Handling Burnout as an Educator

How to handle burnout

Educators, you all give so much of yourselves to your students, their parents and guardians, and so many others daily. Unfortunately, burnout is all too common and we know that it can be hard to process and find a way through it. As a former educator myself, I experienced burnout during my second year in education, so this is a topic that hits home. That’s why I want to spend some time exploring burnout and methods that I personally found helpful in getting through it.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Burnout

I know, it’s a cliche to say the first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. But it’s true, the first step to dealing with burnout is knowing what it is and what it feels like. For me, it was an overwhelming sense of helplessness and cynicism. Every time I spoke with my students I had to put on a mask and be cheery and I felt relief when I got home and removed it. 

These emotions are just a few examples of what one might experience while burnt out, here are a few more to be aware of:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Frustration
  • Ineffectiveness
  • Stress
  • Dread

Additionally, there are several physical manifestations of burnout, I personally dealt with a lot of migraines and muscle fatigue.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it might be worth reflecting on the root causes and consider that it may very well be burnout. 

Next Steps

So if you’re thinking you’re experiencing burnout, which if you’re reading this blog post, you very well might be, you’re wondering what’s next. The first thing I did was speak to my boss, the school director. Since I was a new educator at the time I figured they would have the experience to help walk me through it and it was incredibly helpful. If you’re not comfortable with that type of conversation with your boss you should definitely consider reaching out to any other teachers in the school for support. 

You can also reach out to family, friends, or other loved ones but I’d recommend checking with other educators first. The simple reason is that they will understand your situation and be able to empathize with you in a way others may not. 

Setting Boundaries 

One of the first things I did was make an active effort to leave any frustrating situations at the door when I left for the day. I know it’s easier said than done but at first it will be an active effort. Your brain will want to instinctively drift to whatever is frustrating you, you have to recognize what’s happening and get off it. Once I was able to do this, I found it not only easier to be less tense at home but also less tense at school. 

Another thing that helps is set aside time to do things that make you happy. I don’t mean “go for a walk” or “be mindful in nature”. If those things do honestly make you happy then go for it. But, what I mean is actively set time to do whatever you want to do. If that’s sitting on the couch watching Netflix or Hulu, go for it. If that’s spending time playing video games and zoning out, do it. Don’t think of these activities as a waste of time because these activities are the ones that will help you recharge. The second you start assigning a negative value to things you like to do, you’ll start teetering into a worsening mental health state. 

Recognizing Wins as Wins

So as human beings, we tend to focus a lot on the negative, even when we want the positive. There are more words for specific types of negative emotions in the dictionary than there are for describing specific types of happiness after all. 

So, first recognize your mind’s natural impulse to focus on the most troublesome happening of the day. Then ask yourself “How long did this bad moment last for?”. Let’s say the moment lasted for 30 minutes. So during your 7-hour work day why are you letting 30 negative minutes ruin the other 6 hours and 30 minutes that were either positive or neutral?

Instead think about what went well, any win no matter how small even if it’s just being thankful that the rest of your day was without incident. That right there is a win. Instead of bemoaning a challenging moment and beating yourself up, instead, handle the problem, learn your life lesson from it, and pat yourself on the back for a day well done.

The Wrap-Up

I am not a mental health expert nor do I pretend to be one, the advice above is simply what helped me and I hope that you will find it helpful as well! If you need other helpful advice or resources for educators stay tuned to the Numerade blog!

Author

  • Rob Shield

    Rob Shield is based out of Columbus, Ohio. As Numerade's copywriter, Rob uses their extensive background in education to inform and shape the topics and content posted to the blog for educators, parents, and students alike.