25 Tricks to Stop Teacher Burnout

teacher stress

Thereís a reason why teachers receive a sad, knowing nod from others at a dinner party or when meeting new people. The profession kicks us around and often kicks hardest when weíre down.

We teach for the pleasure of sharing a subject or skill that we love and hope to infuse a passion in someone else. We donít teach for the pounding headaches or the late nights grading. We donít teach because we like low pay and instability.

So, in the light of how teachers are treated, itís only natural to see teachers burnout more quickly than in any other profession. Thatís why we need to take steps to protect ourselves from the inevitable because it can be prevented and controlled.

Follow these steps and keep yourself safe from the overkill, the stress, the demands, the inconsistencies, the long hours, the endless grind, and the disregard for competitive compensation.

1. Mindfulness meditation.

Mindful meditation uses breathing techniques to bring you closer to the present moment. Being in the present moment means being more proactive and controlled in difficult situations. In a recent study, subjects who spent more time practicing this showed increased levels of gray matter according to brain images. See more at National Institute of Health.

2. Smile.

It sounds simple, but for teachers it sometimes feels crazy. How can you smile with so much work, not enough hours to finish your work, and definitely without the pay your worth? You smile because it physically changes your body chemistry and, well, if youíre truly burning out, it will spark something inside you to keep moving forward. According to the†Association for Psychological Science, smiling not only improves your mood but othersí as well.

3. Laughóall the time and wildly.

Laughing empowers you, recharges you, and itís also contagious. Giving yourself a moment to laugh at an unbearable situation helps put things into perspective, but it also helps you stay healthy and, well, happy. Find out more about work and laughter at†Laughter Works, an Australian company that promotes laughter in the workplace.

4. Avoid conflict.

We all know avoiding conflict seems almost laughable when you wear the label teacher, but itís an important skill. Do it as much as possible. Conflict pelts us like a machine gun so avoiding it saves a lot of time and energy on our part. You do this by adhering to that old saying, ďPick your battles.Ē The†Conflict Resolution Network outlines 12 skills to help you avoid conflict.

5. Solve problems quickly and efficiently.

When you canít avoid the inevitable, solve the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. Strike the issue and use your gut to guide you then let it all go. This keeps worry at bay and therefore saves you a lot of wasted energy. Learn strategies at†Mediate.

6. Monitor your feelings.

Be hyper aware of how you feel. The first signs of feeling overwhelmed materialize differently with every person, but remain aware of them and youíll be able to control them by taking a step back from work, even for a few moments, just to observe.†Mind Tools details how to manage and monitor feelings.

7. Plan for grading.

There should be set times to grade. Stick to those times and youíll breathe easier when other work gets thrown your way. To make it even more effective, time yourself when you grade to ensure that you donít spend too many hours on any one assignment.

8. Shift your focus to home.

When we use so much technology, we sometimes lose our sense of boundaries and forget where work should be. Understandably we canít keep work at work all the time. But, keep yourself in check. Time boundaries often make more sense. The boundary could be that for three hours you donít grade, plan, or read emails.

9. Take a day off.

Sometimes, when the beatings youíve taken add up to just too much work, itís time to take a day off. Often, itís just what you need to recharge and keep going. Itís the day thatís not a holiday or a sick day, itís just your day. When you return to work, youíll be able to teach with more power and insight than before.

10. Slow down.

If taking a day off isnít possible, just slow down. Skip the coffee and just take a break. Sit and stare out the window for minutes at a time. Walk slowly to your next meeting. Breathe fresh air. Remember the beauty of taking your time.

11. Throw your lessons out the window.

Relying on routine is one thing. Redundancy is another. If you feel as if teachingís become repetitive and stale, then your students will too. Youíre body and mind will react accordingly so start small and throw out one lesson. See what happens. When it works, do it again.

12. Sink into teaching something new.

Ask to change courses or add a twist to your old way of teaching. Sometimes that feeling of burning out really means youíre burning out of ideas, so map out something new and send yourself on the same path as the student when you feel as if youíre slowing down too much.

13. Sleep.

Frankly, this should be your trick for every other number on this list. Teachers just donít sleep enough. Between worrying over problems with our students or superiors and being overwhelmed with work, sleep takes a backseat. And, yet, it keeps us alert and powerful when we need to solve problems. So set a curfew for yourself. Check out this†Harvard Medical School research on the effects of sleeplessness.

14. Exercise.

Walk, swim, run, do yoga or pilates, but find a way to exercise. It helps you sleep better and it keeps you healthy. Burnout wonít happen if youíre busy taking care of your mind and body. Exercise also releases endorphins that will help you smile in the face of difficulties. Visit the†Mayo Clinic for more about why exercise is so important.

15. Invite a friend to lunch.

You might be saying, ďWhat lunch?Ē Too many teachers go without lunch or even breaks so inviting a friend to lunch quickly remedies that problem. If you know you have an appointment and someone else is coming, it sets you up to meet someone. Besides, talking to friends also recharges you.†PsychCentral demonstrates the importance of seeking refuge in friendship.

16. Take your own advice.

Teachers love to give adviceóespecially zen-like advice thatís supposed to make everything all better when students run into problems. But, we rarely take our own advice. This is where we go wrong. Look at even the most simple expectations you have for your students and think about whether or not you actually use the advice you dish out. Youíll be surprised at how much you give and never receive.

17. Establish routines.

It doesnít matter how old you are. Routines provide a sense of structure and therefore give us a feeling of security. So when everything else may seem out of control, our routines remain in place and you remain sane. Make sure you follow specific routines daily even if itís as small as having a morning cup of coffee.

18. Teach from your heart.

Because the reason we started teaching in the first place was for the love of teaching, then remember to teach from your heart. Being passionate about your work keeps you focused and generates energy for yourself and your students.

19. Move on.

If your environment and classes just arenít working out, then move on. There are lots of teaching jobs out there and this one might not be for you. Rethink your situation. Ask yourself: †Is this worth it? Can I move forward here? If it feels temporary, then look elsewhere. Staying may be the source of your stress.

20. Build success.

When staying means changing your circumstances, focus on success. Setting concrete goals for yourself and with your students in mind sends you in forward motion. Set daily goals or monthly goals and meet them. This will confirm a sense of success and therefore boost your ego, a more-than-necessary antidote to burnout.

21. Create small sanctuaries.

Your sanctuary doesnít have to be the house and it canít be the office. It can be a garden or a walk around a garden. It can be a drive to Starbucks for a Frappuccino. Sit there for at least 10 minutes, listen to the music and people watch. It might even be your bathroom. Create a small spaces just for you in the different places you occupy in life.

22. Find support.

Being right in the middle of burnout because the other tips and tricks just didnít work out might be too much for you. Find support in the form of superiors, co-workers, friends, and family. Sometimes all you need is someone to guide you, to tell you what to do, especially if youíre too engulfed in an emotionally draining situation.

23. Demand respect.

Burning out involves sucking someoneís energy. Thereís something or someone bent on taking your worth from you. Be aware of this and demand respect. Donít just say it either. You must hold your head high no matter what and stand your ground in whatever situation youíre battling. Even if thereís an apology necessary on your part, saying it with dignity ensures that your respect remains intact.

24. Change your perspective.

Give the students the bulk of the work by challenging them to do what a teacher normally does without actually using those words. Put the pressure on them. Thatís actually the way it should work, but too many times we take on their burdens as our own, especially when we truly care about our students.

25. Know your limits and set them.

Pushing yourself to do too much will set you up for failure. You know itís too much when you feel out of synch, when confusion or chaos begins to seep into your daily activities. So, know what you just canít do and donít do it. Donít be the ďyesĒ man. Learn to say, ďNo, Iíd love to help, but I just have too much on my plate right now.Ē

About

A former Publications Specialist at Florida International University where she also received a bachelorís degree in English, Lisa Chesser left the publishing field to pursue a career in education.

In her first three years of teaching Language Arts, she won an Excellence in Teaching Award for helping students achieve 50 percent learning gains. Because sheís also a writer, an editor, and an artist by trade, students often take more interest in their learning environment because she teaches them the value of it in the workplace.

You can find her on Google+.

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2 Comments on “25 Tricks to Stop Teacher Burnout

  1. My mother was a teacher and was pretty stressed by it all a lot. She drank a lot of tea as a stress relief – I think this is always a good bet. Anything – green tea, herbal tea (like mint or ginger), as it all helps to soothe the stress. Certainly a better option than hitting wine in the evening or what have you. Exercise is a good bet, too. Get’s the old adrenaline going.

    A great list – lessons for all of us, really, not just teachers!

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