How to Manage Teacher Stress and Burnout

Do you come from a place of yes? If so, you’re not alone. Many teachers are always up for implementing new initiatives, incorporating new activities, and testing tips and tricks that make their day go smoother and time go further.

However, burnout is real, and stress can affect your personal life outside of education.

Teacher Stress and Burnout

There are ways you can decline graciously, making your mental health a personal priority. Read on to learn all about teacher stress and burnout, why you should start saying no, and how you can do it to ensure you are refreshed and not stressed!

How Much Do Teachers Struggle with Stress and Burnout?

According to a study by the RAND Corporation, almost 50% of teachers have considered leaving their profession in our post-pandemic world. Stress has been cited as the main reason for this massive potential departure in education. Can you relate?

While it’s normal to face daily challenges and light stressors of the job, a red flag gets raised when teachers start to think about leaving the profession completely. Something has got to give!

Why is Teacher Burnout So High?

Teacher burnout may be so high at the elementary, middle, and high school levels because there are massive teacher shortages post-pandemic across the country. This phenomenon can lead to larger class sizes, fewer substitutes, more professional responsibilities, and even poor leadership, as administrators are left to pick up the pieces on a short schedule and limited budget.

New teachers may also already feel burned out for several reasons; not given enough professional development, not being given any classroom support, working on classroom management, and facing students struggling academically due to covid-restrictions and may face retention. This can lead to lower job satisfaction right from the get-go!

Many teachers feel a sense of guilt and tend to bite off more than they can chew. Do you? They are either afraid to say no when asked to take on yet another initiative from school leaders or because they genuinely want to help make a difference in a student’s life. This can lead them to run clubs and other extracurricular activities or take on too many leadership roles, which correlates with higher levels of burnout and stress. While intentions are good, there’s only so much time in the day, and teachers are more than ever bringing their work – and their mental stress – home with them too!

Have you noticed that potential time spent with your friends and family is replaced with designing lesson plans to meet the needs of struggling students, grading, prepping, and communicating concerns with parents who are also struggling to get by in today’s challenging times?

Teachers are also guilty of not putting themselves first and practicing self-care strategies. Neglecting their diet and exercise routines, staying up too late to complete their work, or simply putting things they enjoy on the backburner can also contribute to feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and overtired!

"Regardless of what you do, it’s important to take a step back and examine if your burnout management is healthy, is effective, and is helping them to reduce future stress and burnout and promote wellness instead."

What is Teacher Stress and Burnout?

Teacher stress and burnout can take on many forms and can build up over time or come on out of nowhere! Have you noticed any mood swings throughout your day? It’s important to remember that teacher well-being is so important!

According to Psychology Today, burnout is “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

How Do Teachers Cope With Burnout?

The teacher profession copes with burnout in a number of ways. Some throw themselves into their work, essentially creating more work for themselves. Others run or participate in vigorous activities and exercise to sweat out their stress. Some retreat and spend a lot of time sleeping to make up for their pure exhaustion. Others overindulge in food and drinks, getting instant gratification. Finally, some vent to friends and family to talk out their troubles. How do you cope?

Regardless of what you do, it’s important to take a step back and examine if your burnout management is healthy, is effective, and is helping them to reduce future stress and burnout and promote wellness instead.

Have you ever considered making a list that helps identify what causes stress in your school year? For example, is it larger class sizes? Maybe the school climate is negative, or you need to get more professional development to support student learning. Once you have identified your stressors, identify what makes you happy!

Make a list of at least five things you can do to make you smile daily and improve your self-care, stress levels, and job satisfaction.

Little things like list-making force you to face the hard facts – there may be teacher shortages, your school climate is changing, and there will always be related stress – but as long as you face each challenge, you’re one step closer to identifying triggers and gaining emotional-intelligence so you can do something about them!

What Factors Contribute to Teacher Stress and Burnout?

Teachers are naturally overachievers. They like to work hard and are lifelong learners, so they always look for ways to improve their practice and craft. However, there’s only so much time in the day, and as a teacher, coach, friend, parent, and/or advisor, the hours add up quickly.

Your inability to say no can lead you on a faster road to burnout!

"Make a list of at least five things you can do to make you smile daily and improve your self-care, stress levels, and job satisfaction."

What are the Early Warning Signs of Burnout?

Teachers starting to feel or seem burned out tend to share some common characteristics. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Oversocialization – Teachers will try to make up for lost time. They will overcompensate by loading up their social calendars during the weeknight or weekend instead of setting aside some time to rest.
  • Constant Complaining – Every little thing irritates the burned-out teacher, making them become constant complainers. 
  • Inability to Sleep – When teachers try to go to bed with too much on their minds, they tend to stay up for hours going over all the things they have to do (or forgot to do), affecting their sleep quality. 
  • Poor Diet – Eating too much or too little is one of the earliest signs of teacher burnout. Appetite can be affected by stress and can also cause changes in mood or appearance, resulting in more stress!
  • Brain Fog – When teachers have too much on their minds, they find it hard to focus on the current task.

What is the Difference Between Burnout and Stress?

According to Psychology Today, burnout is a syndrome. Burnout is a combination of negativity, feelings of exhaustion, and an increased mental distance from your occupation or co-workers. In addition, burnout is a term specifically referred to in the context of a person’s job.

Stress, on the other hand, has an end in sight. Stress is feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and pressure. It tends to be short-term but can come and go.

Burnout tends to last longer and may require significant changes in your job or life to overcome!

What Causes Stress and Burnout in Teachers?

Many teachers feel a sense of loss or hopelessness, personally or professionally. These two main factors can make teachers more stressed or burned out. The education field is rapidly changing, they may be experiencing financial hardships, and they may feel a sense of guilt about spending less time with friends and family and doing other things they love outside of work. It’s certainly a vicious cycle, but one that can be broken!

Can Stress and Burnout Be Prevented?

Possibly the most important question any teacher can ask is, “Can stress and burnout be prevented?” The answer is absolutely.

One key thing all educators need to remember is that it is ok to say no. Saying yes all the time to everything asked of them will instantly lead to stress and burnout. It’s ok to pick and choose tasks that they only have enough time to complete, but more importantly, that makes them happy.

For example, running an after-school Robotics club will bring in more bucks but add hours of work and time spent away from friends, family, pets, and hobbies; and will result in feelings of annoyance, stress, and tiredness; by all means, use your words and say no!

In addition to standing their ground and saying no to things they don’t want to do (or simply can’t!), teachers can start to make themselves more of a priority during the school year.

Goal setting is a wonderful way to ensure you put yourself first and realize teaching is important, but it’s not your whole life and world. Goal setting requires teachers to start focusing more on personal wants and needs. It can open doors to new hobbies, feelings of happiness, new social situations, and relaxing habits.

Teachers can also prevent stress and burnout by having the right resources in place and in mind. Colleagues are great people to vent to because they directly understand the stressors in the workplace. Counselors and other professionals are always available to lend an ear and a helping hand.

"Your inability to say no can lead you on a faster road to burnout!"

Self-Care Tools to Help Manage Teacher Stress and Burnout

There are many fabulous online and print resources that can ease your mind and inspire positive thoughts, mindfulness, and well-being. Consider picking up a time management workbook or other highly rated and reviewed items that help you explore your feelings and state of mind. 

You may also gain instant inspiration and get a quick pick me up by reading some inspirational quotes from educators, for educators. These little mindfulness tricks help you remember you aren’t a superhero, you do matter and make a difference, and sometimes the little things matter more than the big things!

Journaling is also a fantastic way to combat stress and reduce burnout. Many teachers choose to do this de-stressing activity right before they climb into bed to ease their minds and nerves and gain more rest each night. Taking five to ten minutes to list everything you are grateful for in your day can help lead you to more positive thoughts and affirmations, helping you wake up happier!

Teachers can also practice breathing exercises when they start to feel stressed or think they are beginning to experience symptoms of teacher burnout. Mental health is crucial in determining the success of beating teacher burnout and combating day-to-day stressors nearly one-third of all teachers experience regularly.

But most importantly, teachers can remember that they do not have to be in their “teacher” role when they walk through their door after school hours. So unplug, work out, do something that makes you happy with your family, and leave the phone calls and emails for the next work day. Don’t even look at your emails. Consider picking up a healthy habit and self-care workbook to fill out each night to replace your usual routine of checking emails from work, or social media posts, which can lead to more stress and negative thoughts.

When teachers can establish boundaries, say no, and understand that they don’t have to be a teacher 24/7, they will start to combat stress and beat burnout.

 

In conclusion, the Covid pandemic may be one of the current leading causes of teacher stress and burnout. But now that the pandemic is over, teachers need to learn how to step up and say no to get their lives back on track. Their personal and professional well-being is at stake, and to be the best educator possible, they must put themselves first, ensuring they are in their healthiest and happiest state of mind. With a little effort, self-discipline, positive affirmations, and the assistance of professionals and professional resources, you can be your best self every day for your family, friends, and students!

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