Being An Educator Is Both Rewarding And Exhausting!

Being a teacher or an educational assistant can be very rewarding, helping a child to have the tools to grow and learn and knowing you’re making a true difference in the life of a young person is an amazing feeling. Working within the education system has also become one of the most stressful occupations in North America. Unsurprisingly, many teachers and educational assistants experience burnout at some point in their careers. The standards are high and the workload is heavy. Add in all of the changes and pressures of trying to teach during a global pandemic, and it’s no wonder schools are experiencing high educator burnout rates.

Burnout is a form of exhaustion that results from chronic emotional, physical and mental stress. It can lead to negative outcomes for both educators and students. Here’s how to prevent burnout.

man shoveling snow

Burnout Warning Signs In Teachers

Recognizing the early warning signs can help you take the necessary steps to prevent a full-blown burnout. Here are some of the symptoms to look for:

  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed and exhausted
  • Being irritable and on-edge
  • Becoming increasingly cynical
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep habits
  • Losing motivation
  • Feeling alone and helpless
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones

Take Time For Yourself

Overextending yourself can lead to burnout. It’s important to carve out some time for yourself each day. Here are a few tips to help you slow down.

Set boundaries. Teachers are expected to perform many tasks outside of the classroom that they aren’t paid for. Know that sometimes it’s ok to say no. Learning to say no can help you to set healthy boundaries and find a better work-life balance.

Take a break from technology. While technology has many benefits, constantly being connected can leave you feeling more stressed. Try to limit your screen time as much as possible. Shut off your notifications to avoid distractions. Better yet, turn off your phone or leave it in another room.

Remember to breathe. Breathing is an extremely effective way to reduce stress. It seems simple, but being stressed can cause you to tense up and hold your breath. Try to remember to take slow, deep belly breaths throughout the day.

Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is crucial. It assists you in recovering from stress and it restores your body’s energy supplies. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try practicing proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to good habits that are conducive to a good night’s sleep. Some examples include going to sleep at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine at night and turning your phone off before bed.

Prioritize Exercise & Activity

Although it may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re exhausted, exercise can help boost your mood, increase your energy and reduce overall stress. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Try to find something you enjoy doing so that it won’t feel like another chore on your to-do list. Go for a walk outdoors. Simply being in nature can reduce feelings of anger, depression and stress. You can also try a relaxing exercise like yoga or tai chi. Both are great forms of exercise that combine cardio, relaxation, stretching and deep breathing.

Practice self-compassion

Teachers and educational assistants are often compassionate and kind to others, but they can be extremely hard on themselves. Practicing self-compassion means silencing your inner critic. Be kind to yourself. Think about how you talk to a student who is struggling, is that how you talk to yourself?

Find Community

Being a teacher can be emotionally demanding, but having someone to talk to can help. Social media is one way, or starting a walking group for educators can be a great way to get active and stay connected to people in your profession. Sharing your feelings and frustrations with a friend, relative or co-worker is a good way to release and let go of the tension from your workday. You can also search for support groups and meet people who have dealt with teacher burnout.

Online resources and support

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and like you need support today for the stress that you’ve been feeling as an educator, I recommend you check out our online resources page for options for support. There is also an excellent book that I often recommend to people experiencing work fatigue called BurnOut – The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagaski and Amelia Nagaski. Another good way to get support is to inquire with your EAP and Health Benefits Package for available mental health resources, sometimes there is a wealth of information that you can have access to!

Finally, I want to remind you that it’s okay to hit the pause button and get help for burnout. Your work matters, but your mental and physical health is more important. From everyone at Heidi Sturgeon and Associates, thank you for all that you’ve done as a teacher or educational assistant.