How to Avoid Teacher Burnout
These past two years have been really hard on teachers, leading a lot of us to the verge of burnout.
We all know that we can’t keep giving our students what they need if we aren’t feeling supported ourselves. As therapist Anne Brunette says, "You cannot care for others if you do not take care of yourself. And yet, when we’re feeling stressed it’s hard to know how to make things better.
Some small changes that can make a big difference
Many of these tips, as you’ll see, are about taking time for yourself. That can seem impossible when there is so much to do, but it’s all about finding possible, helpful things you can do to keep yourself moving in the right direction. Safeguarding our most important activities…
- Leave the work at work. Consider staying half an hour later in your classroom (or coming in earlier) if you have to, so that you can fully relax at home. Unless you have kids of your own. ;-)
- Organize and plan. Look for ways to do things now that will reduce your future workload. As Tim Ferriss says, you can ask yourself, "What would this look like if it were easy?" and then try to take a step in that direction. Again, this can seem hard to find the time for, but it's a bit like making your bed or cleaning your bathroom --you'll be glad you did.
- Take healthy breaks. Email does need to get checked, but take some breaks where you are aiming to rejuvenate yourself--with a very healthy snack, with water, with a 2 minute meditation or a chat with your best friend, down the hall. Sometimes it feels indulgent to even take a proper lunch break. But this can be a good time to “stack” many good things at once --social time, healthy food, get your mind off work.
- Get more sleep. In his great book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker explains that those with tendencies toward being anxious are particularly vulnerable to having difficulty sleeping and that can lead to a vicious cycle because sleep helps emotional resilience. (More on that in this Youtube Video). Calm is also a great app for falling asleep.
- Talk it out. If you’re feeling stress, don’t keep it to yourself. Psychologists at UCLA found that putting feelings into words reduces feelings like distress.
- Mindfulness. Build a mindfulness habit. Face a corner, set a two-minute timer and just be fully present (i.e. following your breathing or noticing body sensations) for this two minutes. Head Space is a great app for that.
- Let your hair down. Don’t skip social times. Social support, connecting with best friends can make the week more manageable.
- Be grateful. On your own, or with your family, try listing 10 Good Things that you can be grateful for. This forces us to notice the good things and that noticing shifts our attention and gives us energy.
Or make a big change
- Ask for what you need. Meet with your Department Head or Principal. Let them know what you’re going through and what you need. It’s good to keep them in the loop if you feel like you might need to go on stress leave in the near future or if their expectations are getting impossible to meet. Changes can be made. Projects can be shelved until next year. Let them know what would make success more possible for you and your colleagues. Try to have this first chat before you’re right at your breaking point. And, if you’re not sure how to approach it, ask a friend (or me) for some help preparing what you’re going to say and how.
- Get a better offer. At some point it might be time to reconsider other jobs. Sometimes the stress is because you’re in a bad situation, that isn’t going to change, or the job role is just not one where you can thrive and do great things. If you feel up to it, you could start to look for a job that’s a better match for you. And I can definitely help with that, if you’d like.