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Dealing with Teacher Burnout

Tips for dealing with teacher burnout.  How do you know you're burning out?  Things NOT to try (but are pretty awesome) and solutions to save your sanity and your school year.

Some days when I’m greeted with an enthusiastic “Good morning!  How are you?”  I just want to growl and say “I’m tired.”  I hate being that person, because would much rather be happy and cheerful.   How about you?  Let’s face it, teaching can be exhausting and burnout can happen to the best of us. How do you avoid burnout?  How do you know if you’re there?  What does burnout look like?  Read on, my weary teacher friends.

How do you know that you’re burning out?

You are overwhelmed.  You know there’s a lot to do and you are wondering how you will be able to add one more thing.  Maybe you are thinking that you should compromise your values and expectations just so you can mark things off your to do list.  You may even consider prioritizing but tell yourself it just won’t be enough.

You are anxious.  You’ve got that nagging feeling that you should be doing more.  You may even realize that you actually need to do LESS, but still feel like you could do more and you should do more.

You are tired.  Maybe tired isn’t the best description.  You are exhausted.  Weary.  You sleep, but don’t seem to rest.  It’s the kind of tired that makes you want to crawl in bed at 6:30 and wake up in 3 days.  For me, I know I’m experiencing burnout when I sit down at lunch and daydream about going to bed that night.

You just aren’t any fun.  How long has it been since you laughed?  Really laughed?  Belly laughed?  Maybe you just don’t laugh or smile as much as you used to.  I hate unfunny me!  It makes the days feel longer than usual.

You just aren’t up to daily challenges like you used to be.  You may not feel as creative, patient or enthusiastic as you once did.  You may feel like you have just lost your edge.

You just want to be left alone.  Do you just want to find a big cozy blanket and hide under it?  You may be experiencing burnout if you are craving a place to hide, a place where you aren’t tried and tested and no one will question you.  A place that is just…quiet!

Ways I’ve Tried Dealing with Burnout

Tips for dealing with teacher burnout.  How do you know you're burning out?  Things NOT to try (but are pretty awesome) and solutions to save your sanity and your school year.1.  Look at that teacher or administrator that is really getting on your nerves.   Close one eye and put your pointer finger and thumb in front of your other eye and pretend you are pinching their little heads.  Incredibly satisfying.
2.  Harry and David’s has these magic little bags of happiness called Moose Munch.  Buy. Eat.  Eat some more. Cry when it is gone.  Buy more.  Repeat.
3.  Gallons of Diet Mt. Dew.

I don’t really recommend any of these, but they are things that I have tried!

How to Deal with Burnout 

1.  Get physical.   I know, it’s not what I usually think of when I am tired and stressed, but exercising can give you quiet time, gets your endorphins popping and will make you rest better.  You don’t have to go to the gym either.  Take a walk, dance to a YouTube video with your kids, get a little romantic with your spouse, take a swim or even play a game of ping pong.
2.  Be a list maker.  Sometimes I get stressed because I am trying to remember everything that I need to do and inevitably forget something.  Now, I make a list of things that I need to do and then stop worrying about it.  My lists usually in three parts:  Today, This Week and Sometime.  The Today list includes things that need to be done before I go home.  This week means as soon as I can and the Sometime list is for those great ideas that I want to do, but can’t do right now.  Sometimes I copy things from list to list for weeks until I get to them.  While that might sound crazy, if it is on the list I spend less time thinking about it.
3.  Plan your quiet time.  Schedule a time for a massage or a pedicure.  Plan an afternoon where you have no responsibilities and turn your phone off.  Schedule time to relax.  Make it as much of a priority as you do your tasks at work.  Your family and your students will thank you for it!
4.  Get some rest.   No, really.  Go to bed a little earlier.  End your evening with a hot shower, a favorite drink and perhaps meditation or prayer.  Don’t research online, grade papers, catch up on emails or even make a grocery list.  Just go to bed.
5.  Get to work earlier.  Feeling rushed and stressed can start right away.  Is there a way that you can get to work 15 minutes earlier?  A few minutes of extra time before things get busy and noisy can go a long way in starting your day off feeling prepared and refreshed.  If you can find those minutes in the morning, plan to stay 15 minutes later and get everything ready for the next morning.  (That includes stacking up papers to grade and leaving them there until tomorrow.  Don’t take them home!)

Tips for dealing with teacher burnout.  How do you know you're burning out?  Things NOT to try (but are pretty awesome) and solutions to save your sanity and your school year.

6.  Be thankful.  Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed it helps to count my blessings.  Be thankful for your family, friends and co-workers.  Be thankful for the things that are going right.  Be thankful for the little things like outside recess and no bake cookies for lunch.  Be thankful.  You have the greatest job in the world!

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Tips for dealing with teacher burnout.  How do you know you're burning out?  Things NOT to try (but are pretty awesome) and solutions to save your sanity and your school year.

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  1. Loved your post! Especially loved your tip on squishing the person you are made at with your fingers! Definitely made me lol!

  2. I am so there...the past two years have not been great. Thanks for some great advice!

  3. Great reminders for all of us!!!

  4. That is exactly what I needed to read. I am quilty of every sign and didn't realize the connection.
    Pray I can do all of your suggestions!

  5. I love everything about this! Sharing it on my facebook page later this week!

  6. Honestly, I was there recently and finally decided that I needed help. I went into the doctor and requested to be put on depression meds. I drive 2 hrs a day for work, then get home, make dinner, settle down, and go to bed to get up and do it all over again. In my life, there just wasn't time for any additional exercise. I wish! Anyway, 1 month in the first med didn't do enough. Another 2 weeks in after adding an additional med, I am finally back to "me." I'm laughing, smiling, the fog has cleared, and I can concentrate to get things done. It doesn't take me hours to grade a stack of papers. I can remember what I walked across the room for when I get there. I feel like a million bucks! I recommend, if none of these ideas in this post work, seek professional help! It was worth the trip and the days off to do so!

  7. Hi Tracy!, We have been on several Music teacher lists together and I ALWAYS enjoy your contributions. This article jumped out at me on PINTEREST. I have been that burnedout Music teacher, walking off the job March 17, 2016. I have wanted NOTHING to do with education due to the frustrating situation I left. It was truly TOXIC for me, making me emotionally, physically, and spiritually bankrupt. I was put on meds, now off them, lost 125# and still losing, listening to the still small Voice of God daily and today I read your article. This is the FIRST education thing in 1.5 years due to the toxic PTSD of the last job.
    I am grateful for your article. I know my case was an extreme one, but had I read this article before my breakdown, I do think it would have helped me see I was just spinning my wheels, trying to please an impossible boss, who knew nothing about my classroom or me. Her stinging personality was in my head and destroyed my confidence. I am seek God's will for the next step. Thanks for the article which is a break-through moment for me. God Bless you end of the year! De7inHim (in Ohio)

  8. I also found this well written article through Pinterest and want to echo the comments about these strong suggestions. For me the best way to still love teaching was to step away from the traditional classroom and start teaching online in a 1:1 environment. I can be present instead of always multitasking and I can see the instant success and celebrate it, which in terms helps me feel more successful and balanced. After 12 years in a traditional classroom, I feel like I can breathe again. Just another option for anyone feeling out of control. https://www.vipkidteachers.com/?refereeId=3772869&partnerId=6891010