing and staying positive. Are they consuming consistent protein and healthy fats to help their energy and focus? Are they carving out time for exercise, fun and relaxation? These strategies can help engage positive emotions and can help energize the brain.
The next two strategies involve setting aside the work. Taking a quick break mid-task, and time to relax daily, can also influence mood and energy. Stepping away from work and returning when you are more fresh can be more productive than toiling away for hours. Set a timer hourly to get up and move! A few minutes to hydrate, eat and fire up your muscles can help prep your brain for more productivity.
Finally, find time for fun. Teenagers are social beings. Create opportunities for a change of scenery. Adding a friend can help elevate mood, as well. Going for a hike, checking out the local roller rink, trampoline park, or skate park are all ways to experience both entertainment and exercise.