10 Ways to Prevent Teacher Burnout

The occupational phenomenon teacher burnout has been around long before 2020, although discussed more widely since the COVID-19 pandemic. The upside of increased conversation on the topic has been a better understanding of how chronic feelings of burnout can affect educators. Born out of heightened attention and awareness are many new and effective strategies for preventing and managing teacher burnout. Here are ten of them.   

Establish Healthy Emotional Boundaries  

It’s very difficult for teachers to turn off their brains and hearts at the end of the school day, especially regarding a child who is having a hard time or who comes from a less than stellar home life. Therapist Molly Davis of Wild Goose Counseling acknowledges the innate challenge of compartmentalizing emotions when in a career so focused on helping others. However, Davis also recognizes the importance of teachers setting emotional boundaries not only for their own wellbeing, but so they can remain accessible for students.  

“I can care, and I can give 100% of myself from three o’clock to four o’clock when I see Jenny (I’m just making up a name here),” Davis says,”but if I take Jenny with me, in my heart and in my mind, if she goes past three o’clock, then I’m not going to be here next year to help Jenny further or to help any other Jennys that may come along.” If longevity is the goal, emotional boundaries are necessities for preventing teacher burnout.   

Try Task-Chunking  

Educators are pros when it comes to providing bite-size pieces of information to students. Approaching their daily grind the same way—grouping tasks based on priority—makes the workload much more manageable.   

Reward Yourself  

The social media trend of “little treat culture” encourages the enjoyment of simple, inexpensive indulgences because they’re just that: simple. Tackled that mound of paperwork on your desk? Buy yourself flowers! Finally managed to leave the house ten minutes earlier and avoid rush hour traffic? A Friday fancy coffee seems appropriate! There is no harm in treating yourself for a job well done, especially if it gives you something to look forward to and acts as motivation to keep going.  

Practice Positive Thinking  

Sometimes being the most optimistic person you know is enough to boost morale for everyone, including yourself! Research shows positive thinking has a plethora of healthful benefits, including better coping mechanisms in times of difficulty. This comes in handy when experiencing decision fatigue, challenging students, or demanding parents—all stressors of the job. While we cannot always control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to them. A positive mindset begets more positive experiences and ultimately helps handle the effects of teacher burnout.   

Perform Random Acts of Kindness  

It may seem counterintuitive to spend time doing something for someone else when you’re already feeling overwhelmed, but our brains and bodies disagree. Performing a kind act lowers bad stuff like stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, while increasing good stuff like levels of oxytocin and serotonin. The next time you’re feeling down, try bringing someone else up. You may be surprised at how great it makes you both feel.  

Change Things Up   

Any tweak in your routine can assuage symptoms of teacher burnout. Take a field trip, have music class outside, invite a mystery reader to class. Other simpler ideas include standing in the warm sunshine or breathing in fresh air for a few minutes, closing your classroom door and practicing mindfulness, or busting out a few calming yoga poses! Novelty in any form can feel invigorating.   

Automate & Delegate   

Teachers are givers, but when they giveth too much, their cup runneth over…and not in a good way! Consider your workload both at school and at home and decide which things you must do, which can wait, and which you can delegate.  

For example, using grocery and restaurant delivery services frees up time that would otherwise be spent shopping and cooking. Asking for help making copies, assembling the art project supplies, or asking a neighbor to let your dog out so you don’t have to rush home from work are also time and sanity savers.   

Use Those Vacation Days...Regularly! 

While well-versed in caring for everyone else, teachers rarely show themselves the same gentleness and compassion. When illness, personal struggles, or just plain exhaustion hit, listen to your body and take the time off. Before teachers can be good to their students, they must be good to themselves.   

Anticipation  

Putting something on the calendar to look forward to is exciting, but did you know it also has mental health benefits? Studies show anticipation “can be inspiring and energizing. You may even feel more creative or productive when you’re looking forward to something” which makes you “feel a lot more capable of dealing with day-to-day nonsense.” Who are we to argue with the research?! Pro tip: be proactive and schedule a personal day or two before the stress sets in.    

The 20% Rule  

Educator Trever Muir explains the 20% Rule as essentially focusing on the best parts of the job. He maintains that if a person derives joy from at least 20% of their career, they will feel professionally fulfilled and, thus, able to manage their other job-related tasks more easily.   

Teacher burnout is an issue educators continue to grapple with as they combat the mental, emotional, and physical stressors of teaching. Many have found solace in self-advocacy, and others have turned to professionals for help. Teachers, your wellbeing is worth it, so please be kind to yourselves.   

 

About the Author:

 

Stephanie Jankowski is an educator and author who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When she's not teaching or writing, she's spending time with her children, Brady, Ella, and Lyla, and marveling at just how short the years really are.