Every job can get exhausting, but teachers have added pressures. Lesson plans, testing requirements, shifting state standards and calls from parents: teacher burn-out is a very real thing. Plus, students can be negatively affected by burn-out, which adds more pressure. Not many other jobs hold that same risk. These self-monitoring and self-care tips can help teachers stay happier, healthier and more alert.
Monitor Your Feelings
It can be easy to bury ourselves in work without even realizing it. Get to know yourself and understand how your behavior relates to your stress levels. Everyone reacts to being overwhelmed in different ways. Once you understand your own reactions, you can find the right methods to combat your stress. Meditation, stretching and classical music are all good ways to help give yourself a quick break — and there’s even an app for that. That’ll make it seem more manageable to move forward.
There are so many things on your metaphorical plate as a teacher. It’s important to fill your actual plates with healthy food. Though it may seem impossible, you’ll feel better if you get enough sleep, eat balanced meals and exercise. As a teacher, you are relatively active throughout the day compared to a typical office job. However, taking long walks or doing small workouts keeps your body healthy. A fit body can help keep your mind fresh. It’ll also help you feel less exhausted by the end of the day.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so. Teachers take on a huge emotional role in their students’ lives. As important as it is for you to be available to your students, you need to make time for yourself, too. Find an outlet, like journaling or talking to a spouse or close friend. You need to have a method to unload that emotional toll or you might find it difficult to take on anyone else’s problems. Teachers spend their days taking care of others. Taking care of yourself is an essential way to avoid teacher burn-out.
Use Your Off Days
Of course, if you are physically ill, you need to take time off work. You can also use your off days if you are feeling overwhelmed. Do not be afraid to take off if you need to catch up on grading or lesson plans. It is much better to take a day off to get prepared than to keep struggling to keep up and feel even more stressed. Monitoring your feelings can help you know if it’s time for a day off. If you start to experience mood swings, shortened attention span or irritation, give yourself a long weekend. You’ll be back to normal faster if you give yourself breaks when needed.
Talk to Colleagues
Use your resources. Your fellow teachers experience the same feelings that you do. Commiserate with each other, but also keep each other accountable throughout the year. Talk to a coworker who teaches the same subject as you to discuss lesson plans and goals. You can learn so much from talking to someone who has a different perspective. Plus, by sharing ideas, you can strengthen each other’s lessons plans. Just having another person there who totally understands what you are going through will be uplifting. You can help each other avoid teacher burn-out.
You chose to be a teacher for a reason. But sometimes it can be difficult to remember that, especially when you’re dealing with administrative issues, conflicts between students and an overwhelming pile of work to grade. During those frustrating times, keep your classroom fun. Take 10 minutes to share stories or jokes to connect to your with your students. The kids’ laugher can be some of the best medicine in the world — and a great reminder that teaching is worth it.
Text by Katherine Polcari