As summer heats up, perhaps you’re feeling some inner chill–finding the balance between work and relaxation that eludes you most of the school year. I hope so! But I know that even if you find nourishment in summer, it can be hard to maintain through the stresses of the school year. In fact, many teachers are struggling with burnout or demoralization (we dig into those concepts here). And sadly, if these daily struggles aren’t addressed, the slow road to burnout leads many excellent teachers right out of the classroom.
But burnout doesn’t have to show teachers, or others, the door.
Instead, it can inspire a new path to work balance and emotional well-being. I’m not here to offer a magic formula for avoiding struggle in your career–I struggle at times, too. We can’t avoid every obstacle at work or at home, but we can embrace strategies that help us face those obstacles with ready minds.
And balancing the stresses of the classroom with intentional work on our minds and bodies, with nourishing habits and smart strategies, can free us from the clutches of burnout.
Below are some ideas (not quick fixes) for responding to burnout.
Choose a few that resonate with you and see if they lighten your day.
- Spend time outside– walking around the block or simply sitting in the sunshine.
- Do something creative. Do you like to paint, draw, sew, bake cakes? Carve out some time on evenings and weekends for creative outlets.
- Get creative with your students. Are they splashing your room with colorful art? Join them and let your inner artist run wild.
- Read fiction and relax into it. Whether it’s highbrow literature, a cozy mystery, or even a child’s story, unwind with a good book.
- Keep a gratitude journal. What things are you grateful for at work? At home? Try to jot down at least a few things each week.
- Voice your concerns. Respectfully let those around you know when they’re putting too much on your plate.
- Delegate. Is there anything on your to-do list that you can task to someone else? Help with even a few things on your list can make responsibilities seem less overwhelming.
- Say No. When someone asks you to do one more thing, and your plate is full, say no. Or push something else off the plate before saying yes.
- Grow something. Sure you’re growing children’s minds all day, but grow something green–from a windowsill herb garden to rows of vegetables in the backyard. Add some plants to your classroom so that your students can benefit from the mood boost too.
- Play music. Music to support focus in the morning, classical music at points during the workday, nature sounds to unwind come night. Match your soundscapes to your mood.
- Let loose and play. Dance to that music, race your kids down the block, let out your competitive streak on family game night, laugh at silly jokes.
- Collaborate. Learn in community (you’ve found one here!). Identify both mentors and peers who can support you in different ways. Talk learning with them, but schedule times for fun activities with your group too.
- Try something new. Is there an activity that both scares you and excites you? Sounds like an ideal challenge to tackle. Kiteboarding, rock climbing, portrait painting. What new most intrigues you?
- Organize. It takes work and effort but saves you time and frustration in the long run. See “delegate” above if organizing isn’t your strength–there are professional organizers eager to help you with these tasks. It’s ok if you just throw your mess to them.
- Ask for help. New teachers may struggle with this (see this Phases of First Year Teaching graph), but there’s no shame in acknowledging our developmental areas and growing from connection with others. Ask, listen, learn, and then share your knowledge with others.
While you’re working through these strategies, consider how you’re framing how you feel. Burnout isn’t weakness, incompatibility with the field, or even a simple response to stress: burnout is what happens when we are exposed to more stress than we are given resources to cope with. A portion of these needed resources are self-care (such as the 15 strategies above), but it’s more about professional resources: good supervision, time and space to ethically and confidentially process with colleagues, and time off to recharge.
If you would like support to move from burnout to a more positive mental and emotional space . . .
. . . the Paratus community has your back. Join us for online group coaching starting this fall (in a space where you can be, learn, and do with other educators and coaches), contact me to discuss individual support (reflective consultation), or check out some of our free resources to get started.
Here’s to self-care, and professional support too. I’m so glad you’re here!