Second- Semester Burnout: Causes and Cures


Caitlyn Schlaman/Bear Witness

Renee Owens, News Editor

This time of the school year can be challenging for many students. After a full semester of school and summer four months away, students can start to feel discouraged.

“At this point of second semester, it gets to a point where it feels like things kind of never end,” said senior Jamie Walls, who has full schedule that includes Leadership and 3 AP classes.

The second semester brings unique challenges, including AP classes and increasingly difficult coursework as classes move into harder lessons. The end of the first six-week grading period this week also means that there are more tests as many classes end units in time for Presidents’ Week.

“You’ve constantly got new things to do,” she said. “Once you finish something and it gets quite frustrating when it’s never ending.”

Because of these difficulties, students often experience a lack of motivation in the second semester. With two more grading periods left, however, it is still important to maintain focus and end the school year successfully. Here are four ways to keep up your motivation according to psychology.

Remember your why: As the What’s Your Why campaign at Branham this year indicates, it’s important to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. “Write down your goals and revisit why you’re doing what you do, where you want to be at the end of the school year, like grade-wise etc,” said psychology teacher Jennifer Ozdinski. “Writing things down I think is huge.” A 2015 study found that people who write their goals down were 33 percent more successful at achieving them than those who simply thought about their goals. In addition, studies have shown that making goals public or even setting goals as a group is more effective in helping individuals reach that goal.

Give rewards for reaching goals: Behavioral psychology indicates that rewards may help people learn to enjoy activities by associating the activity with a reward. Many people procrastinate because procrastination is immediately rewarding, while the benefits of reaching goals often come much later; small immediate rewards may help counter this discrepancy. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that “Increasing the reward value of behavioral goals can facilitate cognitive processes required for goal achievement.” Basically, associating goal-setting with rewards can change the brain in a way that makes one more likely to continue that behavior. Experts suggest that you give yourself rewards for carrying out goals, such as allowing a few minutes of time on social media after focusing for half an hour.

Make time for yourself: “Make sure you still leave in things that you enjoy into your stressful life sometimes to de-stress,” Ozdinski says. The Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal links stress and performance. It indicates that low levels of stress aren’t motivating, but above a certain level, stress will hurt performance.  After a semester of school, the stress can be overwhelming. Sports Medicine points out that activities such as exercise can effectively reduce stress levels along with other health benefits such as improved quality of sleep. Taking time to relax can help bring stress levels down to healthier levels.

Accept that enough is enough: Perfectionism procrastination describes the phenomenon in which an individual’s expectations are above what is likely to be possible, causing people to feel that their work is inadequate. Studies have linked a fear of failure and social disapproval with procrastination and even depression. When an individual has high standards for themselves and others, they may put off working on goals to avoid disappointment. By accepting that your work isn’t going to be perfect, you may avoid this phenomenon and be able to finish tasks.