As a teacher, you’re often racing around solving a million and one different problems at once, barely getting a moment for a sip of that lukewarm tea you made with good intentions over half an hour ago.
It’s no wonder that reported cases of ‘teacher burnout’ have risen to around 8,668 in the last year alone and has become an epidemic within the profession.
However, not to fear, the quick tips below will help all you teachers out there remember to take a breath, relax and remember why you enjoyed the career in the first place. You may even learn to dedicate some time to actually finishing that much-needed cup of tea!
1. Remember why you started teaching in the first place
It’s vital to keep in mind that everyone has bad days, weeks and even months. The majority of people don’t enjoy their job every hour of every single day. Take some time and reflect on how far you have come to get where you are now and also to think about how many young people’s lives you have affected positively in the process. Remembering when you were singled out for leading a successful project or when a student thanked you personally for helping them out with exam stresses will really boost your mood and help your mental health.
Most teachers are genuinely passionate about arming the generation of tomorrow with vital life skills and the knowledge to succeed, so it goes without saying that you are most likely a very determined individual. Keeping sight of the reason you are doing this and the very best parts of the job will help you keep your mind focused on bad days.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and exercise
Although teaching can sometimes feel like it’s an all-consuming profession, it’s still of great benefit to you to make time wherever you can to exercise, sleep and eat well. Doctors advise that you partake in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week to keep in tip-top condition. It is also recommended that adults sleep for 6-9 hours a night in order to be their best functioning selves the following day.
Setting a clear time in your mind when you will go to sleep will help you learn to relax and maintain a routine. Exercise when possible also releases feel good hormones into the body and can improve mood as well as keep you healthy.
Although it may seem impossible to switch off your buzzing brain at night, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work you need to plough through tomorrow, forcing yourself to bed at a regular time each night will eventually aid your sleep cycle and make you feel less tired and sluggish in the long-run.
If you can’t drift off, try a relaxing warm bath before bed and swap your nightly social media scrolling for a good old fashioned book. Limit TV and technology contact in the evenings and you can even try some chamomile tea, which has calming herbal properties.
Making sure you are eating regular meals will also help your mood and stress levels, it’s easy to get swept up in the frantic marking and planning and forget to eat or make dinner but it is important to eat regularly and stay hydrated. Try to incorporate more fresh fruit and vegetables into your meals, your mind will love ‘brain food’ such as oily fish and non-processed alternatives too, so if switching around your diet slightly is an option then it may be a good step forward to feeling better and getting healthier at the same time.
3. Create a home and work balance and stick to it religiously
Although work is important, it cannot be stressed enough that a healthy balance is needed between your job and social life. Spending time with people you care about is vital to keeping on top of your mental health, especially within such a demanding career.
Make sure you make time for family and friends, it will give you some headspace and something to look forward to after a long and stressful day at work. Even if it’s just a phone call to a family member or a quick coffee stop with a friend, keeping in touch with people outside your ‘work bubble’ will ensure that someone will be there to listen to you vent on tough days, celebrate with you on good ones and be part of your vital support network in case you get caught in an unhealthy mental slump.
Establish some set time for yourself and your loved ones that is solely to do something you enjoy. Take shopping trip, go somewhere new or just spend a night in watching your favourite feel good TV show or movie. Your mind will thank you for it and you’ll be more productive and willing at work.
4. Focus on what you want career-wise and don’t give up on your goals
It’s always a good idea to have a career plan of some sort, even if it’s just simply a vague idea of where you would like to be in five or ten years.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try sitting down in a quiet space and making some notes or coming up with some different ideas and avenues you can aspire to reach.
By setting goals, it’s easier to see things in a clearer and more positive light. The problem with teachers feeling swamped and burnt out is certainly not helped by not knowing what they ultimately want from their jobs.
If you’ve started as an English teacher at a primary school but were hoping to teach older children or maybe you’ve just secured a job at a school you love but would like to move up within that same school as the years pass, just taking some time out to think about your long-term goals will help you feel much more positive and focused.
5. Get things done asap to decrease stress
Another tip which is drummed into us when we ourselves are at school and university is that getting things done early is always the best option. Leaving teaching plans or marking to the last minute will only result in even more stress and will do nothing to help your relaxation levels.
Try getting any work needing to be completed done as soon as possible so it is out of the way and you can then relax fully rather than worrying about your ever growing task list.
Depending on your personal tastes, creating a to-do list if you’ve got a lot of work to keep on top of, can be an effective way of keeping track of where you are, and of course there’s the satisfaction of crossing off another completed item and breathing a sigh of relief as the list diminishes.
6. Visit your doctor if nothing improves
If you’re still feeling drained and burnt out after trying these tips, it’s wise to consult a doctor who may be able to help in other ways. Sometimes a stressful job can be the tipping point and other contributing factors in a person’s life can pile up and be unhelpful when you’re trying to stay on top of the career game. Talking therapy and medication can help dramatically if nothing else is seeming to and both options are extremely effective.
It’s worth remembering that everyone needs a break and it is more than okay to ask for help from medical professionals. Everyone feels stressed sometimes and the main goal is aiding you to feel better as soon as possible so you can carry on doing what you love and get that excitement of loving your job back again.
Hopefully these tips will find any burnt-out and frazzled teachers out there and of course the key is adapting each tip so it suits you. If you want some excellent tips specific to all you Supply Teachers out there, also have a read of ‘5 Supply Teacher Wellbeing Tips’ and you can find out more about ‘teacher burnout’ by taking this quiz on MindTools.
Although the tricks above might help, simply just remembering that you are doing such a positive, worthwhile job is often what many teachers keep sight of when they are going through a tough period of time.