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