Goal 2: Avoid Burnout #30GoalsEdu

I wake up in the morning and I still feel exhausted.

My doctor told me to take it easy, because I am always getting sick.

I don’t enjoy teaching anymore.

If you have heard colleagues or yourself saying one of the above statements, then that means you are on the way (if not already there) to burnout. According to Wikipedia,

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.

Unfortunately, as much as we love teaching, it is a line of work that requires a lot of work in our free time, after school and at the weekends.  Not meaning to underestimate other jobs, but it does happen like that. We can all see it from personal experience, from other teachers in our staffrooms and educators around the world that we are connected to on social media. Marking, preparing, thinking of ways to help out students with learning issues, but perhaps personal issues too – as we tend to get involved in their lives as well (some say it shouldn’t be so, but that is material for a separate blog post). The reason could also be working with difficult employers or colleagues, or in an unfavourable working environment (classrooms without certain facilities or large numbers of students). All these might suck up any energy we have and reduce our motivation.

So how do we avoid this monster called burnout?

– Make sure you sleep well and take care of your voice – advice from the amazing Ken Wilson, during our interview at ISTEK ELT, when I asked him what advice he would give teachers. Insomnia or little sleep can cause temporary problems like nerves, stress but also can extend to long-term physical problems. Changing your sleeping patterns to the better will make a difference. This year, I have convinced myself to take care of this and I have seen a huge improvement. Apart from the fact that I am more relaxed and focused during the day, problem-solving is not as hard or nerve-wracking as it used to be and I also feel physically better.

– Talk to someone about it. Sometimes we refuse to tell other people that we feel the way we do, because we are ashamed or don’t want to disappoint others – especially our students, if we are not feeling well. It could be a friend, family member or in general a person you trust. Externalising your feelings could help you tremendously, as you do not feel alone anymore and sometimes that other person listening can help you in ways you wouldn’t even think of.

– Try to make time for things you like. That could be anything at all, something you like, a hobby you haven’t done in a long time or never pursued. A trip. Reading a book. Watching a movie without any distractions (and lots of popcorn!). It is unbelievable, how small steps for yourself can make such a difference. I have started doing this much more this year. I do things I love and look out for myself a little bit more. I visit a gallery. Drink coffee without looking at my watch. Talk with friends. No one will blame you and you will be in top form – a different, better mood and more positive outlook on things. I try to remind myself of this every day – we are all in this together! Let’s look out for each other.

Here is an article I found in The Guardian: Can teachers ever have a work-life balance?

Loving teaching and taking good care of yourself can make every day look like a brand new one.

There’s a feeling that I got that I can’t give up/
Feeling in my heart that I can’t get over/
I know that it’s coming let the sun come up/
Tell me do you feel the same, everybody say

It’s a new day/

it’s a new day

20 thoughts on “Goal 2: Avoid Burnout #30GoalsEdu

  1. I couldn’t agree more with what Vicky has stated above!! Abstaining oneself from stressful things can help look at them with a different perspective a little later… Also I could add to this that if you do not feel ready to do something, just take your time until you feel like doing it !!!

  2. Oh Vicky!
    Such important points! So true!
    The sleep part is the one I have trouble with. I was so tired this weekend that I had a really long nap. Now I’m wide awake and working, and will go to sleep late. Will then be tired tomorrow… Not so smart!
    Great post!

    1. Hi Naomi!

      I know – the sleep part is so difficult, I am still working on it but am in a much better state than I used to be. Thank you for your input!

  3. Vicky, great post!

    This is a topic that I’m quite glad our school had a few meetings about a couple years ago. I see now how time can be spent to be proactive in preventing burnout from happening while other times it to creeped up and became a temptation for me.

    “…taking good care of yourself can make every day look like a brand new one” is so true. “Taking good care of yourself” is one of the main points I try to emphasize to others when asked about philosophies because we as teachers must be an example of what we want our students to be, academically and in character.

    Again, thank you, Vicky, for being bold on a topic that can possibly be ignored.

    1. Hi Daniel!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your school did something very important for its teachers and I think all schools should do so – because teachers are a vital part of it, along with the students.

      Take care!

  4. Dear Vicky,
    What an excellent post! I think it’s so meaningful because some teachers are likely to feel guilty at the feeling of tiredness and discontent. Your message is so important. (And I love the song choice!)

  5. What an inspiring post! Looking after myself more is one of my resolutions for the coming term. The Guardian article is really helpful as well. One quote that stands out for me is “Teaching is not the profession for a perfectionist”. How I wish I had known this from the beginning!

    1. Hi Rachel!

      Thanks so much – I am happy you liked the post! I am by no means near the situation I would like to be, but I am trying hard to improve. I am also very happy to hear that you are also trying! We are all in this together, to support each other : )

      Take care!

  6. As I’m starting to anticipate my own Google hangout tomorrow about this with Shelly, I’ve been rereading my post from 2 years ago. It seems not a whole lot has changed in the last two years. I still spend the majority of my time in ELT stuff (now president of TESL Toronto and doing a related MA, which I wasn’t at the time of the post); I still sleep relatively little on weekdays (5-7 hours max); and I don’t eat properly a lot of the time. I know these things I have to work on still. But I feel relaxed. I still don’t stress out about stuff. I have begun to give myself more non-ELT “me” time. Just tonight I went to the pool and sat outside for a few hours, looking up at the clouds in the evening sky. It’s important, as you say, to find ways to keep yourself from hitting the burnout, whatever they are.

    1. Hi Tyson!

      Thanks for the comment. I am also still fighting with myself over certain things, but I last I have improved on my sleeping habits. The eating I could look a lit bit better after, as most of the times I eat on the go and not too many fruits and vegetables. This summer I will start doing everything better, or at least I hope so – now, if I could just hit the gym among those things as well… ; )

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