Adam’s Apple #5: dealing with burnout


Adam Jutt ’25 is a math and economics major from Cincinnati, Ohio who writes articles sometimes. Contact him at

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

They say that the most beautiful poetry is always born out of the most profound pain, and I now have proof that they are right. You see, over the past few minutes I have gone through an experience more agonizing than any I have known before. I checked in with Karis Koutsourelakis, Flat Hat Social Media Editor, to see whether any questions had been submitted for Adam’s Apple this week. I expected the answer to be either “no” or “yeah we got one this time,” as it had been for each of the past three occasions. However, it turns out that we had received five

Hallelujah, right? An answer to my prayers, right? The lamentations and castigations I shot at you, my readership, in the introduction of my last article worked, right? I sure thought so. That is, until I read the questions. Were they bad? Inappropriate? A joke? I wish. No, you see, they were five of the most wonderful, eloquent, challenging questions I have ever been asked. Once again: praise the Lord, right? Not at all. For, you see, tradition dictates I choose only one of them. It’s like having five beautiful children but being forced to fling four of them directly into the ocean. Maybe even worse than that. What cruel irony it is that a few weeks ago I wanted nothing more than what I now have before me, only to now be willing to give everything I have to go back to the way things were!

What flower could bloom in such a dark room? What poetry could arise from such misery? Well, in this case, literal poetry. You see, I wrote a brief poem that captures the emotional state of my soul at this exact moment, the perpetual and insatiable longing that rules my reality. And if my poem brings others a speck of comfort in their darkest day, as it has brought me a speck of comfort in mine, it all will have been worth it. Here it is:

The water is always bluer on the other side.  

Don’t be afraid to read that over and over again until the depth, insight and novelty of the message has washed over and consumed you. I toyed around with a slightly different variation, the sun is always oranger on the other side, but ultimately went in the direction I did, both because the sun is more yellow than orange and because frankly I’m not convinced “oranger” is a word. Which is weird, because it should be a word. Why are bluer, redder, yellower and greener definitely all words, while oranger is not? Something to chew on. (Maybe oranger is a word, but if so, Microsoft Word and its red squiggly underline definitely did not get the memo.)

Another silver lining is that choosing which question to answer was made slightly easier by the fact that two of the five questions concerned the same topic. I figure that by picking that topic, my heart is only broken three times over instead of four. The topic is, very topically, finals. 

The two questions were slightly different, and the one I will be answering here asked specifically about dealing with burnout in the days before and surrounding finals. There is a lot of good information on the internet about the signs, causes and potential cures to burnout, so I figure that — instead of reheating and regurgitating those many banal adages — I should instead share a strategy that is a bit more … risky. I call it hyper-burnout.

Basically, the idea is that you force yourself to enter a state of burnout so severe (hyper-burnout) that your mind begins to, and forgive the technical jargon here, melt. The key is that the part of the brain which is able to learn, retain and communicate factual information, i.e. the part of the brain critical to studying and test-taking, has a higher melting temperature than the part of the brain which conceptualizes states like stress, lack of motivation and burnout. So, if you allow your brain to melt via hyper-burnout, it will fry the burnout region earlier than the study region. There is no need to worry it will go too far and fry the important parts, as once the burnout region is killed you also kill the hyper-burnout and stop the melting process. Analogically, it’s like using fire (hyper-burnout) to eat all the oxygen (burnout region), in the process killing the fire (hyper-burnout) before we kill the people (your ability to take tests).

Obviously, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Based on my research, the easiest way to enter hyper-burnout reliably and (relatively) safely is with the following eight-step plan:

  1. Stitch together a blanket-sized quilt made of pages from various textbooks for classes you have taken or are taking. (Note: If you pirate all your textbooks online, as most people do, you will unfortunately have to stitch together laptop computers.)
  2. For each class you are in, find a YouTube video of someone explaining a difficult concept from that class. Open each in a different tab. For each video, randomly scale the speed of the video somewhere between 0.25x and 4x original speed (perhaps with the assistance of a random number generator). 
  3. Go to bed at 4:30 in the morning, wearing the textbook blanket and with all of the speed-adjusted YouTube videos playing on top of one another in the background. Set an alarm for n minutes later, where n is the lowest grade you’ve ever gotten on a test in your life. When the alarm goes off, if you wake up in a scary, shadowy realm that vaguely resembles the Sunken Garden you know you’re doing something right.
  4. Once there, a dark green goblin-like creature named Prodazark will approach you and ask if you want to join a study group he’s starting. Though it should go without saying, tell him no. Ask him instead to lead you to the Lake of Comparison.
  5. When you reach the Lake of Comparison (which should look vaguely like the Crim Dell), look at your reflection and you should see the face of someone at the College who has a higher GPA, received more awards and just seems more in control of their life than you. Pull up and read their LinkedIn page out loud, then take a drink from the lake. If you do this correctly, the lake should split open and a staircase going downward will be revealed in the lake.
  6. Walk down the staircase and you should eventually find yourself in a dark, mist-filled version of the third floor of Swem library, packed to the brim with strange creatures. Find an eight-eyed, seven-winged being named Salaphthimus, and sit next to it. There should be two things in front of you: a notebook of barely decipherable notes from what appears to be a geology class, and a timer counting down from 10 minutes. Read and learn everything in the notebook before the timer reaches zero, without getting distracted by the YouTube video Salaphthimus is watching.
  7. If you succeed, then when the timer hits zero you will fall through the floor via a sort of wormhole, and falling alongside you will be three small, adorable creatures which are the embodiment of the concepts success, appreciation and contentment. Reach for them. You will find them just out of grasp. Reach harder. Stretch out as far as your tissues will allow for the creatures. Keep. Reaching. If you reach hard enough, your body will begin to heat up until eventually it will feel as though you are on fire. This is hyper-burnout. Eventually, your freefall will be interrupted by the ground. When this happens, you’ll wake up.
  8. If you managed to reach hyper-burnout before hitting the ground, then when you wake up you will find yourself free of all stresses, fatigues and anxieties. Your mind will be clear and eager to learn, and you will be ready to soak up course material like a sponge. You will feel motivated like never before. Now go take those finals by the horns! If you didn’t manage to reach hyper-burnout, then — unfortunately — you will probably be excruciatingly miserable and unmotivated for the next couple weeks. Oops, should have reached harder!
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Adam Jutt ’25 is an economics and math double major…potentially. Aside from serving as an opinions editor with The Flat Hat, he is a member of the club tennis team and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and enjoys playing basically every sport under the sun (except bowling– he doesn’t care for bowling one bit and he doesn’t care who knows). In his free time, Adam can normally be found watching SNL, John Mulaney, or Parks and Rec clips on YouTube.


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