Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I feel like I’m being overwhelmed with demands. I’m taking music lessons and competing in sports and trying to be Mia Maid president and get straight A’s and be the perfect Mormon girl. Sometimes I feel like I just want to run away from it all. Is it possible to be burned out at 15? What shall I do?

New Era Answer:

“Help! Stop the world—” goes the old saying “—I want to get off!” And many conscientious people like you would love to do just that sometimes, especially when they feel snowed under by an avalanche of responsibilities and expectations. Your feelings are perfectly natural. It sounds like it may be time, however, for you to take a second look at all the things you’re doing—especially if you often feel worried or frustrated or pressured or just plain exhausted. It is possible to burn out at age 15.

Here’s an activity designed to help you combat that discouraging feeling of being overwhelmed. Take just a moment to find a pen and several pieces of paper. Go to a place where you can think, really think, without being interrupted—in your room, at the library, under a favorite tree in the backyard. Select any place that’s good for you! Now do the following things.

1. List everything you are doing. Everything! Put it all down on paper—your responsibilities at home, at school, after school, at church. (You’ll probably be amazed at the length of your list!)

2. Ask yourself why you are doing these things. Go through your list item by item. Ask yourself why you are doing something—even if you think the answer is obvious. Sometimes you’ll discover that you are doing one thing for a variety of reasons—both good and bad. For instance, you may discover that you’re taking a particularly demanding class at school because you want to learn (good reason) and because all your friends are taking it (questionable reason). Jot these reasons down next to the appropriate items on your list.

3. Evaluate your reasons for doing the things you are doing. We do things for all kinds of reasons.

What are yours? Do you do things because—

You enjoy them?

You think you ought to enjoy them?

Your parents want you to?

Your friends want you to?

You want to please someone (a parent, a teacher, a boyfriend or girlfriend)?

You want to learn new things?

You want people to like you?

You can’t say no?

You think Heavenly Father wants you to?

You don’t want to miss out on anything?

You don’t want to be different?

You don’t want to make people mad at you?

You have a lot of interests?

You took on certain responsibilities without realizing how time-consuming they were?

You can’t decide what you really want to do most, so you just do everything?

You want to be perfect?

Decide what you think are good and bad reasons for doing things. You may decide that doing something because you really enjoy it is a good reason, for example, while doing something just because you can’t say no to a friend may be a bad reason.

4. Make Decisions. You have several options. You can change your life. Or you can change your attitude about your life.

Changing Your Life. Change can be difficult. It takes courage and desire. Not only that, but sometimes you receive very little encouragement from the people in your life to change. They may even be a little angry with you—especially if the change you make touches them in some way. If you are taking ballet lessons, for example, because your best girlfriend wants you to take them with her, she may be angry with you for a while when you tell her you want to quit.

But sometimes change is necessary. In your case, you may need to eliminate some things from your hectic schedule—even if you are doing everything for all the right reasons! It’s a difficult lesson to learn, but none of us can have it all—no matter how talented and committed we may be. American figure skater Debi Thomas, for instance, found that she could not attend medical school and train for the Olympics at the same time. She finally decided to concentrate on her skating and return to medical school at a later date. You may need to make a similar decision. Determine for yourself what things matter the most to you and devote yourself to those.

Changing Your Attitude. If you are unable or unwilling to change what you’re doing, perhaps you can change your attitude about them. While it’s true that the Lord has said, “Be ye therefore perfect,” he didn’t say, “Be ye therefore perfect right this very minute.” If you won’t give up an activity, consider changing your attitude about how well or how often you do the activity. Accept a less-than-perfect performance from yourself on some of the things that aren’t as important to you. You can’t do everything and do it well. It’s just impossible.

Some people find settling for second best in some things an unacceptable alternative. Others, however, see it as a realistic approach to managing their busy lives. One athletic Mia Maid who was too busy to play tennis on a daily basis still managed to play tennis with her brother every other Saturday morning. Although she was a less-than-perfect player, she enjoyed the game and the time she spent with her brother.

5. Talk to the people who love you. Consider showing your lists and sharing your feelings with some of the people who really care about your welfare. Perhaps they can give you the guidance you need. You may open their eyes as well. Sometimes parents and teachers place heavy burdens on the shoulders of young people without even realizing it.

Remember always that your Heavenly Father loves you very much and that he wants you to make decisions that are good for you. Good luck!

Youth Answers:

I know exactly what you are going through. I am now 17 and have been there myself. Take one day at a time and do what that day requires. If one day seems too much to handle, then take the next hour or next five minutes if you have to. Tackle one task at a time. Don’t try to take on the whole world in one day.

Staci Neilson, 17 Salt Lake City, Utah

Every person, whether a parent, a teenager, an adult, gets overwhelmed with demands, but one good thing about demands is that you know you are needed. Demands aren’t always bad things. If you come through you can have great qualities—dependability, reliability, etc. It pays off.

Don’t feel as though you have to carry through on every demand. Try to do each job to the best of your ability. Take time out no matter how busy you are, even if it’s just ten minutes to rest.

Pam Beheshti, 16 Bountiful, Utah

You’ve got to learn to say no! Be nice about it, but just say no. And set some time aside every day that is just for you no matter what else is going on.

Larson Alder, 17 Bountiful, Utah

Sure you can be burned out, or at least overstressed. Save some time to relax and do something you like to do. Actually, you probably like doing the things that cause you stress. Look at them as things you want to do rather than things you have to do. Then they will be unstressors instead of stressors. And, if you’re too busy, say no to something.

Dave Oliver, 17 Grantsville, Utah

Think how unhappy you would be if you weren’t busy. It’s much more fun to be busy than bored. If you think your parents expect too much of you, talk to them and tell them how you feel. They will usually understand.

Dan Hibbert, 15 Bountiful, Utah

You can only do so much. Do your best at what you commit to, and only commit to what you can handle. God doesn’t expect more than you are capable of delivering. If you are burned out (and that is possible), you need to invigorate your mind with something you enjoy. Relax—allow yourself some grace time. Learn to enjoy life.

Andrea Barnes, 15 Bountiful, Utah

Instead of thinking of the demands as a whole bunch of things you have to get done by a certain time, think of them as separate things to be done one at a time.

Scott Noyce, 17 Grantsville, Utah

It is possible to be burned out at 15! I deal with the same problem every day. The first step to retaining sanity is to stay organized and not procrastinate. It also helps to reserve at least a half hour before bed to relax, study scriptures, and do what makes you happy. Concentrate on doing your best and don’t worry so much about what everyone else wants you to do or be. Always do what the Lord would want you to do.

Laurie Clayton, 17 Bountiful, Utah

Live your life day by day. Living weeks at a time, you get stressed out. When one day is over look only to the next day. Do the best you can, but don’t get too worried over little things.

Chantelle White, 16 Bountiful, Utah

Take some time for yourself and don’t think about your problems. Take a long, hot bath. Do some relaxation exercises. Pray for help to relax a little.

Gemmie Cole, 15 Grantsville, Utah

I often feel that I have too many demands placed on me also. My piano practicing falls behind and my schoolwork doesn’t get done because I feel overwhelmed. The Church is demanding, as are my friends and parents.

I have now realized I must set my priorities. I know that I can only do the best I can and that I cannot do everything all of the time.

Rosemary Lloyd, 17 Salt Lake City, Utah

Yes, it is possible to be burned out at 15, but it’s also possible to be regenerated.

I’ve been in your situation before. Give it time. Also, talk to God. Always remember that he is there and willing to listen.

About being the “perfect Mormon girl”: There isn’t a “perfect Mormon girl.” Everyone has room for improvement. Just remember you’re a daughter of God. I hope you get some answers. God bless you!

Shelly Taylor, 16 Salt Lake City, Utah

[photo] Photography by Jed Clark