Asking for a Friend: Help! I’m totally burned out and I can’t study

  • This week we discuss taking a break, dating, and making sure your friends feel worthy
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help you
Amalissa Hall |

Latest Articles

Top 10: If you could change one thing in maths, what would it be?

90 per cent of Hong Kong primary students secure place at preferred public schools

5,000 Hong Kong police officers to patrol streets on Tiananmen anniversary

Hong Kong police set to launch ‘HKSOS’ app to find lost hikers

Feeling burned out? It's been a tough year and you're not alone!

Dear Friend,

I am a Form 6 student. The DSEs are coming up and I’m extremely anxious. Honestly, I’m panicking.

I’m try my best to study, but I am literally repulsed by the idea of doing past papers and now I can barely pick up a book.

I know that I shouldn’t get distracted, but it’s so hard for me to get the will to study right now. I have no motivation, even though I know I should work hard to get good marks so I can get into university. How can I change this?

Frustrated in Form 6

Hi Frustrated,

It’s not just you. Many students are going through the same thing and I’m glad you brought it up.

You’ve been under a lot of stress for a long time. Now that stress is culminating in one seemingly make-or-break moment, the DSEs. You’ve been practising for this all of your life. Don’t let it break you.

It may be something known as “burnout”. Acknowledging that there is a problem is a big step towards fixing it. You might need to talk to a counsellor who can suggest ways to relax and help you to put things in perspective.

There are steps you could take to help yourself, but it won’t be an instant fix.

Don’t focus on all the exams that you have to do. Rather break the problem down into bite-sized tasks.

If you manage to do one thing, you will feel like you have accomplished something. So, instead of tacking the whole paper, maybe focus on the section you’re struggling with. One step at a time will take you closer to your goal.

It’s vital to schedule breaks into your study time, and for them to be real breaks. Don’t feel guilty about needing that time away from the books and papers. It’s a biological fact. Breaks are crucial to help your mind rest and absorb information. Stepping away from your work will give you time to unwind, and you can come back to your studies with a different perspective.

Make sure those breaks give you enough time to exercise for a minimum of an hour each day. Bonus if you manage to find some sport that you really enjoy doing, but even a walk and stretch will help.

Doing this, instead of scrolling on your phone will be much more rewarding.

If you are struggling to understand a subject, you can help yourself by teaching it to someone, or something, else. Friends are great if they are up for it, but stuffed toys work too. By teaching, you force your mind to process the information and you will see where you need more clarity and be able to fix that.

Lockdown aside, see if you can change the place where you study. Studying at a cafe or having an online session with your friends. This will act as a break in the continuum of work.

Finally, check your perspective. While this might be the most important thing you’ve faced in your life so far, it is not the most important thing you will ever face. It’s just a step. If you fumble this step, it’s not the end of the world. There are many ways to get to where you want to go in life, the DSEs are but a single path on a map of options.

Best of luck, Friend of a Friend.

Help! My friend has an eating disorder; what can I do?

Hi Friend,

I’ve never dated anyone, but most of my friends have. At first, I didn’t think much about it, but now people are talking more about their relationship status and how many people they’ve dated in the past. Starting university without any dating experience is seen as pathetic.

I feel like I need to begin dating, but I’m put off because I’ve seen a lot of people around me lower their expectations and enter immature relationships just for the sake of dating someone. What should I do?

Never Have I Ever Dated

Hi Never,

I can’t tell you whether you should date or not, but I can say that you should only do what feels comfortable and a number doesn’t define you as a person.

If you don’t want to lower your expectations for the sake of a relationship, then you don’t have to that. If you want to try something new and see what all the fuss is about, there’s no harm in giving it a go.

We date people to find that someone we enjoy spending time with. If there’s no one at school that you’re interested in dating, then university is a great place to meet new people. You really don’t need to be experienced to enter a relationship, because you will learn what your preferences are when you start. Anyone who worries about other peoples’ dating status has too much time on their hands.

If you do want some advice on how to start dating, I can let you know it’s good to establish a friendship first before entering into a romantic relationship.

Much like friendship, it’s important to have open communication, mutual respect for each other, and also know when to walk away.

At the end of the day, you should spend your time with someone you’re happy to be around, and if it’s not working out, you don’t need to stick around to appear a certain way to certain people.

Also, though, don’t expect that when you do decide to date things will be perfect. I can guarantee they won’t be. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll get hurt, you’ll do things you wish you hadn’t done, and you will pass on things you’ll wish you had done. And that’s all okay and party of life.

Hope you find a conclusion, Friend of a Friend

Help! How do I tell my friend I have a crush on them?

Hi Friend,

In my group of friends, some of us are more academically inclined than others, which can make the ones with lower marks feel bad. I want to make sure all my friends feel good about themselves. How do we stop the less academic friends from comparing themselves and feeling like they aren’t good enough?

Inclined to be Inclusive

Hi Inclined,

It’s great that you want to make sure everyone is aware of their self worth, and the best way to stop your less academic friends from comparing themselves to others is to celebrate their achievements beyond academics.

Having top marks is not the only way to measure success - they could be amazing at sports, invested in the arts, passionate about social affairs, have a caring personality, or anything in between.

What’s important is that you and your friends acknowledge those things as successes, and congratulate different achievements as highly as you would with someone who aced a test.

If you know one your friends in particular is self conscious about talking about grades, the simplest thing to do is to not discuss results around them. Make sure to also extend help if they say they need it.

It’s important to support your friends, and having a good network of people to rely on will help them feel confident and secure in their friendships, and also help their sense of self.

Keep uplifting those around you! Friend of a Friend

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to [email protected] with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy