How to Avoid Teacher Burnout in 5 Steps
Sometimes it rears its ugly head at the end of the school year, oftentimes the middle, and yes, even just a few weeks in. Though we may not always want to admit it, teacher burnout is a real issue and needs to be addressed. This isn't just for the sake of your students, but also yourself.
You spend all day with your students, often going home to grade papers and prep for the next day. Even when you're not in your classroom, you're most likely thinking about your classroom. And though this dedication is inspiring, the lack of break may be causing your own burnout.
We love our teachers, so we want you all to stay healthy. Check out our ideas below on how you can keep yourself grooving and grinding, while avoiding the dreaded teacher burnout.
Let's start with the basics.
Most teachers will experience burnout at some point in their career. Simply put, teacher burnout occurs when you are too mentally exhausted to teach. When arriving at school in the AM causes you to cringe, and you find yourself dreaming of summer break.
Between administrative pressures around testing, lack of resources for your classroom, an incredibly demanding job (and the list goes on), teacher burnout is nothing to be ashamed of. It is often caused by issues that are out of your hands.
However, there are a few ways that teacher burnout can be kept at bay. We’ve talked to a handful of teachers to see what they do to ward off burnout, and if they catch it, how they cure it. Read on to explore these ideas below!
1. Make Time for Yourself
Making time for yourself regularly is much more difficult than it sounds, but as a teacher, you probably already know this. Whether it's getting an adequate amount of sleep or just taking 15 minutes to read your favorite book with a cup of tea, self-care is not always a strong suit of teachers. The issue is, when it comes to preventing teacher burnout, self-care is king! Self-care is planning and taking the time to address your own physical, mental, and emotional needs, and it's easy to see why being a teacher may make this difficult. Always listen to your own body, and learn to recognize when your dedication to the job is taking away from the few precious hours you have to yourself during the day. Below are just a few suggestions to make sure you are taking care of yourself the way you deserve:
- Sleep - The CDC recommends adults aged 18-60 get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. It's easy for teachers to cut their hours back because of grading, lesson plan prep, or just not having enough hours in their day, but without an adequate amount of sleep, you're sure to have less patience for yourself, your job, and your students in the classroom. Quality sleep allows you to be well rested and gives your immune system a chance to do its job, and by making sure you get enough sleep each night, you are making yourself and your well being a priority.
- Do something you love - It's easy to have the hobbies we love and enjoy outside of work pushed to the bottom of our to-do list. The thing is, these are essential when it comes to self-care, and many people don't usually make them a priority. These don't need to take a lot of time, and can be as simple as a 15 minute bath, spending time with friends, going for a jog, or cracking open that new water color paint set you got a year ago. Though it's hard to make yourself a priority, it's vital to enable the release of stress, and to simply enjoy the things you love!
- Breath Deeply - Though meditation isn't for everyone, there are a great deal of studies that show deep breathing can help you relax and prevents stress. This University of Michigan Medicine department article discusses a variety of deep breathing techniques that you can do at home or even in your classroom between class periods.
- Take a day off - Yes, it's hard to take a day off. You may worry if we're using our days off for the right thing, or that you'll have less for a tropical vacation you've been planning. Your health is the number one most important thing, and it's hard to keep that in perspective. If you're feeling stressed, exhausted, and just need a day to reset, IT'S OKAY! Take a mental health day, do nothing and watch a movie or get out into nature for a hike. Whatever you need, the most important thing is your listen to your body and gauge your stress levels. Take time for yourself if you need it.
2. Leave Your Work at Work
We aren't just talking about physically, either.
This is an especially difficult one, and in many cases, it may not always be possible to physically leave your work at work. Time management and planning ahead of time is key for keeping your work at work. Whether you have an open period or 15 minutes when your students are working on their own, maximize your time and minimize distractions. Turn on screen-time apps on your phone to keep your organized and prioritized, and plan ahead of time when you will be grading papers and tests. And if you do have to take your work home with you, set aside time for yourself throughout the evening, even if it's only 15 minutes to reset.
It can be hard to emotionally detach yourself from teaching, even though we are often so emotionally attached to our work. A great technique to practice that can help prevent burnout is to try and emotionally separate your home life from your work life. Try not to think about disruptive students while cooking dinner, difficult administrators while hanging out with friends, or tests coming up when nestling into bed at night. Make an effort to view this as a form of meditation-- when those thoughts begin to spring up, gently tell yourself this is not the time to think about or worry about work, and let them pass by like clouds. Although this can be very difficult, it's important to leave your work at work!
3. Have Fun in the Classroom
Nothing quite burns you out like monotony.
Spicing up your lesson plans doesn't just keep your students engaged, but it keeps your days interesting as well! Have fun with yours lessons-- playing games often gets you and your students to smile and laugh while in class! Psychology today reports that smiling actually helps fight off stress by releasing neuropeptides, which allow neurons to communicate. Dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that make you feel good, are released when you smile and laugh, which in turn relaxes your body. Check out their full article here to read more about how smiling affects you and those around you!
Check out a few of our articles below to discover how you can change up your day-to-day in the classroom by incorporating demonstrations and games into your lesson plans!
4. Become a Life Learner!
Often times, burnout begins to set in when we feel like we are stagnant.
Feeling like you are stuck and aren't going anywhere can cause even the best of situations to turn into nothing but despair. These feelings of despair allow negativity to set in, and can be the building blocks for teacher burnout. That's where developing a love for learning, not just teaching, can help! Whether taking night classes, online classes, or reading a book covering a topic you know little about, learning allows you to feel like you are constantly accomplishing and growing. In support of the positivity encouraged by constant learning, an article in Psychologies states, "It's actually a core need for psychological wellbeing. Learning can help us build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy." While having a schedule can help you stay organized, feeling like you're living the movie Groundhog Day might be causing your burnout. So pick up a new book or join an online class, and become a lifelong learner to help you keep moving forward.
Who knows, this new learning could even spark new ideas for your school or classroom!
5. Find Support
You are not the only person to be experiencing burnout.
I repeat, you are not the only person to be experiencing burnout. Find a confidant, vent, and don't feel bad about it. Sometimes you just need to get a little emotion off your chest, have yourself be heard, and have someone to tell you that you are not being crazy and that it IS okay to feel this way! Chances are, someone else at your school might be feeling this way too. Finding support from a superior, co-worker, friends, or family is a great way to release your emotions and have someone else share in your struggle. Emotional release is a great way to liberate pent up frustrations, and besides being a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, whoever you are discussing those frustrations with may even have a few suggestions for you.
As a side-note, there is an important distinction between venting sometimes and complaining ALL of the time. Consistent complaining can actually strengthen neural pathways in our brains, making it easier for our brains to take the path of complaining more easily in the future. Look at neural pathways as trails in the woods-- the more you travel them, the easier they are to travel in the future. So though venting can be emotionally helpful, if you're complaining to your co-worker before school, after school, and everyday at lunch, you might want to reassess your own behavior-- as your own constant negativity may be contributing to your burnout. Be proactive and look for things to be grateful for, and travel the neural pathways of positivity as much as you can!
These are just a few of our favorite ways to avoid teacher burnout, and there are plenty more out there that can help you feel energized and refreshed! Let us know in the comments below what your suggestions are, we'd love to hear from you.
Published by mcSquares | Editor + Page Design: Katie Botwin