Curing back to school fatigue

By: Jonathan Kho '23

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With students juggling homework, extracurricular activities, and personal issues, back to school fatigue is very common throughout all grade levels. 


So what is back to school fatigue? This term is used to describe when students feel a quick burnout after coming back to school where they may feel exhausted, tired, and unmotivated to do assignments. According to the Harvard Business Review, some causes of back to school fatigue include workload, perceived lack of control, reward, community, fairness, and values mismatch. One of the most significant causes of back to school fatigue is workload.


Recently I sent out a poll to the Upper School community asking about their classes and lifestyle. Of the 167 students who responded, 55.8% have 7 classes in their schedule, 29.3% of whom usually take 2 hours to do their homework with 25.3% of students feeling somewhat productive each day. This information is important to the idea of back to school fatigue because an excessive amount of workload can cause students to not take breaks and stay up late, resulting in them getting lower than the recommended amount of sleep, which is 8-10 hours everyday. So, 56.7%  of our students barely reach the recommended amount of sleep and get around 7-8 hours of sleep while 39% of these students only get 4-6 hours of sleep. As a result, 40.2% of the 167 students say they feel very tired, which could possibly reflect on these students’ time management skills or the amount of schoolwork being assigned each night. 


Additionally, I interviewed four students, Hannah Floyd ‘25, Sully Naef ‘24, Bailey Edwards ‘23, and Will Bremner ‘22, to discuss how they dealt with their own lifestyle activities and possible back to school fatigue. Some of the responses from these students aligned with the results from the poll. One example is that many of these students get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night and these students usually work on homework for about 1-3 hours each night. However, other responses differed from the results from the poll and even between upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. One example involves how extracurriculars affected these students’ lifestyle. 


Junior Bailey Edwards, who does volleyball and helps with Stage One, says her extracurricular schedule “definitely affects my lifestyle and fatigue. Working as closely as I do in both activities puts a lot of stress on me to get things done.” 


However, sophomore Sully Naef, who is part of many clubs such as SCORE and the track team says, “Not too much, I bet it will affect it a little bit when it starts picking up in the school year, but I don’t expect it to have that great of an impact.” 


In addition, upperclassmen also seem to struggle more with feeling control over all of these activities. “I feel like I'm kind of getting really lucky. And like, luck, like, lucky that I'm not forgetting things, lucky that I'm kind of getting assignments done on time and remembering them in time,” said senior Will Bremner, who is part of activities and clubs such as SCA and the cross country team. 


Freshman Hannah Floyd, who is also part of the cross country team and a club track team, says, “I chose to have this lifestyle, I knew what I was getting myself into. And I accepted it because I know it will be worth it in the long run.” 


These results about sleep, homework, and extracurricular activities are important to understanding back to school fatigue because they all play a key role in how we act or feel in our everyday lives. For example, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think, remember and process information.” This is an issue because this could cause students to not understand what they are learning in class. In addition to this, students who play a sport or have extracurricular activities would have to spend time working on homework during later hours of the day. While the majority of students say it takes them 2 hours to finish their homework, they could be starting their assignments late at night, which results in them losing valuable hours of sleep; this lack of sleep and time can, additionally, cause students to feel they are losing control over their lives and activities, which only contributes to back to school fatigue. 


 So how can students and possibly teachers solve this issue of back to school fatigue? Harvard Business Review says, “ To address the stress of your workload, assess how well you’re doing in these key areas: planning your workload, prioritizing your work, delegating tasks, saying no, and letting go of perfectionism. If you haven’t been doing one or more of these things, try to make progress in these time management skill areas and then see how you feel.” 


In addition to this advice, a system called the Pomodoro technique, a strategy where students would work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, also helps students to feel more productive and better manage their time. This technique shows students that taking a break between working on assignments actually helps improve your productivity. According to a website called Darius Fourox, “When you take a break, you force yourself to take a few seconds to reevaluate. Sometimes you find that you have to adjust your work to increase the quality. In contrast, when you work on a task, without a break, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the work.” This will help students to learn more material and process new material. 


While this technique proves to be helpful, students with tight schedules may have to find other strategies to avoid back to school fatigue. One strategy is changing your mindset, the idea of needing to get every assignment done and formulate the perfect answer for different questions can cause students to take a longer time to work on certain assignments than others. This is important because it causes students to lose even more sleep and to continue being forgetful and drowsy throughout the day. According to Franklin University, the reason you should let go of this mindset is because, “Sometimes you can’t do it all. Remember, work is infinite but time is finite. There’s always more to do. And there are only 24 hours in a day.” 


If none of these strategies help ease your back to school fatigue, talk to your teachers about your workload. Teachers usually understand the pressure of school and the strain extracurricular activities have on students. The worst teachers can do is to simply say they are still assigning you the same amount of homework. Mr. Amani, who teaches world history and other history classes, says, “We're not just one thing, we are multiple things, we have multiple roles to fulfill in our lives. So you know all of that it definitely is not easy to balance life right?...So for us, I think we just have to try to think as positively as we can, you know, get plenty of rest, have a good kind of work life balance if you want to see it that way.”