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You’re halfway to Christmas break, but it seems like a world away. Avoid burnout with our help. For so many teachers, stress is an overwhelming constant. The cycles of planning, differentiating, managing, grading, professional development, and meetings take their toll on our personal lives, our san

Oct 11, 2016

You’re halfway to Christmas break, but it seems like a world away. Avoid burnout with our help.


For so many teachers, stress is an overwhelming constant. The cycles of planning, differentiating, managing, grading, professional development, and meetings take their toll on our personal lives, our sanity, and our immune systems. We’re wracked with guilt for neglecting outside relationships, and fear that if we work fewer hours, we’ll let everyone down.

And it’s only October!

Sure, there are going to be days or even weeks when things are crazy and you have to put on a juggling act; but if this is your constant, it’ll take a toll in the long run.

It’s time to make some changes, big and small — and the truth is simple: you are the only one who has the power to put an end to impending burnout. Our jobs may require us to teach more students, complete more paperwork, and attend more meetings, but we have the power to make important improvements in our own lives.

Let’s take charge of our own expectations and intentionally create harmony. Here’s how.

1. Take timeouts. Small modifications in our jam-packed schedules can make all the difference. A 15-minute break can do wonders for your energy and mood. Brew a cup of something hot and soothing (we hear green tea promotes a sense of relaxation). Take a walk. Get crafty with a row of knits and purls, or a page in an adult coloring book.

2. Practice real self-care. We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that self-care is all about pleasurable indulgences like pedicures, yoga classes, and shopping splurges. And while these types of activities can be great for relaxation, our first concern needs be taking care of root issues that may exist — and this means taking an honest look at our wellbeing. These might be small corrections, like not skipping lunch to squeeze in more grading, setting a bedtime and sticking to it, and prioritizing exercise and meditation. They might also very well be big, like getting the medical care you need, seeing a dentist, or talking to a professional about depression or anxiety.

3. Protect your schedule. Not many of us enjoy saying “no,” especially to causes and work that is worthwhile. But no matter what superpowers you’ve got up your sleeve, no one can do it all. Think of it this way: When you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else. Your time is not infinite. It will run out. If you say yes to chaperoning a dance, staying late to lesson plan, or heading up a new committee, you’re saying no to something else. Spending time with friends? Focusing on your marriage? Fostering personal growth? The list goes on. You need your own time in your life, and you’re the only person who’s going to give it to you. Be intentional when choosing what you say “yes” to.

4. Ask for help. There are definitely people out there who can do this with ease. I am not one of them. Asking for help can feel awkward or embarrassing — but let’s be honest: it’s not the end of the world, and everybody needs a hand here and there. Don’t wait and allow a problem situation to double in size. When you need support, whether it’s from administration or colleagues or a friend, you’ll be glad you asked sooner than later.

If we allow ourselves to become exhausted, our skills and focus suffer. Our educator lights get dimmer and dimmer… when our whole job depends on our ability to illuminate. Make the changes you need to ensure balance in your life and set yourself up for more success.

Heather Sparks is a writer, educator, and mom of two. An Arizona native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in gifted education from Arizona State University.

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