10 Ways to Battle Teacher BurnoutApr 20, 2021
To learn more about self-care for people who hate self-care, check out my blog post here!
We are all very aware that educator burnout is real. And especially this year. We are all tired and ready for a break. Here are some awesome ways to fight that teacher burnout!
Leave your computer at school
A couple of years ago I started leaving my computer at school on weeknights and I have to tell you, it is one of the best things I could have ever done! It forces me to not focus on work during my family time.
I bring it home on weekends in case there is anything that I do need to do. (Also, I live in Minnesota, so there are weeknights I bring it home in case there is a snow day but I don’t take it out of my backpack)
Not only has this helped my mental health, but it also has improved my relationship with my husband and daughters!
Hobbies are things we love to do, just for the sake of doing them. Reading and crafting are this way for me.
Recently I have rekindled my love of reading and it has made a huge difference in my happiness. (If you want to check out what I am reading, you can see that here.)
Now, I make sure I spend at least 30 minutes reading before I go to bed. It is such a nice time that I generally do it for more than 30 minutes without even noticing!
Do what you love, even if it is work
I felt a lot of guilt for a long time because I really love my job and everyone was talking about how self-care was so important and should be something that isn’t work and I just couldn’t find something that I love to do that much.
But I have since realized that self-care isn’t about doing meditation and yoga. Self-care is really all about doing something that you love and that makes you feel energized and excited.
For me, lesson planning and doing that creative part of teaching is so fun! And to me, that is self-care. Taking the time to sit and do something that makes you happy is the whole point of self-care, so go ahead and do work, but only if it is something that makes you happy.
Use your vacation time!
So many teachers are proud of all the vacation time they have racked up and wear it as a badge of honor. Like “Look at me. I never take a break!”
Honestly, it’s not really something to be proud of, but I also totally get it.
Taking a day off and having a substitute teacher is a lot of work, but you can always plan a mental health day for yourself too.
I suggest you schedule one mental health day each quarter or so. Send your request to the principal and get it approved and then you have plenty of time to plan for the substitute ahead of time.
(I recommend doing it on a student workday. This is super easy for the sub and the other adults in the space as well as the students. You probably explained the assignment the day before so they know what to do and all you have to give the sub is a copy of the directions you created.)
Turn notifications off for email on your phone
Some people need to have this feature turned on, so if that is you, ignore this tip, but for everyone else, listen up.
Turn off the notifications on your phone for email, especially your school email.
You could go even further and set it to “manually” fetch your mail. (This way it doesn’t show any unread until you go into the app and refresh your inbox)
Email is the way that everyone is using to get a hold of us and you don’t need to be available to everyone all of the time. So, turn this off and take some time for yourself!
Talk to someone
Teaching can sometimes feel like an individual sport when really it’s a big ol’ team!
We are isolated in our classrooms and only concerned with the goings-on therein so it can be hard to think about others but they are the most amazing support system. Other teachers get what you are dealing with and the stress you are under.
Admin is even better because they may be able to come up with ways of fixing things that actually help relieve a bit of the burden. It also helps them to take the temperature of the school environment, because they may not always see how difficult it can be.
Finally, therapists are amazing and I cannot tell you enough good things about talking to someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game. They aren't a spouse trying to fix it or associated with the school in any way, but their job is to listen and help you deal with it all. I currently use Betterhelp and it has been awesome because I can send messages to my therapist any time and we can chat over the phone or by video chat.
Take some things off your plate
The next step is to offload the things that take up too much of your time and don't bring you joy. I know that it may feel painful to disappoint someone, but this move will benefit everyone in the long run.
My principal has encouraged me to do less! In the past, she refused to let me be in charge of our after-school program because she knew I was struggling with overwhelm. Since offloading some of my responsibilities, I am now able to take on this role.
Establish (and hold) boundaries with your time
There are many areas where the lines between our work life and our personal life start to really blur. This is where you need to figure out how you want to draw the boundaries.
For example, I have my email on my phone and I check it pretty regularly. I am known at my school for being the one who replies the fastest. But I NEVER bring work home on weeknights. We have a rule about no phones at dinner. I devote that time to my husband and daughters. And on the weekend I focus on other things until Sunday evening after my girls are in bed. That is when I allow myself to do things to get ready for school the next day.
Take time for yourself
Teachers work too hard to not get a break. You need to set aside the time for yourself and for the things you love to do and keep that time sacred.
I know this means that you will need to do more at other times. If you can get some systems in place and use the time efficiently, you can keep those boundaries and protect your "you time."
I have noticed that my mood is visibly elevated after I move about a bit. Even if it is just me and my students doing a plank battle or squat challenge in advisory, that little bit of exercise is uplifting. You could also just get up and take a walk around the school or up and down the stairs. It doesn’t need to be a crazy hard workout to really get those endorphins going.
I also recommend lots of water, a healthy diet, and a regular and reliable sleep schedule. Use your prep time to eat lunch if you can’t during regular lunchtime. Bring multiple water bottles from home. If you fill them to the top with ice and then fill the rest with water, it will definitely stay colder for longer.
As teachers, we work immensely hard, but we still need to take time for ourselves as well.
To help you start taking care of yourself, check out the FREE Tame your Teachers Tasks eBook linked here.