How to combat academic fatigue



While it may only be the fifth week of school, many seniors have already given into “senioritis,” a universal condition of a diminished desire to complete work. With the jarring transition back to a five day school week after a year of online classes, students of all grade levels are experiencing academic fatigue like never before.  

Many are familiar with the feeling of academic fatigue: a state of mental or emotional exhaustion caused by an overwhelming workload with prolonged levels of stress. While it is common to experience fatigue by the end of an academic year, students of all grade levels are feeling pressure as they fill already crammed schedules with extracurriculars to “make up for lost time” during remote learning. Amid these times for students, it is important to recognize fatigue and how to take the necessary measures to alleviate the pressures of school in order to ensure a successful academic year. 

To ease this transition, students should find a healthy balance between academics and extracurriculars to avoid fatigue early on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that transitioning to a “new normal” during a time of masks creates extra stress as students are forced to re-adapt to new routines. This added stress and academic fatigue can present as constant feelings of exhaustion and a lack of motivation to begin assignments. Setting boundaries, like limiting the number of clubs one partakes in, can ensure students are being reasonable with their time and creating realistic goals to stay motivated. 

When an individual is feeling fatigued, it is crucial they take the necessary measures to rest and alleviate said pressures. Southern New Hampshire University encourages students to take a step back and identify contributing factors to their fatigue in order to make necessary changes. These changes can include simply taking a break, as relaxation and pursuing hobbies can improve performance by elevating one’s mood. In addition, making time for exercise and getting fresh air can help students improve their concentration, as it increases endorphins and oxygen levels in the blood.  

While it may be reasonable to expand one’s resumé for college applications by taking on additional commitments, students should remember to prioritize their personal interests. Adding on to one’s burdens in the midst of academic pressures should be done because one genuinely enjoys the activities, as any other motivation makes the tradeoff for additional fatigue less worthwhile. Intrinsic motivation—the idea that learning is naturally satisfying and that we do activities for our own enjoyment—is often associated with higher academic performance and lower levels of academic burnout according to the American Physiology Society.  

Even with all the precautions students can take to avoid academic fatigue, it is important to understand that fatigue is not the equivalent of failure, nor is it a necessity for success. According to a Washington Post survey, 75 percent of high schoolers describe themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork. Fatigue is a common phenomenon amongst students and should not be viewed as a benchmark for doing well. Psychologist Lynn Bufka comments that most people are resilient, and that despite challenges and struggles, they tend to be okay in the end. 

While feeling academically fatigued is reasonable, it is important to take a moment and appreciate the high school experience—we are finally back in person in a school environment, something we could only dream of a year and a half ago. The transition period back to a “new normal” may be difficult, however, with the right mindset and preparation, students can avoid burning out from academic fatigue and make this their best school year yet.