Don't Get BURNED!!! 3 Ways to Protect Yourself From Teacher BURNOUT
I know, it’s the beginning of the school year. Nothing has fallen off the walls yet, most of the markers still have their lids and some of the kids are even still on their best behavior.
But it won’t be long before the early mornings, late nights and long days have begun to take their toll and you’ll be feeling the burn.
Most of us know what it looks like and feels like to be completely depleted. That cold that keeps coming back, headaches, muscle tension or being distracted or disconnected from work. But there’s a lot of evidence now that shows even when some people continue to seemingly perform well at their jobs they are showing the signs of stress and burnout in other areas of their lives.
I remember it well. I was a newly minted mother of four, my youngest two home with me most days aside from one going to a preschool a few hours per week. My sister, who had called to check in, said something to the effect of, you seem to be yelling alot these days.
Having 4 daughters ranging from infant to teen, working part time from home, stretching very limited funds and wanting to do everything perfectly had probably taken its’ toll. My relationship was feeling the strain and I was definitely isolated from my previous co-workers so was it possible that I was turning into a short tempered mess?
Yep, it was.
During that time, my work wasn’t suffering. My kids were okay, but my health? That was another story. My weight was climbing, my blood pressure was the worst it had ever been and I can’t remember a lot of times when I was deeply happy or filled with joy.
When burnout shows up at the job, that’s one thing. When it shows up at home, that’s another.
School districts everywhere are offering incentives for staff members who get their cholesterol checked or sign up for a gym membership, which is great, but the emotional load many staff feel which trickles down in many ways really needs more attention.
Curious about your stress levels? You can do a quick self assessment here. But if you think you need one, you probably do so let’s just keep going with what to do right now.
First, stop trying to push through. So many of us have taken this whole grit thing way too far. Persistence is a good character trait, but that’s not the same as pushing yourself past the breaking point. There are times when you have to acknowledge that you need rest or help and it’s not only okay to take what you need, it’s crucial that you do. Self-sacrifice is not a long term solution and it not a life strategy that leads to good results. If you are faced with new chances to volunteer, or take on tasks outside of your regular duties, consider the long term hours, mental energy and even financial commitments. Evaluate what you’ve already committed yourself to and, if necessary, release yourself from what you can’t reasonably handle.
Next, do something that fills your tank. It’s amazing how quickly you can begin to feel better when you stop walking in the wrong direction and take one step towards a better day. For me, it can come from a new book, a lunch with a friend or even, during tough times, locking myself in the bathroom with music and a hot shower. We often discount self-care as an extravagance, but it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s actually your responsibility.
Lastly, reach out for support. I coach teachers all the time to put themselves back on their own to-do list and I get great pleasure when I can cheer them on for making steps to put their mental wellness back front and center. You’ve probably also got access to peers in your building or district who can at the very least offer a listening ear for stressors, if not some really good ideas for adjustments you might be able to make to get some of those stressors off your plate.