Everyone has tough days at work, but teachers have it especially hard. A majority (if not all) teachers have never experienced the regular 9-to-6 schedules and 40-hour workweeks as those working in a corporate setting; in fact, many teachers work upwards of 60-hour weeks, balancing between teaching classes, planning for lessons, marking assessments, preparing exam papers, sitting in meetings, managing paperwork, being involved in co-curricular activities… the list is endless. The myth that teachers work half-days really isn’t true at all, especially in the current modern setting.
In managing such a heavy workload, on top of dealing with the emotional toll of caring for and educating students who sometimes cannot be helped as much as required, it’s no wonder that many teachers experience mental health issues and burnout. If not dealt with, teacher stress and burnout can not only negatively influence the affected teacher’s work performance, but also lead to further mental and physical decline down the road. So, if you’re a teacher who feels they’re burning out and experiencing extreme amounts of stress, here are some steps you can take.
How To Avoid Or Deal With Burnout If You’re A Struggling Teacher
1. Take A Step Back From Your Workload
Sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary to drop some things from your urgent list and focus on things that are the most impactful. What ‘impactful’ is varies from teacher to teacher, but the point is to temporarily only do what’s necessary and nothing more. One way to make this happen is by dropping your ego and asking for help from colleagues you are friendly with; they will likely understand your struggle and you can always return the favour when they need the same respite.
Another way is to say no to things that don’t add value and only add to your stress; not every little project or initiative needs to be taken up and worked on.
2. Engage In Activities That Relax You
Okay, it may seem cliche, but some self-care really will do just about anybody some good. Of course, you don’t have to splurge and buy scented candles or expensive bath salts (though if that’s what you want, go ahead!). Consciously making time for the things that make you forget about your troubles, such as reading, watching a movie, spending an hour or two playing with your pets, and so on can help you bounce back slowly from burnout if you do it consistently.
Remember, doing it once is not enough; put aside some time even if just an hour a day for this purpose every day.
3. Share Your Thoughts And Feelings
It’s very easy to fall into a dark hole when you’re handling your intense thoughts and feelings by yourself. Try your best to drop your inhibitions and speak to a loved one about your struggles and challenges as a teacher. They may not be able to solve your issues, but just letting out the pain inside can be very helpful in regaining clarity. Even better, share your thoughts with a trusted colleague. They may share their struggles too, and just by feeling less alone you will find yourself feeling better.
4. Speak To A Therapist
If you feel the need to unravel your thoughts and process your emotions in a structured setting, speaking to a mental health professional can be extremely helpful. A professional can help give objective perspective to your struggles, and thankfully, these days there are options that won’t cause you an arm and a leg. Here are some good online therapy resources you can consider:
For those who are really on the brink of totally giving up, whether on your career or on your life, it’s best to take more drastic measures to tackle your teacher stress. See a GP and let them know your current mental health struggle, and ask to be referred to a psychiatric specialist. After that, you can take the referral letter to a government or private hospital to speak to a specialist, who will offer treatment options based on your current state of mind. Treatment can range from talk therapy to medication, which you should keep yourself open to if you are experiencing severe depressive or anxiety-based symptoms.
Teacher, if you are currently struggling with stress, we hope you can hold on and push through, especially in these trying pandemic times. You don’t have to suffer in silence to be a ‘hero teacher’; all that you’ve done is and will always be a contribution to the lives of the students you teach. Stay strong, and do what you need to do to bounce back to your old self!
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