With just over 8 weeks to go to the end of the school year, teachers are heading into a very stressful and emotional time. Teacher burnout, which happens due to stress and mental fatigue happening more often than not, hits many teachers yearly. Stress and burnout drain the very joy and essence of teaching, and makes it very hard for teachers to manage and accomplish goals set for the classroom. Stepping into a teacher’s shoes is not for the faint-hearted; a teacher’s role moves from being educators to surrogate parents and from being mentors to being disciplinarians in a short space of time. Along with these expectations come paperwork, conferences, meetings, lesson planning, sport obligations and their own home obligations.
Statistics from around the world show that many teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching due to stress and burnout. Here are some tips and strategies to help teachers combat stress and burnout, and therefore help them stay in a vocation that they so love.
- Know your limits and set them
Pushing yourself to do too much will set you up for failure. When you start feeling out of sync, when confusion or chaos begins to infiltrate into your daily tasks, then that is the time to learn to say “NO” when you have too much on your plate already.
- Take time for yourself
This is hard to do if you are a parent too. Being able to take a minimum of 30 minutes of me-time daily to do something for yourself, will help rejuvenate your day. Read a book, listen to music or play a musical instrument, do some shopping or take a short walk. Spend time on a hobby, especially over weekends and school holidays.
- Limit the amount of work you take home
Teachers are often overwhelmed with the amount of planning, marking and organizing that needs to be done, so they take it home. Don’t! There will always be work to do. Take the time to do some of this work after school before going home, and if it is not done today, you can finish it before or after school the next day. If you want to do internet research, limit yourself to two hours at the most, and set aside a day every week to do this at home.
- Create a small sanctuary
Your sanctuary can be anywhere you want it to be, except for your office or your bedroom. Go to that special place that allows you to be quiet and relaxed, away from the mayhem that is created during your workday. Just sit for 10 minutes, listen to music through earphones, meditate or read something.
- Practice healthy habits
Eat for energy – have small snacks to get you through the day. Missing breakfast or lunch is never a good idea. Exercise as often as you can – walk, run, swim, gym, cycle, do yoga – burnout won’t happen if you are busy taking care of your emotional and physical wellbeing. Exercise will also help you to sleep better.
- Remember why you became a teacher
The reason you started teaching in the first place was that you love it. Being passionate about your work keeps you focused and energetic for yourself and for the scholars in your class. Teach in the moment, because it allows you to be more proactive and controlled in difficult situations. Laugh because it lightens the mood and gives you time to put things into perspective. Avoid conflict where possible, as it will save you lots of time and energy.
There are so many things that one could add to reduce stress, but at the end of the day, it is all about you. Teacher burnout is not always about the situations we find ourselves in, it is about how we can avoid stress and fatigue. It is okay to leave your classroom for a few minutes when you are overwhelmed. Take 5 – breathe deeply and take a short walk to compose yourself, and then return to your class. If you want to make your stress management personal that works for you in particular, do your Sensory Matrix™ to get your wellness blueprint.
The ability to grab hold of the rewarding and energizing career that you really want is in your hands – grab that power and never let it go.
Annabella Sequeira holds a BSc (Occupational Therapy) degree from the University of Cape Town, backed by 22 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She has extensive practical experience in the area of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction in children and is passionate about empowering others to improve functionality and quality of life.