June 5, 2019


Hey Nikki,

I’m in the advanced study programs at school and I’m a regional champion at gymnastics. I work hard and my schedule is totally jammed up. I don’t even return home until 9:30 most nights, but now my mother has demanded an hour of math each day, adding on to my regular homework and tutor lessons. If I don’t do it, she takes away my phone for a month. What did I do wrong? I’m desperate and depressed because of how tired I am. Please help me!!!

Bothered By Burdensome, Busy Schedule

Hi Bothered By Burdensome, Busy Schedule,

OMG, it sounds like you have A LOT going on! Way more than you can possibly do, and that’s not even giving yourself time for fun and relaxation. And how about friends?! I’m tired just thinking about your schedule! 🙁

I don’t think you did anything wrong—it actually sounds like you’ve been trying to do everything right. Too right, maybe?

I’m no elite gymnast, but I know that sports like that require a TON of commitment and energy. You’ve obviously been giving it your all if you’re a champion! It was probably easier when you were younger and schoolwork wasn’t so demanding.
It looks like you need the following three things for both school and gymnastics to be successful:

  • Time spent doing the thing: practicing/training/study/tutoring
  • Nutrition to fuel you
  • Sleep (and down time when you’re awake, too).

It sounds like you’re SLAYING the first one! Hopefully you’re also eating well, because that gives you the energy you need. But the third one is really important too! Our bodies—and brains!—need time when they’re NOT working in order to recover. Muscles need time to heal and rebuild, and the brain needs time to make connections when it’s not working.

If you’re getting home late and still have hours of work to do before you can go to bed (before getting up early again, I’m assuming), you’re not getting enough rest. And that means your performance in school AND gymnastics is going to suffer. (And again…you’re probably not spending any time on friends or family, and those things are important for your mental health, too!)

So, something definitely has to change!

I think you need to sit down with your parents and talk to them about the pressure you’re feeling. You need to think about what’s really important to you. What really makes you happy? Does gymnastics still bring you joy, or is it all stress? And what’s important for your future? Is it all or nothing – can you keep doing gymnastics without doing the same amount of hours?

I’m guessing your mom is worried that your grades will suffer because of your long gymnastics hours and that’s why she’s requiring you to do the extra math every day. But if you’re too tired to think when you sit down to do that math, it can’t be very helpful! Try to talk to her about this and find a solution. If she insists on it, maybe that hour of math could be done in the morning after breakfast, when you’ve at least had some sleep and brain fuel.

I doubt your parents want you to sacrifice your schoolwork for gymnastics. But if you don’t want to cut down on your gymnastics time, maybe it’s possible to take on less responsibility at school without sacrificing your grades. Like if you’re trying to do any extra clubs or anything, it’s probably time to let those go.

And see if your school might work with you. Kids involved in really high level sports or performance activities can sometimes get school credit for them. Like your school might give you PE credit for your gymnastics time, and then during the period you would have PE class, you could have a study hour in the library. Or maybe you could get a study period instead of time that might be spent on a non-academic elective class.

But, something has to change! If you keep going like this, you’re going to burn out. You’re already feeling depressed. It’s great that you can identify that. Now work with your family, teachers and coaches to figure out how to turn things around so that you’re happy, healthy and doing your best!

Is your schedule too jam-packed? How do you get everything done? Tell us in the comments!